Parallel languages at Helsinki University

“The University of Helsinki is an international, bilingual university. The University's official languages are Finnish and Swedish, but English is also a working language.” (University Intranet, Flamma) The Language Centre and its Language Services unit have for many years already been supporting multilingualism in the university through their translation, revision and language training services.

In Autumn 2012 The University instigated a two-year project that has the aim of promoting the use of parallel languages (Finnish – Swedish – English) in all communications in the daily life of the University. The objective is to strengthen the bilingualism of the University and to especially improve multilingual communications in the units of the central administration. In this way the integration of international staff and students will be facilitated. The project is part of the implementation of the new University Strategy and is specifically connected to the objective of making the presence of internationalisation and multilingualism visible and audible.

The implementation of the parallel language project got underway during 2013 mainly through the joint workshops held by the Language Services and various units of the central administration. These concentrated on a content production process that would be meaningful to the multilingual community. One concrete product has been the compilation of a trilingual glossary of human resources and legal affairs for the use of the personnel administration. It contains the central terminology of the field in Finnish, Swedish and English and has been published on the University Intranet.

All in all, the workshops connected to the project have been extremely useful. In addition to getting better acquainted, information has been acquired that has helped to develop and improve the flow of work. It has offered an opportunity to discuss in greater depth the approaches and principles related to multilingualism in the University. It even became clear in the workshops that we share a common aim: top quality and essential communication in parallel languages!