The first Online Multilingual Workshop

Just as most people in the autumn of 2020, the Language Centre organizes most activities on distance. Teachers have been familiarizing themselves with this since March. At OOTU, we try to continue workshops and language clubs as much as possible, despite the challenges it brings to the table. One of the biggest events taking place every semester is the popular multilingual workshop, in which the different languages taught at the Language Centre come together in a large gathering full of university and high school students, as well as teachers. After having to cancel it in spring this year, on 12 November this year the first online multilingual workshop took place on Zoom with the theme “Cultural habits & idioms, metaphors and jokes”.

Even though the event couldn’t take place at the Language Centre, we managed to give all participants a taste of what the building looks like. With the help of Thinglink we started the workshop with a walk through the building. The virtual ascend of the Centre’s stairs resulted in entering the main event hall, which was virtually filled with students.


Pictures 1 and 2. Screenshots of the Thinglink while ascending the stairs and being in the event hall of the Language Centre.



The actual programme of the workshop consisted of three parts: a quiz, language tables and a general discussion. The workshop started with the quiz as icebreaker and addressed cultural habits & idioms from a wide range of perspectives. The quiz included idioms and phrases such as the Italian “having a devil for each portion of hair” (being mad) or having Korean “wide feet” (knowing many people). Despite not having much interaction with others during the quiz, it was a good way to be acquainted with the nine different languages. In addition, the questions provided some discussion topics for later.

After the quiz, it was time for the language tables, which formed the backbone of the workshop. International students taking part in the Course Assistant Programme hosted the language tables. These students all assist in Language Centre courses, which makes them already experienced in leading small discussions. In the weeks leading up to the event, we gathered with the language table hosts to go through possible discussion topics to make sure that all hosts felt prepared.

The language tables started by opening nine different breakout rooms in Zoom. Participants could get in the breakout rooms themselves and when this was not possible, we assigned people to get into the right room. Once the discussions started, my colleague and supervisor Lasse Ehrnrooth visited half of the language tables, while I was keeping an eye on the other half. The actual discussions were great to see: every host had prepared a few slides and at the same time left space for discussion. It was fascinating to hear so many different languages as part of one workshop and great to see the curiosity of everyone who was learning one of the languages.

After about 50 minutes in the breakout rooms, it was time to go back to the main discussion to wrap up the workshop. We closed the language tables and while everyone was coming back, the language table hosts wrote the main discussion points of their table in a shared document. We transferred these discussion points to different posters on Thinglink, so that everyone could see the main points discussed in other groups. All hosts briefly shared what they discussed at the language tables, which was a great way of getting a glimpse of the discussions at other tables.

Picture 3. The poster of the Italian language table.

The poster round was followed by a few closing words from Lasse. The only thing left at this point was leaving the online event hall – which we did by showing a walk out of the Language Centre in Thinglink. All in all, the first online version of the multilingual workshop turned out to work surprisingly well, without any major technological issues. The feedback from participants also was mostly positive, with good suggestions for some fine-tuning here and there. I think the first online multilingual workshop was a good example of how an event can still go on in the corona-era and I am looking forward to the next workshop in the spring semester!

Text and pictures: OOTU unit’s international trainee, Merijn van Bruggen

Language Centre cooperation with a local high school

Picture of Laura Martin (writer of the article)

Laura Martin

As a part of my duties as an English language teaching assistant at the University of Helsinki Language Centre, I was asked to give a presentation on what it is like to be a university students to some local high school students for the ENA 6 course on Studying and Work Life.

I was put in touch with Sari Hopeakoski, an English and French teacher at Helsingin medialukio, with whom I exchanged some emails about what was expected. We agreed that I would give my presentation remotely on 16 March 2020 (which worked out perfectly as this ended up being the first day of distance learning for Finnish high schools due to the coronavirus pandemic).

The day before the presentation, Sari and I met online to test the video conferencing tool we would be using and further discussed what I could include in my presentation. After introducing myself and going a bit more in detail about my background, we decided to expand the scope of my presentation from just what it is like to be a university student, to an introduction to the educational system of my home country, Barbados, and what life is like there, my experiences studying as a Bachelor’s and Master’s student in England, my Erasmus exchange in France, and finally what it has been like studying at the University of Helsinki, in contrast to my previous studies.

I put together a presentation with lots of pictures and a few notes, which I gave twice, to two groups. The students were very active and interested to hear about my experiences, and had many questions especially regarding what it was like studying in England and how it differs from studying in Finland.

As it was the first day of distance learning, the students were not quite yet accustomed to this style of learning, so many of the students were quite shy, preferring to keep their videos off and typing their questions rather than using their voices. This sometimes made it hard to grasp how much they understood and to know whether I was talking too quickly, or whether they were even listening. In this regard, I think it would have been nicer to be physically present at the school, but it was a nice warm up for what would soon become 2.5 months of distance learning and teaching worldwide!

Overall, it was a really rewarding experience for me. I was able to meet a local English teacher and students, and gain better insight into how the Finnish school system works. It was also a nice opportunity to reflect on my experiences – as humans we adapt so quickly to change and what was once so new and so different quickly becomes totally normal. It was refreshing to look back on my previous and current studies from a new perspective and see how far I’ve come from the nervous 18-year-old who left a small island to study abroad.

Text and picture: Laura Martin, MA student at the University of Helsinki and course assistant

Asian Language Clubs: continuing online during an exceptional time period

The Asian Language clubs have been an important part of the internationalization at home work coordinated by the Support for Learning and Teaching Unit (also known as OOTU). International exchange students from China, Japan and Korea have organized amazing, relaxed and informal language workshops for local students who are eager to learn a variety of aspects related to Chinese, Japanese and Korean language and culture. There is another post in this blog titled Hands on internalization that covers topics and feedback from previous face-to-face Asian Language Clubs in more detail. I recommend reading that article if you are not familiar with the club events.

In spring 2020, it was not possible to carry out the Asian Language Clubs the usual way, due to the coronavirus epidemic and the limitations that followed. The University of Helsinki was forced to declare an exceptional situation, which meant that people could not meet at the Language Centre and share their thoughts in a physically shared place such as a classroom. Therefore, there was an obvious need to get people connected online, but also some troubling questions: Would international students have the energy and the will to host the meetings? How many would participate the online meetings? Which ways of sharing information, ideas and materials might work best online? Despite the preliminary anxiety about taking on the challenge, I was fairly optimistic in finding answers to the above questions together with the Asian club leaders.

Firstly, I approached the active club leaders who had already carried out two face-to-face meetings with the local students at the Language Centre before the exceptional situation. I was very pleased to hear when Shengyu Wang, Sayaka Fukada and Hyemin Park were willing to try out hosting a meeting online in Microsoft Teams. We set up a testing meeting in Teams and I showed them some basic functions that they could do both on their laptops or mobile phones: e.g. how to share the screen, use the chat during a video call and share files if needed. We also discussed possible themes or topics for the meeting, but in the end I gave the hosts and hostesses the freedom to make the final choice independently.

Secondly, it was time to invite participants to the Chinese, Japanese and Korean online language clubs. The Teams scheduled meetings proved to be helpful in this process, so I created one main channel and three sub-channels to enable simultaneous video calls. In picture one below you can see the Chinese groups’ scheduled meeting in Teams.

Picture 1. Screenshot from Teams.Picture 1. Screenshot from Teams.

I filled in the participants’ emails to each scheduled meeting and after typing in a brief description of the event created the event. This way all active participants of the previous Asian Language Clubs received an automatic calendar invitation to the meetings. Two days before the meeting I sent a reminder, just wanting to make sure students had received the invitation and understood that the meeting would be online for the very first time. By the time I sent the reminder I could see from the scheduled meetings’ details who had accepted, declined or not responded to the invitation. I was again pleased to see that many local students were willing and had time to participate.

Thirdly, it was time for the big day everyone had been waiting for, 3 April 2020 at 14:15 local time (GMT+2) we were ready to start the video calls. I was lucky to have the OOTU unit’s long-time assistant and trainee Anna-Lena Krug assisting me in starting the events. She joined the Korean group and helped keeping small talk going on until the Korean meeting could start after some technical difficulties with Hyemin Park’s laptop microphone. While Anna-Lena stayed in the Korean group, I visited the Chinese and Japanese groups’ online calls. The latter group had quite experienced Japanese speakers among them, so they were able to both discuss and write in the chat during their call. The Chinese group was hosted not only by Shengyu Wang but also his volunteering Chinese friend Qin Yu. Their idea was to first show the participants a number of short videos describing Chinese cities with narration, and the possibility to turn on or off subtitles, and then discuss them in more detail.

Picture 2. Screenshot from the Chinese video call chat.Picture 2. Screenshot from the Chinese video call chat.

However, sharing the screen did not work with a participant, so we decided to move the meeting to Zoom. Both the main host and the participant had used Zoom before, so the transition did not take too long and they could continue with the original topic, even though the focus turned more on the host telling about the cities (e.g. their climate and population).

After a while I headed back to the Korean and Japanese video calls in Teams and wrapped up the meetings together with the hosts/hostesses and participants around 15:45 local time (GMT+2). I asked the participants how they felt about the online meeting and the response that I got from them was encouraging. I had a short chat or talk with the hosts/hostesses too and they had positive feelings about the meetings. It was also great to hear that the last Asian Language Club meeting, 17 April 2020, could be arranged in Teams or Zoom (Chinese group).

Asian Language Club, Japanese online chat and feedback
Picture 3. Screenshot from the Japanese group’s chat.

Text and pictures: Lasse Ehrnrooth


What is internationalization at home?

This is an important question and happens to be the title of chapter 1.1.1 in a research article by Leasa Weimer, David Hoffman and Anni Silvonen published in 2019. Their publication, Internationalisation at Home in Finnish Higher Education Institutions and Research Institutes, addresses a need to understand how international contacts, communication and collaboration can be made an integral part of a higher education institution.

According to the aforementioned publication, the term internationalization at home (IAH) is relatively new and used in 1998 to refer to “intentional intercultural learning between domestic and international students”. Researchers have then pursued to develop the definition of IAH to differentiate it from traditional internationalization, e,g. in the form of exchange programmes like Erasmus in the EU, as well as include formal and informal aspects. Weimer et al. (2019, 19) give their reader a checklist of key elements of IAH:

– Offers all students global perspectives in their program of study;
− IAH elements are systematically integrated into compulsory curriculum;
− International and/or intercultural perspectives are included in learning outcomes;
− Classroom diversity is integrated into learning;
− Opportunities for informal co-curricular activities to engage with international perspectives (both on campus and in the local community);
− Opportunities for international virtual mobility;
− Purposeful engagement of and with international students; and
− All staff (including international officers, teachers, administrative
staff, and university leadership) support IAH practices (Jones & Reiffenrath 2018).



OOTU:n asiantuntija ICOP-L2-konferenssissa Ruotsin Västeråsissa

Mälardalenin korkeakoulussa järjestettiin vuorovaikutustaitojen ja vuorovaikutuksen toimintamallien tutkimukseen keskittyvä konferenssi ICOP-L2 toukokuun 29. – 31.5.19. Osallistuin konferenssiin väitöstyöhöni liittyvällä esitelmällä Self- and Other-Repairs in FUSE – The Finnish Upper Secondary School Corpus of Spoken English.

Aineiston taustoitus meneillään. (Kuva: Pauliina Peltonen)

Esimerkki aineistosta. Lisää esimerkkejä täällä:

Konferenssiin osallistui huomattava määrä tutkijoita Helsingin, Jyväskylän, Tampereen ja Turun yliopistoista. Seuraamieni esitelmien perusteella keskustelunanalyysi ja multimodaalinen keskustelunanalyysi näyttävät vakiinnuttaneen asemansa suomalaisessa vuorovaikutuksen tutkimuksessa.

Mutta ja Peltonen Turun yliopistosta esittelemässä LALI-projektia. Linkki projektin kotisivulle:


Konferenssiohjelmaa riitti aamusta pitkälle iltapäivään, mutta onneksi illalla ehti käydä tutustumassa Västeråsin keskustaan sekä tuomiokirkkoon.

Lilja ja Kananen Tampereen yliopistosta esittelemässä otsikolla Learning How to Learn a Second Language In-The-Wild

Konferenssin abstraktit löytyvät täältä:!/Menu/general/column-content/attachment/ICOP-L2-2019-abstracts.pdf

Teksti ja kuvat: Lasse Ehrnrooth