Swedish as a foreign language

A co-operative attitude, social skills and motivation are important qualities when learning a new language.

Jörgen Svensson

University teacher Jörgen Svensson, originally from Sweden, teaches at the Language Centre. For five years his task has been teaching Swedish to exchange students at the University of Helsinki.

– Learning Swedish is voluntary for exchange students and that’s precisely why teaching them is so motivating. The enthusiasm goes both ways, Svensson says.

His teaching is based on problem-solving methodology where the learners have to assume much of the responsibility. A co-operative attitude, social skills and motivation are important qualities for learning, claims the teacher.

– I apply an implicit teaching method that I adopted in the military, where everything is about humility and not taking anything for granted. Here good discipline means that learners want to perform well and meet their requirements. I dislike systems where you punish deviant behaviour, you have to like your students. If you don’t, it will show immediately.

According to Svensson, it’s also important that learners are spontaneous and express themselves from an early stage. He compares teaching to a house where the floors, walls and roof gradually take shape during learning, the goal being speaking from your heart and living in your house.

– Often you don’t want to say anything because you’re so afraid of making a mistake. But using what you know boosts confidence and the next time it will feel easier to speak.

Svensson thinks Swedish culture is important and that it may be useful to know how to express oneself even in less formal contexts.

– Sometimes I teach them to use endearments like ''lilla gumman'' and ''lilla gubben'', Svensson says with a smile.

The Language Centre » »

Text: Nathalie Edman
Photo: Linda Tammisto
Translation: AAC Global www.helsinki.fi/digitalcommunications

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