Authentic language learning both in and out of the classroom

Authentic situations for language use and contact with native speakers create a new form of motivation in language learning. This was the starting point when Marjatta Banna, one of our Swedish teachers, and Tia Patenge, one of our German teachers, decided to develop mixed-method language courses which would exploit authentic situations.


Swedish for students of theology (B1-B2)


Teologia ja seniorit


I created this new form of Swedish conversation course for Theology students in collaboration with Swedish-speaking senior citizens. The aim was to provide authentic language learning situations for students whose main subject was Practical Theology. After graduating, these students would become hospital theologians, family advisors, or various other church social workers, so I thought that this would splendidly combine studying Swedish with developing professional skills.

During the course, the senior citizens and the students met ten times at the Cecilia Service Centre in the Vuosaari district of Helsinki. The discussions took place in small groups consisting of two students and one elderly person and the topics included study and working life in post-war Helsinki. The students kept blogs of the meetings, in which they wrote about the weekly meetings and added photographs.

The senior partners eagerly read the blogs, commented on and corrected language in the following meeting. The students created and modified their own blogs using the University of Helsinki Blog Service. They also came up with ideas for the most of the working methods during the course, including baking and making music with the senior citizens.

The students were extremely satisfied with the course. The progress in their language skills was excellent and they also had the opportunity to listen to accounts of their recent history in Swedish, coloured by Swedish humour and warmth.

Marjatta Banna


Mixed method course in German - Treffpunkt Deutsch (B1)

The impulse to create the mixed-method course, Treffpunkt Deutsch (B1), came from my efforts to offer more flexibility, more varied methods and authentic language learning. The course was based on projects. In small groups, the students carried out three projects, which they prepared with the help of online tasks organised in Moodle. The course took place predominantly outside the classroom, and as part of their projects the students were able to work with native speakers of German. Once a month, the whole group met in the classroom in order to present the results of their projects to the rest of the group.

Since the course’s name is Treffpunkt Deutsch, one important aim when planning it was to create a group spirit while studying German. Although we didn’t meet regularly in the classroom, the course enabled plenty of meetings amongst the students as well as with Germans of various ages. According to the feedback from the students, learning in group projects was considered to be an excellent way of working, and was often great fun as well.

"Unsere Gruppe hatte gute Chemie und wir haben viel auch gelacht."

"Neue alte :-) Leute kennenlernen und Deutsch lernen und Freundschaft durch Gruppenarbeit."

The second principle aim of the course was to achieve a level of authenticity. During the course, the students got to meet native speakers, who were also present in the classroom meetings, enlivening the learning situation with their presence. Furthermore, the results of the students’ projects were published on a German museum’s website as well as in Silta, the magazine of the German-Finnish Society, which added value to the output of the course.

Planning and coordinating the Treffpunkt Deutsch course has been a time-consuming project, but at the same time it’s been an enlightening experience, during which I have also been able to develop in my work as a teacher. The students reported that they have enjoyed being on the course and believe that it was an interesting way to learn German.

Tia Patenge