Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Language teaching and diversity: teaching of Finnish in plurilingual context

Last workshop I participated today was about teaching Finnish as a second language.

The presenters argued that the syllabuses of finnish as a SL and as a mother tongue should communicate with each other (curriculum and teaching practices). Unfortunately this doesn’t takes place very often.

After a short intro we were grouped into three teams. Each team had their own theme that was discussed.

After a long and fruitful conversation the conclusions of each group were discussed together. Here are the brightest points:

  • Text books used in schools don’t take into consideration that FSL students tend to have diverse language skills. They know something about languages and learning languages.

  • Syllabus can be read in different ways. Some basic ideas (philosophy) are already there and with small adjustments it could support multilingual and multicultural learning environment.

  • Learner in the syllabus of mother tongue and in the syllabus of FSL: a thinking individual vs. a learner who needs to be taught.

  • Missing in mother tongue: learner's own observations in the language community

  • Foreign languages and mother tongue are quite separate subjects, FSL is located somewhere in between.

  • According to syllabus it seems that the values of a FSL learner are very much different compared to Finnish culture.

  • Languages could be presented as a whole in syllabus with a common intro.

Peppi pointed out that if the change is to take place there is a call for a larger concept (for example multiliteracies) that would encompass both different languages as well as different medium.

The exercises in text books guide students to analyze the structure not meaning. Though it depends also on teacher how the text books are being used. One critical question is the one dealing with what is being done with texts. It makes no difference whether the text is authentic or not if the activities around it are not. For example what kind of added value does it provide if objects are being searched in a text that is about Shakira? In addition to that, it’s the follow-ups that are missing.

Last but not least we talked about literacy in syllabus. I pointed out that often when dealing with FSL students literacy is not seen as a social practice but as an individual mechanic performance. This makes no sense because even though the level of learner’s language skills is not high rather complex things can be said or read. It may require some support but isn’t that what language competence is about – getting things done.

When the janitor standing at the door indicated that we should leave the room, Eija concluded the discussion and argued that perhaps supporting plurilingualism is not about new tasks but rather a new way of thinking, a new point of view for current contents.

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