Foreign language teaching methods: the trump card of Finnish exports

An intensive course in the didactics of English at a Finnish university is a much coveted prize in South Korea, accessible to only the most distinguished teachers. Such merits are vital to career advancement in a country where competition is tough.

Espoo International School Visit

As Korea has hundreds of native English-speakers teaching English and several American university campuses, one easily wonders what Finland can offer. Why did a group of 15 English teachers choose to come to Finland in January 2012?

“English studies per se are not the reason to come to Finland, but it is commonly known abroad that Finns have a far better knowledge of foreign languages than, say, many East Asians,” says Seppo Tella, Professor Emeritus of Foreign Language Education from the University of Helsinki.

English pronunciation is difficult for Asians, and that is a common denominator between Finns and Koreans.

Another common factor is that both countries rank at the top in the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Korean teachers are seeking new information from the other top countries.

It is still fairly common in Korea to learn a language by rote.

“Finland is strong in the methodology of language teaching. International methodology trends, such as communicative language teaching (CLT) and intercultural communicative competence (ICC)are widely known in Finland and are also researched and developed further,” states Dr Pirjo Harjanne from the Research Centre for Foreign Language Education, University of Helsinki. Dr Harjanne participates in the didactical training of Korean language teachers together with Professor Tella.

“We emphasise communicative language use in situations that are meaningful to the speaker, as well as less code-oriented, or grammar-focused, approaches to language learning,“ concludes Tella.

The Palmenia Centre for Continuing Education was responsible for the practical arrangements for the ten-day intensive course.  Development Manager Tea Seppälä has solid experience of hosting teacher groups arriving from all corners of the world.

“The best experts from the University’s departments are assigned for each training programme. The most popular part of the programmes is the school visits. Teachers from abroad increasingly wish for direct exchange of ideas and experiences with their Finnish colleagues, and this is something that we can include in the intensive courses,” notes Seppälä.

Cooperation between the University of Helsinki and Korean school authorities has been active since 2008.

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Text: Riitta-Leena Inki
Photo: Silpa Karjunen-Aguilar
University of Helsinki, digital communications

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