New Language Policy encourages multilingualism and flexibility

The new University of Helsinki Language Policy defines the current status of the national languages of Finland, as well as English and other foreign languages at the University.

The new Language Policy of the University of Helsinki International activities and multilingualism are assets and resources that the University wants to develop further. However, it is also important, to encourage students, researchers, and staff to foster the two national languages by publishing new research in Finnish and Swedish.

”Emphasising multilingualism at the same time as encouraging use of the two national languages is in no way contradictory. They can be combined,” says Thomas Wilhelmsson, Vice Rector, who led the preparatory work for the Language Policy. “However, this requires a comprehensive policy.”

In order to create genuine linguistic interaction, different languages must be used flexibly in teaching. Finnish speakers usually understand Swedish and vice versa, and both groups often understand English even if they do not speak all these languages fluently.

The University will also continue to maintain its requirements relating to the second national language, despite the fact that it is no longer a compulsory subject in the final matriculation examination.

“Poor Swedish skills among students can become a problem that will need intervention,” Wilhelmsson says. “The task of teaching Swedish to young people has been shifted from schools to universities, but we still lack proper resources.”

In practice, multilingualism at the University is apparent in the trilingual documents, brochures, unit names, signs, and websites that for the most part are in Finnish, Swedish and English. Websites in Swedish should also include exhaustive descriptions of the teaching provided in Swedish; similarly, English websites should provide information about teaching in English and other foreign languages.

More about the Language Policy

Text and photo: Erica Vasama
16.10.2007
www.helsinki.fi/digitalcommunications

Translation: Valtasana Oy


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