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Online learning can be difficult, as one has to be very disciplined, and work hard with little guidance.Researchers and businesses both see the value of finding more effective ways to learn.

Perhaps it is because Finnish has been called a difficult language, but there are people around here trying to unlock the secrets of language.

At the University of Jyväskylä’s Centre for Applied Language Studies, Riikka Ullakonoja is working to find new learning strategies for schoolchildren.

“We tried to do something to help the kids learn to read and write English,” said Ullakonoja, who is a postdoctoral researcher with the Dialuki project. The four-year project has been carried out in schools to find new ways to learn, including Ullakonoja’s latest project. “We did interventions for 8 weeks, the teacher gave lessons we planned, and the pupils could find some vocabulary learning strategies that worked for them.”

With the goal of combining learning strategies and developing new ones, Ullakonoja and others worked with both Finnish learners of English and Russian learners of Finnish. Although an eight-week trial did not produce dramatic changes, there were promising trends among students.

“There is a tendency [of improvement], what I’m going to look at in the future is individual learners and see their background, and what kind of learners benefitted from these interventions, because some did and some didn’t.”

Outside the classroom

In the private sector, Veronica Gelfgren is also pushing the boundaries of language learning outside the textbook.

“If you learn Finnish online or through a book, you will not understand a single word they say on the street. They don’t speak like it’s written,” said Gelfgren, who owns Learnwell Oy, a provider of language lessons, teaching resources, and translations. “That’s when it’s important to have somebody to tell you.” Her self-described “not-so-pedagogical” way of teaching has yielded positive results when combined with classic strategies.

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ADAM FABER
HELSINKI TIMES
LEHTIKUVA / MARKKU ULANDER

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