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

Hands on internalization

Cultural Mythbusters in Action!

After the huge success of the first Language Centre workshop “Talking Cultures” in March, a second one was organized. At “Cultural Myth Busters” on 19th of April participants gathered at specific language tables, hosted by international students, and discussed stereotypes from different angles. A multitude of fascinating, confusing and funny stereotypes and myths about different countries were gathered on posters around the room. They were then debated at the language tables in Chinese, English, Finnish, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean and Spanish and placed in categories ‘true’, ‘false’, and ‘partly true’. OOTU assistant Ignacio Valero Rodenas gave some inspiration with his presentation about Spanish myths and their explanations. (Did you know that one origin of the siesta is that people had to work two different jobs during the war to make ends meet? So much for the stereotype of lazy Spaniards!) At the end of the session participants finished with a poster walk to see each other’s results. These posters are also currently exhibited in the Language Centre (Fabianinkatu 26) on the second floor and have already been curiously inspected by many students and staff members.

The workshop is part of a new event series from the Language Centre that started this spring. The idea of these events is to bring international and local students together, brush up language skills and to learn more about intercultural communication and different cultures. They also help international students integrate into the university community while providing internationalization at home for local students.

LC events are organized by OOTU (Support for Teaching and Learning) specialists Nina Sulonen and Janne Niinivaara, trainee Sina Timme and international OOTU assistants Ignacio Valero Rodenas and Zi Yu. Workshops will continue the following academic year and are open for all University of Helsinki students and staff.

Asian Language Clubs

Due to the past success, Asian language clubs were organised once again by the language centre during the spring semester 2018. In five bi-weekly meetings participants got together with international hosts to practice speaking Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Thanks to motivated hosts, partakers got to not only practice their language skills but also experience a variety of cultural activities and internationalisation at home. The clubs are great for students that do not have the possibility of attending other language classes or simply wish to extend their knowledge beyond what they learn in lessons.

The informal and relaxed atmosphere made for a great learning environment, and the feedback speaks for itself: “I had so much fun in language club! I wish to attend next semester as well!” & “I really like this language club. Glad to know some people who also want to learn Mandarin. And it’s much easier for me to make friends with them.”& “Five stars to all staff and student helpers.”

For the hosts, the clubs enabled them to better integrate into the university community, make new friends and get to know the local culture better. It was also a way to feel at home away from home by being able to speak their language and share their culture. Or as one host wrote: “Thank you for arranging this language club activities! Every two weeks on Friday, when I meet you two, I feel very happy!!! Having chances to meet someone who can speak Chinese is the luckiest thing in my exchange life!”

The hosts really went above and beyond in preparing fun activities and conversational topics. One club participant described their host as “very supportive and involved” and making sure they had fun practicing the language. During the sessions hosts introduced the club participants to writing haiku (a type of poetry) and folding origami, and even a chance to practice calligraphy with authentic materials. The topics of conversation varied from food to recent events. Traditional games were played, such as Ddaki, where players first fold paper into little square tiles and then try to throw them in such a way that the other player’s square is flipped over. Not only made it for great entertainment, it was also quickly learned how to cheer or complain in another language. A visit to the botanical garden and different museums in Helsinki were also part of the program. During the last session, club coordinator Nina Sulonen and language centre trainee Sina Timme also introduced some Finnish culture: sima and donuts in a small pre-vappu celebration.

Internationalisation specialist Nina Sulonen was very satisfied with the clubs: “Thanks to all participants and our really great hosts, we will continue the Asian language clubs after the summer break.”

Text and photos: Sina Timme

Kieliklubeissa kokoonnuttiin taas koko kevätkauden ajan

Kieliklubit pyörivät perjantai-iltapäivisin Kielikeskuksessa. Kevätkaudella 2015 klubitapaamisten osallistui viikoittain 25-60 jäsentä klubivetäjineen.
Suosituimmiksi kieliryhmiksi nousivat tälläkin kaudella englanti, japani ja saksa, joissa kussakin on ollut keskimäärin kymmenen osallistujaa. Myös suomen kielen klubi on ollut hyvin aktiivinen koko kauden ajan.

Lähes kaikissa klubeissa on ollut yksi tai useampi kurssiassistentti, joka on suunnitellut ryhmän toiminnan yhdessä osallistujien kanssa. Klubeissa on muun muassa katseltu elokuvia, pelattu lautapelejä, käyty puistossa ja kahviloissa ja keskusteltu monenlaisista aiheista. Japanin klubilaiset vierailivat yhdessä Hämeenlinnassa.

Vappu sai varaslähdön Kieliklubien kauden päättäjäisissä 24.4.

Vappu sai varaslähdön Kieliklubien kauden päättäjäisissä 24.4.

Espanjan, ranskan ja venäjän ryhmien vetäjät ovat olleet aktiivisesti mukana, mutta osallistujia on ollut vaihtelevasti. Portugalin, italian ja ruotsin kieliklubien toiminta on ollut hyvin vähäistä. Englannin ryhmä toimi aktiivisesti ilman varsinaista vetäjääkin, mutta olisi toivottavaa, että syyskaudella saisimme kaikkiin klubeihin oman vetäjän, mieluiten äidinkielisen puhujan.

Kieliklubitoiminta jatkuu taas syyslukukaudella 2015. Tietoa klubeista voi mielellään jakaa opiskelijoille ja koko henkilökunnalle.

OOTU toivottaa kaikille opiskelijoille ja henkilökunnalle aurinkoista kesää!


Kieliklubeissa tavataan joulukuun alkuun asti

Kieliklubit pyörivät perjantai-iltapäivisin Kielikeskuksella. Syyskaudella 2014 klubitapaamisissa on ollut osallistujia vaihdellen 30-56 henkilöä joka viikko.

Suosituimmiksi kieliryhmiksi ovat tällä kaudella nousseet englanti, saksa ja japani, joissa osallistujia on saattanut olla toistakymmentä kussakin. Myös italian ja suomen kielen klubit ovat toimineet aktiivisesti läpi syksyn. Kaikissa näissä klubeissa tapaamisia luotsaavat kurssiassistentit, jotka ovat suunnitelleet ryhmän toiminnan yhdessä osallistujien kanssa. Klubit ovat muun muassa kokoontuneet elokuvan äärelle, pelailleet lautapelejä ja kaivertaneet halloween-kurpitsaa espresson äärellä jutustellen. Englannin klubilaisilla on vielä suunnitteilla ainakin retki Fazerin tehtaille tutustumaan.

Italian klubilaiset Myriam, Talia, Cris ja Anna vaihtavat kokemuksia eri maiden kahvikulttuureista 7.11.2014

Italian klubilaiset Myriam, Talia, Cris ja Anna vaihtavat kokemuksia eri maiden kahvikulttuureista 7.11.2014

Ranskassa, portugalissa ja venäjän kielessä klubitapaamisia on ollut vaihtelevasti. Toivon mukaan kevätkaudelle löytyy myös näihin klubeihin aktiiviset assistentit, jotka vetävät ryhmiä ja toimivat niissä klubikielen natiivipuhujina.

Ennen joulua on tiedossa vielä neljä kieliklubia – kokoontumiset aina perjantaisin klo 14.15 kielikeskuksen toisessa kerroksessa, huoneessa 203. Mukaan voi tulla milloin vaan eli tervetuloa piipahtamaan vaikka yhdessä tapaamisessa!

P.S. Kieliklubeissa vietetään pikkujouluja syyskauden viimeisellä kerralla 5.12.