In the company of international partners

For many years the Language Centre has actively developed its network, for example, through international teacher exchange, staff exchange, teaching collaboration, conferences and seminars. The type of cooperation has varied depending on the university involved. For the most part, the cooperation has been based on mutually-agreed principles in addition to individual contacts on many levels.

It’s now the moment to give the floor to our partners in different corners of Europe. In some cases we have been working together for several years, while in others we are still taking our first steps. In what follows, our partners Gothenburg University, Zurich University and Masaryk University describe in their own words our cooperation and their experiences.

University of Zürich and ETH Zürich Language Center

The University of Zurich and ETH Zurich Language Center’s aim of promoting benchmarking, organizational development, and further education through staff exchange projects, initiated in 2011, continued also in 2014 despite difficult circumstances on the Swiss side. (Mobility programmes with Switzerland for incoming and outgoing staff under the Swiss-European Mobility Programme were funded by Switzerland.) Among others, the Erasmus agreement with the University of Helsinki Language Centre was renewed until 2016 in order to encourage the exchange of academic staff in the coming years.

In 2014, three members of the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich Language Center visited Helsinki University Language Centre while one teacher from Helsinki was our guest during a teaching staff exchange visit. Feedback from our teaching staff involved in the exchange shows that the most important benefits are perceived in the valuable insight into the teaching culture of the peer institution with similar target groups, the possibility of getting feedback from colleagues at the host university and of sharing experiences. These benefits are more important than the practical challenges encountered while organising the visit (scheduling, programme coordination).

For future exchanges, the option of organising a longer stay and a sustainable cooperation after the visits should be discussed and the possibility of sending teachers of target languages not existing at the host’s institution maintained.

Sabina Schaffner and Nicoletta Rivetto

Unit for Academic Language, University of Gothenburg

In November 2014, Rhonwen Bowen, Director of the Unit for Academic Language at the University of Gothenburg visited the Language Centre of Helsinki University with a view to discuss the possibility of an Erasmus+ exchange between the two centres. The two-day visit was extremely well-planned and not only entailed meetings with Director Ulla-Kristiina Tuomi and Head of Administration Jaana Fränti but also meetings with Unit Superiors for Swedish and English and the Unit for Support for Teaching and Learning. As the Unit for Academic Language at the University of Gothenburg is a fairly new organisation, the visit to Helsinki was much appreciated. The visit has resulted in an Erasmus+ agreement and two Language Tutors of Swedish will be visiting the Language Centre at Helsinki University in April 2015. The University of Gothenburg will hopefully host two Language Tutors from the University of Helsinki in the autumn of 2015. 

Rhonwen Bowen

Masaryk University Language Centre

In 2014 , Helsinki University Language Centre was one of the most important international partners of Masaryk University Language Centre due to similarities in structure, syllabi, pedagogy, common research and teaching interests. Our international teaching cooperation, which was started in 2010 by Alena Hradilová and Kirby Vincent at the Law Faculty, expanded in 2014 as an increased number of people and languages have been involved, including LAP and LSP in English, German and French. The jointly taught courses at the Faculty of Law by Hana Katrňáková Kirby Vincent and Natalie Palmén in English, Eva Šrámková and Seppo Sainio in German had a videoconferencing element.  The students in English videoconferences practised discussions, argumentation, case studies and prepared mock trials. In German videoconferencing they focused on EU law. Students also learned about specific intercultural features, which naturally led to establishing a cross-cultural communication course  run by Lenka Zouhar Ludvíková and Sandro John Amendolara, offered at the Faculty of Arts and the Faculty of Social Studies of Masaryk University.

The Erasmus exchange has inspired our teachers in a number of different ways. We have learned about autonomous learning, as Helsinki University Language Centre has considerable experience in this area, thanks to the expertise of Felicity Kjisik and Leena Karlsson. In fact, we managed to introduce it as an option for both Bachelor‘s and Master's students at all faculties of Masaryk University. Leena Karlsson has also been a mentor for Lenka Zouhar Ludvíková, who is working on her PhD, in which she is researching learner autonomy. In the past, we had an opportunity to attend a university pedagogy training seminar led by Johanna Vaattovaara which provided a forum for professional teacher development. Courtesy of the Erasmus staff exchange, Hana Katrňáková and Alena Hradilová  shared views on the management of Language Centres and further opportunities for teacher development with Ulla-Kristiina Tuomi in May 2014, when she visited our Language Centre, together with  Tuula Lehtonen and Johanna Vaattovaara.

In light of our past experiences and successes, we believe in long-term teaching cooperation and sharing in-service teacher training events through conferences, workshops, seminars, joint projects and exchange of ideas.

Hana Katrňáková ja Lenka Zouhar Ludvíková