Equal opportunities to take part
International students are strongly motivated to use English in their communication. Why aren’t Finns? For most of the students studying at the University of Tampere, English is not the mother tongue. However, the fact is that as the international students choose to study here, they choose to communicate in English in their everyday life. Another fact is that almost all Finnish students have spent six years in primary school learning English (although the actual level of their language skills varies a lot), whereas the international students usually don’t know anything about the Finnish language when they arrive in Tampere. Everybody should also know that neither English nor Finnish are meant to be learnt by only reading exam books or taking courses. Languages are in use in everyday life and that is where one should take a step out of the comfort zone and use them.
Language barrier is a social and emotional matter. It is based on attitudes and feelings. It is natural to feel insecure and a bit uncomfortable when using a foreign language. Am I pronouncing it right? Do they understand what I mean if I write this or that? What do they think of me if I fail? Oh please, don’t be too hard on yourself! It doesn’t matter if you make mistakes. What matters is that at least you try.
When it comes to activities of different student associations and their communication through Facebook pages and e-mail lists, nobody is asking for perfect academic English. Don’t overthink it. Not every word has to be translated. Sentences don’t have to be complex. For most of the time it is enough that the basic information of the meeting or event is available: What? Where? When? Who is the contact person?
International students are eager to get to know more local Finnish students. Let’s make it possible also outside of the clearly international associations such as ESN and ISOT. Moreover, it is also not only about getting to know more people and having fun. It is about the fact that every student association is supervising the interests of all the students studying that specific subject, regardless of their native language. After all, international students are, in fact, students. In order to include them in your student association, you don’t have to organize any special ”international” events. It is more important to provide information in English about all kinds of activities throughout the year, so that everybody has an equal opportunity to take part.
The writer is Tamy’s executive board member.