Interviewing Tobias Hoch
Who are you?
I am Tobias Hoch, Finnish and Estonian language teacher. I am originally from Cologne, Germany, but I have lived in Finland for 26 years. I originally came to work in Finland for a youth organisation. After my fixed-period employment I stayed in Finland to work a summer job. Then I got admitted to study the travel industry and in the end I never bought the return ticket to Germany. I am still on that trip.
What is your education?
Originally I graduated from Porvoon matkailualan oppilaitos (Porvoo School for Tourism) to work in tourism. I worked at airlines and a travel agencies for a total of 20 years. From this perspective I have experience of what it is like to be an immigrant in the Finnish labour market. I became a teacher when I changed professions. In 2012 I graduated as a Master of Arts, majoring in Finnish language and culture and Estonian language and culture. I also did pedagogic studies required for a teacher.
How did you end up studying Finnish and Estonian?
I have always been interested in languages and language structures, and I had already studied Finnish when living in Germany. Finally I got the spark to start studying languages at the university with the inspiration of a friend of mine. When studying at the university I realised that studying languages was exactly the right avenue for me. First I got admitted to study Estonian language and culture, and later Finnish language and culture followed.
For how long have you taught at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki, and what do you teach?
I have taught Finnish and Estonian at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki since 2012. I then sent a message to Course Planner Sirpa Rönkkö, who was responsible for the Finnish language, and begun my first course soon after that. I teach Finnish in both labour market training and at the Institute, and Estonian at the Institute.
What do you want to give to the students?
I feel that I can help foreigners living in Finland with my work. As a foreign language teacher I have a slightly different viewpoint than Finnish teachers. Since I myself have learned Finnish as a foreign language, I am able to understand students’ challenges from the viewpoint of a foreign student of languages. My job as a teacher of Finnish as a Foreign Language is not only to teach the language. I also want to motivate the students to enter the surrounding society. Learning the language is an important part in integrating into Finnish society. I try to encourage students to listen to Finnish radio, read newspapers and to watch Finnish television. At classes we discuss various subjects. When students have the opportunity to share experiences on different things, grammar becomes secondary and the students have more courage to use the language.
It is often said that Finnish is a difficult language. How do you motivate students to study Finnish?
Every language has its challenges. Finnish is no more difficult than any other language. For example I feel that Finnish pronunciation is easy. A good thing about the Finnish language is also the fact that once you learn the basic vocabulary, it is possible to deduct word meanings based on that. Starting and learning the basic structure is the hardest, it reminds me of climbing a steep mountain. It is, however, beneficial to work through with Finnish sisu (persistence) and not give up.
Why is studying at an institute for adult education a good thing?
The Institute has relatively small study groups. Small groups facilitate more individual teaching. Here the teacher can better focus on the group or the level of a single student, special challenges or points of interest. The Institute also has a good quality-price ratio.
What would you like to say to the students?
Don’t give up! It is possible to learn Finnish. When learning a language one sometimes has to be selfish and speak Finnish even though the other person tries to switch into English. The best way to learn is to use the new language in real situations, for example when shopping. To Finnish spouses and friends I would say: ”It is the Finnish students’ turn now. Speak Finnish to them!”.
What is your motto in life?
“A person will learn what s/he wants to.”
”Be careful what you wish for.”
Come and study Finnish at the Institute of Adult Education in Helsinki!