Word of the Week

Riitta Suominen   

The word of the week is functional language learning.

Plain language is important when studying a foreign language. At the lowest skill level, a student can understand and write only short sentences and thus needs easy-to-read language.

Last weekend, I attended a Functional Language Learning Course at the University of Turku. We learned to teach language by combining actions, pictures, and plain language. Students were encouraged to use iPads and produce videos and photos with short phrases related to Finnish grammar.

Here's a sample task: give students a floor plan or a map of an area. Have them navigate a route, look for objects, and take images according to specific instructions. "Take a picture of a blue pen beneath the table." This teaches vocabulary and parts of speech in a larger context. The final product could be a series of images with simple phrases or a movie clip made with iMovie. The teacher helps to make the result understandable.

The course reminded me what it was like to study Spanish. The short sentences did not feel insuperable, but trying to combine main clauses with subordinate ones really made me sweat. Most people probably feel like this when they start to learn Finnish. The functional language approach encourages you to use the language in real life.

This week’s guest writer, Merja Sovala, is a student of Finnish language and literature. She participated in the Language Consulting Course at the University of Tampere.

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