In times of globalisation, it is vital that we recognise the importance of language skills and make sure that we actively encourage students to study languages. It is not only about encouraging them but also about helping them find clear study paths for progression, from beginner level all the way to advanced level studies. For Finnish students, it mainly concerns possibilities to study foreign languages besides the second national language (Swedish or Finnish). For those students in Finland who are native speakers of any other language than Finnish or Swedish, it is very important to get the possibility to study the national languages of Finland. This is one of the keys to successful integration and easy access to the labour market. At Humak, we have developed our language course selection bearing both these student groups in mind.
During the two last years, our language team at Humak has put a great deal of time and effort on the development of both the language course selection and the ways in which the courses are delivered. Having earlier offered language courses mainly in contact teaching at our campuses, we now offer several courses completely online, most of them tied to neither time nor place, offering a very flexible way of studying for both our students and the general public. The reason why our language team has developed courses for online studies is that we have a more diverse group of students than ever before, many of them working part- or even full-time. This means that they need flexible ways for conducting their studies, without having to compromise the quality of the tuition. Due to an innovative and dynamic language team Humak has been able to design online courses with great pedagogical solutions, ensuring that all four skills – reading, writing, listening and speaking – are being practised even though the courses are very much based on individual studies online. Best of all, the courses have received excellent feedback.
All language lecturers at Humak are besides language experts, experts in the fields in which Humak offers education. For instance Senior Lecturer Kirsi MacKenzie, who teach languages at our degree programme in cultural management, is an active nature photographer. Her passion for photography helps her to stay up-dated with trends in the field but also helps her to find balance between work and free time. The photopraphs in this blog are taken by Kirsi on her trips around the Nordic countries.
Humak now offers online courses in professional English for community educators and cultural managers, a brush-up course in elementary English and a Swedish for beginners course. The support language for the Swedish for beginners course is English, while the support language for the other online courses is Finnish.
As an experienced language teacher myself, I want to stress the fact that independent online language courses can never completely substitute courses taught live, preferably in a physical classroom. For students having challenges with study motivation or language learning, there is no better pedagogical environment than the physical classroom, where the teacher is able to give direct response on the language production of the individual students (see f.ex. Pekanheimo&Salomaa 2020). To ensure that we at Humak cater for all types of learners, all professional language studies are also offered at each campus in contact teaching.
For our international students, we offer two beginner courses in Finnish (5+5ECTS) as compulsory studies in the degree programme in adventure and outdoor education. The courses are offered in contact teaching on campus. Many studies reveal that a key factor for finding employment in Finland is sufficient language skills in the national languages. This is the reason why we want to make sure that the international students get the best possible start for their Finnish studies, attending courses that are taught live on campus. To make sure that the students also get to progress after their compulsory courses in Finnish, we are able to offer them Finnish courses on higher level through close cooperation with Diak UAS, as well as the Campus Online network. The Campus online is a network through which each university of applied sciences in Finland offers courses to the students of other universities of applied sciences.
It is of course important that the international students first focus on learning one of the national languages. However, it is beneficial for them to also learn at least a bit of the second national language, especially if they want to find employment in the southern and western parts of Finland, where Swedish is widely spoken. To my delight, I have also discovered that many of the international students are very interested in studying Swedish, and today I am really proud to tell that we offer a beginner course in Swedish, which has also received excellent feedback from the students.
Through cooperation with Diak UAS, Humak is able to offer language studies in Finnish at higher level, for students with a foreign background studying our degree programmes. In summer 2022, Humak will also launch its own Finnish course called Suomea suomeksi (Finnish in Finnish) 5ECTS, for students aiming at reaching level C1 in Finnish. Making sure there is a sufficient selection of Finnish and Swedish courses available for students is also an important part of the TalentBoost activities that are part of the Finnish higher education providers´ international operations nowadays. The main focus of the TalentBoost activities is to ensure that as many international students will stay and find employment corresponding to their educational background in Finland. It is also worth noticing that there is a growing number of non-native Finnish speakers studying our degree programmes in Finnish, who also benefit from courses in Finnish at higher level, having a clear need to improve their Finnish skills to be able to study succesfully.
The Kivanet network of Finnish universities has developed and established a language course selection, out of which Humak is able to offer possibilities to study a wide range of languages at various levels. The courses were developed during the project Kivako, funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture.
During the coming years, the demand for higher level Finnish courses and all level courses in Swedish is likely to increase if Finland succeeds in attracting a growing number of international students. As mentioned earlier, sufficient skills in the national languages is a key factor for making it easier for this group of students to establish contacts with the Finnish labour market and finding employment in Finland after graduation.
As our society is getting more diverse in many different ways, language skills in any language will most likely be seen as an asset in any work environment, either on a national or international level. We should not only focus on encouraging students to study the national languages and English, but any language they are interested in. This way we can make sure our students not only meet the needs of the labour market when it comes to field-related knowhow, but also possess strong language skills needed in the world of work today and in the future.
Humak’s dynamic language team aims at offering a flexible and interesting language course selection of high quality to our students, in cooperation with other universities. Through continuous development, we strive to provide our students with language skills that meet the needs of the world of work.