Many are proud of the languages they know and have learned and are eager to share their own language learning story. This is what the Language Ambassadors ™, or Kielilähettiläät (Fin)- Språkambassadörerna (Swe), network is all about!
The network wants to improve the attitudes towards bilingualism and increase the understanding of what a great personal resource knowing and speaking languages really is. With the help of living and local language learning stories, the goal is to awaken the student's inner motivation to learn and use languages.
In order to make the experience more relatable, language ambassadors usually visit schools from their own home area. As of now, the emphasis lies on the two official languages of Finland: Finnish (majority) and Swedish (minority), and the main purpose is to evoke greater interest for the national minority language.
The ambassadors visit schools and organizations and talk about their own fun and inspiring experiences with language learning. During the visit, the students can also discuss their plans for the future, and how proficiency in Swedish and/or Finnish can further these or open new doors.
The ambassadors represent all ages, backgrounds, levels of education, and geographical areas. The ambassador can be from Finland or an immigrant - it does not matter. As the emphasis lies on sharing the experience of learning and knowing a language, the language ambassadors are non-native speakers. Visits in Finnish-speaking schools are held in Swedish, and visits in Swedish-speaking schools are held in Finnish.
The Kielilähettiläät - Språkambassadörerna network coordinates language ambassadors to schools, and help those interested to become language ambassadors. The Network is also actively in contact with Swedish teachers through their association.
Once a mutual time for the visit has been found, the responsibility of planning and execution of the visit passes on to the teacher and the ambassador. With the help of a handbook they are able to build a working concept that suits the pupils/students. This handbook has been developed based on the feedback we have received during the project and is updated continuously.
The network also maintains a language podcast, which discusses various aspects of language learning together with the Language Ambassadors. Many teachers have made their pupils/students listen to some of these podcasts prior to a visit.
During its first year of operations (April 2019 to March 2020), the Language Ambassadors visited 496 classes and we were able to reach almost 9000 students in over 180 schools all around Finland. The Coronavirus stopped our Language Ambassadors from physically visiting the schools but currently we are doing a pilot with distance visits.
Our future goal is to start implementing the Language Ambassador -method with other languages. Maybe one day the Language Ambassadors -method could be implemented in other countries as well.
The response has been very positive! According to feedback given by 3600 students, 100 teachers and 50 language ambassadors:
- 95% of teachers wanted to arrange more school visits with language ambassadors
- more than half of the students felt that the school visits increased their motivation to learn Swedish
- nearly half of the students noted that the school visits provided them with new information and/or perspectives
- all language ambassadors have visited more than one school.