An intensive course teaches Finnish at a marketplace and in a café

The Finnish course offered by the Helsinki Summer School to new international degree students is one of Päivi Vetsch’s most enjoyable teaching duties.

Spelling the names of berries at a marketplace, patronising a café – who wouldn’t like to learn a new language while wandering about an unfamiliar city? In the Finnish language course of the Helsinki Summer School, students accompany the course assistants on visits to locations all around Helsinki.

“The intensive course, which is targeted at bachelor's degree and master’s degree students, offers in less than three weeks the content of a regular three-month course. The students will learn numbers, greetings, ways to initiate conversation and a lot about Finnish culture and customs,” says Päivi Vetsch, the teacher of the course from the Language Ser­vices in Language Centre of the University of Helsinki.

Vetsch has taught Finnish as a foreign language for close to 30 years. The course available in the summer of 2019 is her fourth time teaching at the Helsinki Summer School. The intensive course is intended for international master’s degree students beginning their studies in the autumn.

“The summer course is special in many ways. The students are young, smart and motivated. All of them are embarking on a new stage in their lives, which infuses the course with an ambience of excitement.”

In Helsinki in beautiful and atmospheric August, students will get their introduction to a city and country where they will stay for at least two years.

“Two years is plenty of time to learn a new language,” Vetsch says.

The summer course offers the opportunity to make friends and provides knowledge about Finnish culture

Alongside language, the Finnish course discusses Finnish customs. Students familiarise themselves with Finnish food, transport, celebrations and other aspects of Finnish culture.

At the Helsinki Summer School, they will also learn about the culture of the University of Helsinki.

“I begin with teaching the customs of the University, such as the fact that teachers can be approached without hesitation and that the teaching is relaxed. I also tell them to address me as Päivi and not, say, Ms Vetsch.”

Mai Hattori, a student of social psychology, completed Vetsch’s course in the Finnish language in the summer of 2018. Hattori had studied Finnish also previously but thought revision would do no harm.

“I took the course since I wanted to practise my Finnish before starting at the University and to meet other master’s degree students. I’m still in touch with a couple of my course mates.”

Vetsch believes the Finnish course brings new international students from different faculties together.

“To begin with, they get new friends from outside their own field.”

Language helps in making it in the city and getting to know the locals

Even though Finns are proficient in English, knowing the Finnish language makes everyday life easier. The basics help in initiating conversation and understanding local customs.

Finns may be reticent, but Vetsch encourages students to talk with them. A couple of words in Finnish is a good start.

“I want to learn Finnish to get to know Finns better,” Hattori explains.

Her spouse is a Finn, but language skills also help in making new acquaintances.

What Hattori gained from the course was confidence in both the basics of grammar and spoken language. According to her, there was a lot of conversing in Vetsch’s course, while the teacher herself talked in Finnish from the get-go.

“I maintain an unbroken dialogue in my courses. From the first class onwards, I ask the students small questions, such as ‘What is your name?’ or ‘Which country are you from?’” Vetsch says.

In the intensive course, the students complete plenty of spoken assignments. In the summer, Vetsch employs a more visual approach in her teaching, as the class can be taken outside to visit various destinations.

 “I give the same final examination in all of my introductory courses, but the Helsinki Summer School students do just as well and even better in it compared to the students of other courses.”

Not having started their other studies yet and having an encouraging atmosphere ensures, for once, enough time for language studies.

“Teaching in the intensive course was good. I’ve also taken another course in Finnish, but in the summer course the teaching was more professional and inspiring,” Hattori says.

Helsinki Summer School

Helsinki Summer School is strongly academic, international summer school organised by the University of Helsinki. It has been running annually since 2000 in August with approx. 300 students joining every year.

In 2020, Helsinki Summer School offers 13 multidisciplinary, fully credited courses on 4–20 August. All courses are taught in English. In addition, the Helsinki Summer School offers a social programme to help students get to know their peers and Finland better while having fun.

Helsinki Summer School is perfect for anyone who has completed at least 2 years of university-level studies and wants to:

  • earn credits during the summer
  • learn more about an interesting topic and/or freshen up professional skills
  • try out studying at the University of Helsinki
  • meet and network with people from around the world
  • carry out a short study period abroad

More information on courses, fees, social programme etc. is available on the Helsinki Summer School website. The final deadline to apply is 15 June 2020 (students of the University of Helsinki may apply until 17 July 2020). However, it is recommended to apply as early as possible as many courses fill up before the deadline.