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In Helsinki, language learning begins in the 1st grade, and the first steps are already made in early childhood education and care

Early language learning

Helsinki, Finland
Helsinki's new language programme was launched in August 2018: all 1st-graders will start a new language as they begin school. In Helsinki, the alternatives for the first new language are English, Spanish, French, Swedish, German, Northern Sami, Russian, Estonian or Chinese. Before starting school, children learn about languages in early childhood education and care and pre-primary education through play, songs, games and other activities.

What is Early language learning?

“Helsinki was the first city in Finland to begin teaching foreign languages from the first grade onwards. ”

Pia Pakarinen, Deputy Mayor for Education, City of Helsinki

Helsinki's goal is to improve its residents' language skills. Thanks to their strong language skills, the people of Helsinki will be able to cooperate in their international home city and around the world in a range of languages. Helsinki is trying to achieve this by starting language studies even earlier than before in order to make use of children's natural ability to learn and speak new languages. Language studies also teach children thinking and learning skills and tenacity. 

In every case, language teaching takes into account the learner's age; to begin with, languages are taught through play, songs, games and activities. Language teaching is inspiring and requires participation. For example, pupils can select what subjects the language lessons cover. Assessment is there to support the pupil's learning, and is encouraging in nature. Appropriate use is made of digital tools to aid learning. Early language learning emphasises oral skills, practising pronunciation and intonation, and the joy of learning something new.

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Innovation Overview
1 - 18
Age Group
100 000
Focus areas
Language Learning
Tips for implementation
Learners age must be taken into consideration when planning the methods for teaching languages.

Achievements & Awards


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