Along with the Changes
Proflang’s Spring Conference and the UAS Language and Communication Teachers’ Seminar gathered together the professionals in the field. These events offered networks, support and inspiration in the midst of changes. Both seminars met the current challenges of the teachers of professional communication: the changing requirements of working life, the changes of teaching methods and working as a teacher as well as the changes in the universities of applied sciences.
Proflang’s Spring Conference, organized in Järvenpää in the premises of Keuda Group (Vocational and Educational Training Consortium), closed the academic year 2011-2012 in the middle of May. Proflang had compiled an interesting and international program whose theme was the work-related teaching of languages and communication as well as and the anchoring of language studies to professional studies i.e. ‘blended learning’. The Porvoo Seminar Days opened the ongoing academic year with the seminar on October 4 and 5. The Seminar Days took place in the bilingual campus of Haaga-Helia. The new Porvoo Campus is designed to support modern learning methods; open and cozy premises enhance group working, sharing information and arising new ideas.
The invited expert guests of the Spring Conference came from working and corporate life whose presentations were absolutely the most interesting of these days. The skillful keynote speakers gave memorable presentations and many new ideas and knowledge about the language and communication requirements of working life. The afternoons of the Spring Conference were spent in the brainstorm and theme groups of professional communication. The themes of the groups focused on the integration of language studies with professional studies as well as on the cooperation with working and corporate life. The participants were given useful examples of both domestic and foreign course implementations.
The main speakers of the Seminar Days in Porvoo focused on the changes of working as a teacher from the view point of UAS language teachers, on new learning environments and multiculturalism. In addition, Marjatta Huhta (Metropolia) chaired the panel discussion on the importance of language skills in working life which functioned as a response to the leader in Helsingin Sanomat (2 October 2012). According to the article language studies are a waste of time. The Seminar Days also offered language-specific workshops whose themes were current projects and questions as well as the use of new learning and teaching methods in language and communication teaching. The program also paid attention to networking and sharing information – the best practices were shared in the language-specific Sharing experiences workshops.
Award for the work for professional languages and communication
The Spring Conference started with awarding Ms Anneli Airola from Pohjois-Karjala University of Applied Sciences a diploma, the Pioneer of Professional Language and Communication, with a cheque of 2,000 € for her work for professional language and communication.
Proflang’s award is granted to a person who has contributed to enhancing professional languages and communication in Finland. Anneli Airola has developed methods to measure oral communication skills, which has increased measuring oral skills. She has also created national projects in which good practices have been spread in educational institutions. Airola has also researched the needs of language and communication skills in working life, she has published language and communication surveys as well as improved language education with the help of systematic assessment and publications.
The work for the profession is worth an award, and Proflang ry. intends to continue granting the award even in the future. Hopefully the award encourages us to work for our profession. We will see who will be rewarded in the next Spring Conference!
Adjusting one’s language and communication skills
The topic of the panel discussion chaired by the Chairperson of Proflang, Dr Marjatta Huhta, was the language and communication professional as a promoter of working in a global entrepreneurial environment. The participants of the panel discussion were Ms Anneli Airola, Senior Advisor, Project Coordinator, Professor Leena Louhiala-Salminen from the School of Economics of Aalto University, Ms Tytti Suojanen, Senior Lecturer, from the FinnishTechnical Communications Society as well as the representatives from companies Mr Juhani Ristaniemi, Senior Vice President, from KONE Oyj and Mr Antti Miettunen, Communications Manager from Finnair and they all expressed their views on and experiences of what kind of language and communication skills the present-day global working environment needs.
New ideas gave e.g. Antti Miettinen’s observation that we should pay more and more attention to creating similarities with languages and cultures not only to finding differences. He emphasized how important it is to realize one’s own but also others’ linguistic and communicational strengths and development needs and adjust one’s own communication. This requires observation and certain sensitivity which should be paid attention to in education, too. Mr Juhani Ristaniemi from KONE Oyj emphasized the requirement of clarity and simplicity in communication both at the organizational level and in individual communication. In order to reach the common objectives, the vision and strategy of an enterprise must be clear and explicit to everyone. This is challenging especially in international companies that have several offices in different parts of the world. The hectic working culture and cooperation between different cultures force the communicators to use simple and clear language and diverse communication channels. We cannot always use perfect language; sometimes we have to convey the message as fast and as simply as possible.
Working as a teacher today and enjoying one’s work
Ms Taina Paavola-Juurakko’s presentation in Porvoo described the work as a UAS language teacher today and in the future. She dealt with the elements that the capital of a language teacher consists of. Along with the human capital she emphasized the importance of the contacts and networks of the social capital as well as the psychological capital. The psychological capital means living in the middle of changes, lifelong learning as well as cooperation and interaction. The sectors belonging to these are self-confidence that helps one to move away from one’s own comfort zone, the belief in the future that is strongly connected with the objective-oriented and purposeful work, persistence or recovery from hardships, and finally optimism, seeing the possibilities. Ms Juurakko-Paavola’s idea that knowledge arises in interaction and that knowledge does not decrease when shared summed up the Seminar Days.
Ms Merja Fischer’s lecture in Järvenpää on the importance of positive interaction in a fruitful work working community gave food for thought for the professional language teachers working in the middle of changes. Ms Fischer’s research has shown that individual positive experiences expand one’s way of thinking, increase one’s creativity, wellbeing, self-confidence, trust in others and increase the feeling of belonging to a community. In organizations the positive interaction has increased productivity and profitability.
At the beginning of a new academic year it is worth remembering that each contact is a possibility to create positive atmosphere – even in the middle of changes! Hopefully, many of us felt inspired to contribute with positive interaction to creating a supporting working environment. Ms Fischer’s publications and more information on the topic can be found at www.posemotions.com.
Visit Proflang’s web pages
At www.proflang.org you will find more detailed information on the programme of the Spring Conference and a lot of photos of the Spring Conference and the participants. The lecturers’ materials are uploaded to the material bank of the web pages so you can easily find the contents of the presentations.
Laura Vahtera (Novia University of Applied Sciences)