By bringing native speakers of a given target language into the classroom, students have the opportunity to experience a myriad of positive language and cultural benefits, such as precise phonetic instruction, cultural input, and the sociolinguistic insight that comes with interacting with one’s mother tongue from a young age. Despite these positive elements, one problem often arises when the language teacher is not yet proficient in the language of the country in which they are teaching. How can they help to bridge the understanding gap when the students may be at a beginner level, or when certain language explanations are needed?
In Finland, the degree of qualified teachers is equivalent of a second cycle degree in the European higher education area (300 ECTS). The Finnish initial teacher education has a long tradition of developing a research-based professional orientation for the future students. This includes critical scientific literacy and the ability to use research methods to identify, analyse and find evidence-based solutions on the profession related questions they may face in their future work. Meeting linguistic and cultural diversity is one of such issues.
During the time of our project, we have met with many of students, teachers and teacher educators. When we tell them about our project, we always start with explaining that we want teachers in Europe to be more linguistically sensitive in their teaching. Then we explain why it is important, that it’s a matter of the students’ wellbeing and achievements in school. And somewhere around here we often get the same question.