Varying voices: Constructing the making of German in higher education in Finland
2022-04-13, 11:00–11:30 (Europe/Vienna), Room 2

In Finland (like in many other European countries), the decision to learn languages other than English (LOTEs) has become a marked choice. This development concerns also German, which until the 1950’s was the most learned foreign language. Although German is currently characterized as a “rare” language in Finland, it is still selected to be studied by a handful of university students. In this paper, we approach Finnish university students of German as agents participating in the ideological process of linguistic differentiation (Irvine & Gal 2000) and contributing to “language making” (Krämer et al.) defined as a process in which languages are labelled and identified as units with clear boundaries: How do Finnish university students construct and position German among the other possible (foreign) languages they learn simultaneously (e.g. Swedish, French, and Russian)? What kind of values, attitudes and beliefs do they attribute to German in order to differentiate it from other linguistic varieties and justify their choice to study it?
The study draws upon a questionnaire distributed among students of German (both BA and MA level) at the University of Turku who were asked to reflect on the reasons why they decided to study German as their major or minor. The focus is on the varying views of this heterogenic group of students: Most of them are foreign language students, but for a group of them (with varying backgrounds) German is a heritage language. The qualitative analysis starts from the ideological continuum between integrative (language as a marker of belonging) and instrumental (language as a skill) orientation to language (see e.g. Al-Hoorie 2017; Gardner 1985; Heller 2010; Vogl 2018) and progresses to the comparison of students with different backgrounds.
The paper contributes to the study of „language making“ (Krämer et al.) by describing future language teachers’, translators’, interpreters’ and other language experts’ understanding of German as a legitimate linguistic unit worth expanding. Their varying voices contribute to the shaping of the varying images of German in Finland. The paper continues the research on LOTE-learners who evaluate their LOTEs differently from the global language English (Dörnyei & Al-Hoorie 2017). By creating new information on heritage language learners, the paper complements earlier results on Finnish university students as LOTE-learners (Huhtala et al. 2017, 2019). Heritage language learners’ evaluation of their chosen variety has been investigated much less than the one of other LOTE-learners (Comanaru & Noels 2009; MacIntyre et al. 2017).

Panel affiliation

On „foreign language making“: selecting language varieties for educational purposes


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Comanaru, Ruxandra, & Noels, Kimberly A. 2009: Self‐Determination, motivation, and the learning of Chinese as a heritage language. The Canadian Modern Language Review, 66, 131– 158.

Dörnyei, Zoltán & Al-Hoorie, Ali H. 2017: The motivational foundation of learning languages other than Global English. The Modern Language Journal 101: 3, 455-468.

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Huhtala, Anne & Kursiša, Anta & Vesalainen, Marjo 2017: Zur Motivation und Identität finnischer Germanistikstudierender. Eine explorative Studie an der Universität Helsinki. Zeitschrift für Interkulturellen Fremdsprachenunterricht 22: 2, 44-54.

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Krämer, Philipp & Vogl, Ulrike & Kolehmainen, Leena & Bartens, Angela (in preparation): What is Language Making? To appear in: Language Making [Thematic Issue, in preparation]. Co-edited by Philipp Krämer, Ulrike Vogl, Angela Bartens & Leena Kolehmainen.

MacIntyre, Peter & Baker, Susan C. & Sparling, Heather 2017: Heritage Passions, Heritage Convictions, and the Rooted L2 Self: Music and Gaelic Language Learning in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. The Modern Language Journal 101: 3, 501-516.

Vogl, Ulrike 2018: Standard language ideology and multilingualism: Results from a survey among European students. European Journal of Applied Linguistics 6: 2, 185-208.

Since 2017 Professor of German language at the University of Turku.