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”Keys to Finnish Language and Culture”

Interviewing Doris Sikiö

Munich-born Doris Sikiö lives in Nothern Haaga and teaches the Finnish language to immigrants as part of the Finnish for Foreigners courses at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki.

What is your education?

Master of Arts, I majored in Finnish language and culture at the University of Helsinki. My minor subject was German. I am also a trained teacher.

For how long have you taught at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki?

From the autumn of 2006. I applied already in 2004, but didn’t make it then. My teacher training cousellor Mirjami Huotari-Piirainen at the Viikki Teacher Training School recommended me later to Course Planner Sirpa Rönkkö.

Do you remember what it felt like to teach your first class?

It felt good. I think I did good, but I was very nervous. There were a lot of new things and I am sure I made mistakes. I was lucky to get support and materials from my colleagues, and I have always gotten on well with the students.

How do you prepare for a course?

Still quite thoroughly. I plan all my lessons meticulously, for example the amount of time we can use for a specific task. I think people have the right to quality teaching, because the courses are expensive. For example, I always have alternative tasks to replace those tasks that don’t work. I also always arrive at the Institute well ahead of time. I want to prepare mentally and enjoy a cup of coffee at my leisure before the class.

What benefits does the Finnish language offer for the teacher?

The vocabulary is challenging, though not necessarily for Estonian students. The grammar is highly logical, and the rules are very clear. The partitive case is for many an entirely new way of thinking, and the difference between plural and partitive can be difficult to undestand. It is also hard for students to understand number deflection. However, once the student gets the hang of it, everything starts to make sense.

How do you educate yourself?

At the moment quite passively, because I relatively recently finished my teacher training. I am a member of Äidinkielen opettajain liitto (The Association of Finnish Teachers), so I receive the professional publications Kielikello (Blabber) and Virke (Sentence). I am also a member of OAJ (Trade Union of Education in Finland), and I follow the Opettaja (Teacher) magazine. I am also on the S2 (Finnish as a Second Language) mailing list, which provides me with current information from my field. I regularily follow the internet and newspapapers, and exchange materials with my colleagues.

What do you want to give to the student?

Keys to life in Finland. An opportunity to enjoy this country and its culture more, so the student can manage in Finland in Finnish and understand what goes on around them.

What is the most important thing in studying languages in your opinion?

I am a fan of the vocabulary. Without grammar you cannot talk. The context and gestures help one to become understood. But if one doesn’t know the words, one cannot talk. There are a lot of people who know the Finnish language in theory: they know the inflections etc. very well, but do not understand what the words and their inflections mean.

Who would you like to say hello to, and what would you like to say?

To the students I would like to say that I can help them learn the Finnish language, but you have to do the studying yourself. Most of the studying takes place in one’s own head. That I unfortunately cannot influence, but I am always open for questions. I have enjoyed my time at the Institute, we have gotten along well with colleagues and other staff.

Further info:

Yle Selkouutiset (Yle News in Easy Finnish) has had a series of interviews with language teachers and students as guests. The interviewer was Monica Vasku. The first guest in the series was a German-born Finnish teacher Doris Sikiö. http://areena.yle.fi/1-2036986