Organising a multilingual event
Find out who participates in the event and the level of their language proficiency. If necessary, ask for their language skills in connection with the registration. For example, you can ask: “What language would you prefer to use in the event?” Remember that a foreign name does not indicate a lack of Finnish skills.
Use languages appropriate for the target audience during the event, while taking all participants into consideration. For example, if there is one international guest among a Finnish-speaking audience, you can organise the event mainly in Finnish and take the guest into account with English introductions and summaries. You can also use automated translation tools to translate chat messages, slides, etc. on many platforms used in remote meetings.
At the beginning of the event, clearly state how and on what grounds different languages will be used. You should do this in all the relevant languages to ensure that everyone understands you and to show that the participants are allowed to use multiple languages.
It is easier for those with limited language skills to follow the presentation when the speaker is articulate, sufficiently calm and tries to avoid rare expressions (e.g., dialects or slang). Still, you do not need to speak in an oversimplified manner. Using clear language benefits all participants regardless of their language skills.
You can encourage the participants to comment and discuss by letting them ask questions and comment in their best language. If the speaker knows these languages, they can reply immediately and translate the question to others at the same time. Briefly translating the essence of the question or answer ensures that all listeners can follow the discussion.
Plan language practices in advance and ensure that they are followed not only in the organisation of the event but also in the event communications and feedback collection. You can also request separate feedback on language practices and their functionality.
For more information on organising a multilingual event and other tools needed in a multilingual work community, read the Monikielisen työyhteisön opas guide to be published in autumn 2023 (in Finnish).
©2023 Johanna Komppa, Eveliina Korpela, Lari Kotilainen, Salla Kurhila and Inkeri Lehtimaja.
Organising a multilingual event, November 2023, by Johanna Komppa, Eveliina Korpela, Lari Kotilainen, Salla Kurhila and Inkeri Lehtimaja, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The material can be found at https://www.kielibuusti.fi/fi. Photos: All rights reserved.