Finns are often described as shy and introvert people. We don’t like to talk much in Finnish, and even less in some other language, like English. For us, it is okay to sit in silence without a feeling of awkwardness. According to some studies, Finns really know how to speak English, but we are just too shy to show it to the world. One of the reasons might be the way languages are taught to us in primary schools and universities as well.
In primary school my English was horrible. I really wanted to be able to use it correctly, but I was too shy to speak, mainly because I feared that my accent would sound funny or if I had forgotten some specific rule, everyone would have laughed at me. The reason for my fear was that I didn’t really use it. In English classes we rarely talked any in English, we just tried to learn some grammar rules and exceptions. I have always said that I didn’t learn English in school, but fortunately Internet has taught me well.
At university, things have been different. I had attended one class before Independent Study and all we really did was talking to each other in English. We had to use our “rally-English”, and finally I realized that it is okay to talk in funny Finn-like way. I am not perfect and I will never be, but at least I will get the job done, which is the most important thing.
I would hope that students in primary schools and universities demand better language teaching. Teachers, please force us to use the language you are teaching to us! Written language is, definitely, important, but in real world, according to my experience, it is much more important to be able to express yourself. Some of us will choose academic career, where the written language might be more important, but in business, it really doesn’t matter if your English isn’t perfect. You just need to have some self-confidence, and you will get that if and only if you use the language. And where the language is mainly used before the real world? Yes, in schools. Or, as in my case, on the Internet.
Text by Tatu Virta, BSc. in Computer Science, and hopefully soon-to-be MSc. in Software Engineering