Studies show that the biggest obstacles to employment for people with a foreign background in Finland are a lack of proficiency in the Finnish language and a lack of networks. TAMK’s international students have also recognised the importance of learning Finnish: respondents to the surveys conducted by Talent Boost for international students in 2022 and 2023 hoped for even more opportunities to learn Finnish. A significant challenge for students studying in English in a non-English-speaking country like Finland is finding internships. Most workplaces require knowledge of Finnish as their working language, and even in IT companies where English may be the working language, customers often expect service in Finnish.
Full participation in society is rarely achieved without some level of proficiency in the national language. Whether it’s following media and participating in public discourse or participating in a neighborhood or hobby community, knowing the dominant language of the environment is beneficial or may even be a prerequisite for participation.
TAMK’s Talent Boost aims to strengthen living multilingualism and bilingualism throughout the entire TAMK.
Language-aware encounters and integration support for students
In addition to Finnish language courses at various levels, Talent Boost offers informal Finnish language support for students. On Wednesdays at 4-6 pm, the Finnish Club meets in Parvi to reinforce language skills in a relaxed setting. The club welcomes students of all languages, with the aim of getting to know each other beyond language barriers and speaking Finnish flexibly with the help of English or other languages.
Encouragement for staff to become language-aware
Learning a language is a community effort, it cannot happen alone. Language Boost project has developed a language-awareness ladder model and guidelines on how a workplace can progress from one step to another.
First, it is good to assess where the workplace currently stands on the language-awareness ladder. My assessment is that TAMK is on the second step of finding common ground. On this step, languages are discussed: which situations are linguistically straining for people, and how could this strain be reduced.
Talent Boost’s monthly virtual Tienraivaajien/Pioneers’ Coffee is one opportunity for university community´s staff to discuss language. The coffee session operates in bilingual mode: the main language is Finnish or English, depending on the participants’ language skills, and any language can be used as an auxiliary language. The themes of this spring’s coffee breaks have been language awareness in teaching, supporting the internships of international students, and the results of surveys of international students in the university community. The last coffee break of this spring will be held on May 25, 2023, from 9am to 9:45am, with the topic of education-based immigration.
Reaching the highest level of language awareness requires structural changes and decisions on systematic language education, all the way up to a published language strategy. Let’s climb the stairs one step at a time!
Read more about Kielibuusti: www.kielibuusti.fi/en
Text: Päivi Vartiainen, Head of Talent Boost -services and SIMHE-services
Picture: Shutterstock 1668923788