Myth 5: Language learning is a solo game

It's normally not much fun to be learning Finnish either on your own or detached from your everyday life and relationships. You can choose, however, to view your language learning as part of your organisation's daily work and shared responsibilities – and your actions can help to make this a reality.
Photo: Rainer Paananen. All rights reserved.

All of these myth-busters have in some way emphasised the importance of rooting language learning into everyday life: using it with workmates, sharing the journey with other learners, taking the risk to actually do things in Finnish in daily life. But there is one more niggly myth that can get in the way of this: the assumption that it’s really just up to you to crack this language, and you shouldn’t ask or expect others to help you with it much.

To put it another way, we’ve so far established that you CAN learn Finnish, that there are GOOD REASONS to learn it, that many Finns would LIKE to speak Finnish with you, and that using your Finnish at work and in daily life is an IMPORTANT and EFFECTIVE way to learn. But you may still have a lingering feeling that perhaps it’s better not to bother your friends and colleagues with having to listen to your not-yet-perfect Finnish and help you find that word or phrase you are looking for.

Perhaps instead you are quietly working away on your Finnish learning, with evening classes and an array of language learning apps. Perhaps you are working towards that Superman Moment when, in a seemingly-normal team meeting at work, you suddenly reveal your Finnish Superhero Costume and give a whole project presentation in polished Finnish.

There is, however, a better way. If you are working in English with a variety of Finnish colleagues, then there will almost certainly be some Finns there who would not only enjoy speaking Finnish with you but would also actually enjoy helping you develop your Finnish skills. They will most likely have their own story of learning English and the people who helped them along the way, and it can be rewarding for them to help someone learn Finnish, their own native language. Helping one other with language learning can also be powerful for strengthening friendships and forming new ones: you might be able to help them with English in return, such as by helping them to polish up an upcoming presentation.

And there is more – much more. These kind of one-to-one partnerships help in a simple way to challenge the assumption of the solo learner. At a deeper level, however, there is the question of how your company, as a whole, respects and values multilingualism and supports language learners. This is something that should be everyone’s responsibility – but moving a workplace culture in this direction can take some time and effort. The good news is that you, as a Finnish learner, are very well placed to influence attitudes to multilingualism and language learning throughout your organisation, and even to be involved in shaping company policy in this area. Sounds interesting? Then click your way over to Language Boost’s series of short articles on how to become a Language Learning Catalyst.

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