Friday, November 29, 2013

Week 48; autumn term about to end

This week I've had the last lessons of the autumn term for most of my groups, and we've done our usual things as well as talked about Christmas. In my Write it down -course we've exchanged opinions on advertising around Christmas, and we've all agreed that it seems to start too early nowadays. Somebody wrote that this year she heard the first Christmas carol already in September, and those of us who have small children have noticed that different kinds of toy booklets and ads seem to be delivered in every household earlier and earlier every year.

For children these toy adverts seem to be an endless source of inspiration when Christmas wishes are concerned. They come up with all kinds of requests when they browse through the pages of these booklets. Of course, now some of you think that okay, why don't you just throw those booklets away before your kids get to see them; that will solve the problem. Maybe so, but it's not that simple. You see, children tell each other about these booklets and if someone hasn't got them, the finger starts pointing at the parents pretty quickly..

Well, of course parents don't have to take all of these wishes too seriously, and I think that it's very healthy for children to learn that you can't have everything you wish for. When I look at the lists my children have written to Santa, I just try to figure out which of these Christmas wishes are truly important, and ignore the ones I consider unsuitable, too expensive, or totally useless. I guess that's what parenting is: you try to do what's right by your children without pampering them too much or being too hard on them.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday, November 22, 2013

week 47

This week we also got a foreign visitor to tell us about herself and her country. This young woman, Esther, comes from Spain, and it was really interesting to hear her thoughts about many things. She said that it is fairly common in Spain these days that young (well-educated) people go abroad to seek for employment or participate in different projects because there are no jobs available in Spain. Esther herself has been abroad twice and is now going to go back home within a few weeks, hoping that she will find work in Madrid and be able to stay there permanently.

That got me thinking that actually it takes a huge amount of courage to leave for a new country all by yourself. Of course, when you're young, you usually want to experience new things and see new opportunities as an adventure, but still I think it's admirable to have the courage to do this.

I myself have been abroad but not actually lived anywhere besides Finland. Still, I have an idea of what it feels like to jump into the unknown. When me and my husband (then fiancé) were young, he got a new job from a city we had never even been to, let alone had any connections to. When we moved, we literally had to read a map to be able to find our way anywhere -or back home. First it seemed exciting; it was just the two of us in compeletely new surroundings. After a while, though, the feelings of isolation and alienation began to grow, and the new home town didn't feel so alluring anymore. The different phases of a phenomenon called "a culture shock" can be very strong, and naturally they are more difficult to bear if you have to go through them alone. In my case I had my fiancé to keep me company, to ease my feelings of loneliness, and help me read the map!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Week 46; a visitor from Poland!

This week we got a visitor from Poland to tell us about herself and her country to the people in my discussion groups. We got a lot of information on Poland and its people, Polish customs and holidays, and different places of interest.

Our guest, Maria, also told us about an ongoing campaign to promote Poland, which is called Come and complain. The idea behind this campaign is to tell (foreign) people about Poland and remarkable Polish people in a new way. This campaign doesn't emphasize how beautiful the country is or how many prominent scientists, composers, engineers, directors etc. the country has produced. On the contrary, the campaign focuses on something Polish people are apparently very good at: complaining. If they introduce for instance Marie Curie and say that the was the first woman ever to win a Nobel Prize, and that she actually won two of them (in physics and chemistry!), they immediately complain about  it saying: what, only two? The same style goes on and on complaining about beautiful buildings, famous people, natural sites and all sorts of things. Naturally, you might argue that using this kind of inside joke as a marketing gimmick might be dangerous since not everyone understands jokes the same way, but in my opinion this campaign is a refreshing idea! Actually, I think that also us Finns use a lot of self-irony and we find it hard to praise ourselves, so at least I understood the jokes in the examples Maria showed us, and I thought they were hilariously funny! In fact, I went on Facebook today and found this campaign there as well, and of course I pressed the I like -button quite a few times!

Friday, November 08, 2013

Week 45; do's and don'ts

This time we discussed cultural differences and thought about possible instructions of do's and don'ts for people who come to Finland.

Quite obviously, we came up with some instructions concerning going to the sauna, because this phenomenon is so intrisically Finnish. First: yes, you do have to take your clothes off when you go to the sauna, and second: yes, you do go to the sauna with other people. I can imagine this seeming very weird and distressing for many people, and to be quite honest, not even all Finns like to go to the sauna with strangers or people outside the immediate family.

Other things that came to mind were for example the fact that -unfortunately- Finns don't use words like 'sorry' or 'thank you' very much, and we don't even have an equivalent for the word 'please' in the Finnish language! The fact that we don't use these words much doesn't mean that we intend to sound rude or angry; it's just not something that we do. It's exactly the same with the unwritten rule of not talking to anyone on a bus, on a train, in a lift or in any other public place for that matter. Again; we don't intend to seem withdrawn or misanthropic, it's just our way of showing that we respect privacy, ours and others'.

Finns are sometimes said to be selfish in traffic and we are accused of not taking others into account. It might be useful to know that even if Finns stop at red lights even when there's nobody coming, we don't necessarily give way to pedestrians who attempt to cross a street.

One thing we Finns cannot stand is bragging. One should be aware that quite many things can be interpreted as bragging, such as talking about your salary, buing a new car, wearing nice clothes, building a summer cottage and talking about it (it's okay to have a summer cottage as long as you don't mention it to anyone), travelling abroad more than once in ten years, telling the neighbour how well your kids are doing, telling others how you like your new haircut, telling how good pancakes you made yesterday and so forth and so forth. Since almost anything can be perceived as bragging, it's best not to say much about yourself, and make sure you don't stand out in any way. Modesty is the best policy, that's our motto!

To sum up; you will get along with Finns as long as you don't brag, don't talk to us, take your clothes off and come to the sauna with us. Don't expect us to say please or thanks or sorry, and we'll get on just fine!

PS. I am from the province of Savonia in Finland, and it is said that we Savonians have a spesific sense of humour. We love irony, and we also apply self-irony whenever possible. Thus, when you read this text, please take into consideration that I might not be 100 % serious about my discription of us Finns...

Friday, November 01, 2013

Week 44; Halloween

During this week it's time to say goodbye to October and welcome November, which also means that it is time for Halloween. 

The concept of Halloween has been brought to Finland from the USA, and it has become quite common in the recent years that shops also in our country sell different kinds of scary costumes, jack-o'-lanterns and basically all types of Halloween knick-knacks in October. Not very long ago it was customary that around this time of year shops were filled with candles and different types of heathers to be taken to the graves of our departed loved ones, because that has been the Finnish way of spending our Pyhäinpäivä.

My son -turning nine next month- went to a birthday/ Halloween party of a friend last week. He was extremely enthusiastic about the whole thing, and dressing up in his scary costume was a huge deal for him. There were about a dozen other enthusiasts already at the party when we arrived, and I must say that the mother of the birthday boy had really made an effort! There were Halloween -decorations everywhere, and she had even (on top of everything else) baked and decorated a cake that looked like a cemetary! Later that evening I asked my son what the gravestones had tasted like, but he said that he hadn't tasted them; he'd been too busy with gummy worms and other icky stuff! The best things in the party according to him were of course friends and their horrid costumes, fake spiderwebbs and sticky fake slime!

I must admit that I've liked our Pyhäinpäivä and the idea of remembering the dead in a quiet and respectful way, and I've thought that Halloween doesn't suit our culture. Now that I've seen how much fun Halloween -parties can be like, I've started to think that maybe it's not such a bad idea after all: to have fun in a funny way in order to lift your spirits during the darkest autumn. So, who knows if I'll even arrange a Halloween party myself next year!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Week 43; dream a little dream of...?

This week we talked about dreams and the possibilities of making them come true. This quite inevitably has -at least to some extent- to do with money, so first we read a newspaper article about a Finnish game developer, Supercell, that has just sold the majority of the shares of the company and as a consequence, the owners, investors and employees of Supercell are now extremely wealthy (read: filthy rich) people. They are now in a position where they have so much money that they can basically buy anything they want and they can fulfil their dreams quite freely. Quite interestingly, the CEO and the creative director of the company say that they are not going to use the money on themselves but instead they intend to use their money to help start-up businesses. The founders of Supercell also said that when they got started and had nothing, they still possessed a naive, almost childlike belief in their dreams and to the notion that almost anything is possible if you work hard and believe in yourself and in your products.

We had a sort of a 'what if' -game meaning that we all tried to think of what we would do if we suddenly became rich. There was discussion about giving money to family members, securing one's own future and even marrying Mick Jagger, but I know what I'd do: I would set up a foundation that would do charity work, and I would buy myself a house from someplace warm! I'm a known winter-hater, so the Finnish winter with its typical features like slippery roads, freezingly cold weather and constant shoveling of snow are definitely not my idea of fun! So, if I were rich, I would gladly cherry pick; spend my summers in Finland and the winters somewhere else!

We also talked about dreams and the fact that they often change in the course of time. Someone said that it's quite natural that young people dream about things they don't have yet (a spouse, children, a nice profession etc.) Once you get older, your dreams may change. I've noticed that once you've achieved some goal or dream, you might be happy and content, or then you might notice that this thing was not worth having at all, in other words, it just wasn't your cup of tea after all. The saying (or warning) "Be careful of what you wish for; you just might get it" probably has great wisdom in it. The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, and pursuing something you think might change your life for the better doesn't always turn out to be so. On the other hand, if you always manage to get everything you dream about, what is left? Isn't it the spice of life that you have dreams regardless of whether they are feasible or not.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Week 41; a few words about books

On October the 10th we celebrate Aleksis Kivi’s Day in Finland, and it’s also a day for Finnish litetature since Aleksis Kivi was a very important Finnish author. That is why we chose to talk about books in my Coffee Mornings –groups. Or actually we discussed our preferences concerning books and films, since some of us like films better than books.

Unfortunately, I don't really have much time to read, but when I do, I usually choose biographies (=elämäkerta) or current, new publications. The books that I've read lately include the biography of Steve Jobs and Sofi Oksanen's latest novel Kun kyyhkyset katosivat. Right now I'm reading a book which is very unlike the books I usually choose; it's Stephen King's book called 22.11.1963. It's very unlike me to read something like this in the sense that I usually never read science fiction novels (I don't like the supernatural things in them), and I also don't usually read books that have to do with death or crime. As a result, I have never read a single book by Stephen King. The reason why this book seemed interesting was the topic: the book plays with the idea of ' what ifs'; what if it was possible to travel back in time? What if it was possible to stop the Kennedy assassination before it took place? What concequences would it have had if John F. Kennedy had not been murdered? This book is very thick and I'm only half way through, so I have no idea how it will end, but it's been a thrilling experience so far.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Week 40; miscellaneous thoughts

In one of my English groups we talked about how difficult it may be to listen to different accents, and how different for instance the RP and American pronunciation usually sound. Pronunciation is not the only thing, though. I found an interesting video clip on You Tube, where Hugh Laurie (an Englishman) and Ellen DeGeneres (an American) give each other words used in America or Britain and see whether the other one knows what they mean. In each case neither of them has the foggiest of what the other one is referring to. I’ve thought that people who speak English as their mother tongue have no problems in understanding each other, regardless of where they come from. Obviously I’ve been wrong, since this extract shows very clearly that for instance American slang or colloquial expressions can be just as strange to an Englishman as they are to a Finn, and vice versa. In a way it’s terribly comforting to know that expressions that are new to us may be just as new even for a native speaker of English!

On Friday the 4th October is a day when people in Finland are encouraged to wear a rose ribbon in order to show their support to brest cancer research. I also read somewhere that another alternative is to wear pink colour on Friday in order to support the cause. I had pink colour in my necklace, bracelet and shawl/scarf. I also bought a pink ribbon and a pink ribbon brooch a couple of years ago, and I particularly like the brooch. I’ve often worn it at work even though I’m not very accustomed to wearing brooches. In my opinion it's important to support a good cause even in a small way.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Week 39; teaching well on the way

This week we dealt with news, and particularly good news, in my Coffee mornings –groups. Last week I asked people to bring  to class a newspaper clipping that had a piece of good news in it. It was quite interesting to see that we all had chosen different news items even though almost all of us had been reading Savon Sanomat. The pieces of good news included for instance a story of a man from Suonenjoki who has solar panels on the top of the roof in his house and also in his yard, and who doesn’t have to buy electricity but who is able to sell it back to the electricity company. There was also a story about an activity club for little children, which has started running in the hinterland of Suonenjoki. Also an article about immigrants and their Finnish studies was very interesting. Another news item that had to do with children was that of a new playground that features Moomin –characters. This playground has been opened in Suonenjoki, and one of the participants has tested this place with his children. He told us that the children have approved of the place, and like it a lot.
I chose a small article on Stephen Hawking, who said that love was the main reason that kept him going when he was diagnosed with a progressive neurodegenerative disease as a young man. He also said that because he knows that any day could be his last, he tries to get the most out of it. Quite a good motto for anyone, I would say!

In Write it down the topic this week was sports that we like. Each participant was supposed to write about his or her favourite forms of physical exercise, and we really got some interesting results. Some like hard physical exercise like running, whereas others prefer for instance taking long walks. For some the aspect of fresh air is important, and somebody wrote that in her opinion physical exercise is the best way to forget your troubles. In this course the main aim is to get people to write about different topics, but I think that we’ll be able to have fruitful conversations during this semester. Looking forward to reading next week’s texts!

Friday, September 20, 2013

New semester; new groups!

First of all: sorry for having such a long break between writings on this blog, but I've been having some technical difficulties over the past few weeks and haven't been able to write anything here. My intention was to start writing on this blog regularly again at the beginning of our autumn semester, but due to these problems I just mentioned I'm only getting started now. But anyway, a new autumn term has just started, and I’ve had a chance to meet my new groups and students. Many of the students are people I already know from the previous school year, but there are plenty of people who were new to me. It’s really refreshing to meet so many people who are interested in the English language!

I’m also pleased to notice that my new ideas were –for the most part- received very well. For instance, courses like Matkustan ympäri maailmaa and Write it down got enough people in them, so they started running. Matkustan ympäri maailmaa (Travelling around the world; the name taken from a Finnish children’s song) deals with travelling in different ways. Write it down is a course with no specific times, dates or even classroom interaction, because people take part in it via the internet and e-mail. The very idea behind this course is to offer a language course also for those people who don’t or won’t or can’t come to class every week. Like the title suggests, we mainly discuss interesting topics that change weekly, and we exchange ideas in our own discussion group I've created on our website. 

I also had a course called Rakastan rakenteita! (I love grammar!) on offer, but it didn’t have enough people to enroll in it, so it didn’t start. Too bad, but I can understand why just a few people like grammar. I suppose us language teachers are a different breed; we just simply love complex structures and try to find the logic behind them. We are convinced that difficult grammatical structures and exceptions to the rules are not made just to harass language learners, but that there is actually some reason for them. Having said that, I still think that the English language is a challenging one. For instance, a langauage learner might be a bit puzzled having heard that English phrases like a fat chance and a slim chance mean the same thing... or that if Peter owns something, the correct genitive form is Peter's, but if he has something, it is not he's because he's means he is. Small things for a language, sometimes overwhelming things for a language learner. Well, us Finns should not complain; our mother tongue is grammatically quite difficult and has many features that drive learners of Finnish mad. For instance, in English you come from London etc., but in Finnish you might olla kotoisin Lahdesta, Helsingistä, Tampereelta, Kälviältä. Four different endings -sta, -stä, -lta and -ltä and they all mean the same thing! And why is it Lahdesta; why not Lahti + -sta = Lahtista..? Talk about illogical languages...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Week 13; Easter

We will celebrate Easter this week, so it was quite natural that I chose Easter as this week's topic in the conversation groups. I had some material with me that dealt with Easter traditions in different countries. First people familiarized themselves with the text, and then we discussed the information and compared the different traditions and customs. It was quite surprising to notice that Easter traditions are actually quite similar in many cultures even though local features exist. It is also common that pagan rituals have been intertwined with religious content, and over time these two might be hard to tell apart.

A big event in Israel takes place on Easter Day in Jesus's tomb. I'm referring to the event where the church leader goes into the tomb and comes out with a burning torch lit inside the tomb on its own, without any external source. When we talked about this on Monday, one person mentioned that there is footage about this on YouTube. There is, and we actually watched a clip with the Tuesday and Thursday groups. It was filmed by one of the spectators and the quality of the footage was not terribly good, but it became evident that the atmospere on the spot must be extremely intense and anticipatory.

We will be having our last sessions next week, and we agreed to have a juke box jury again. It is a nice way to end the spring semester; to listen to some good music in good company and talk about it!

I've had a really great time with these discussion groups, and all in all I've been very well received in my new job. Now teaching will step aside for awhile, but will continue again in the autumn. My idea is to update this blog every now and again in the spring and summer, but I'll continue my weekly updates again when the teaching season starts again in September.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Week 12; Minna Canth's Day

On Tuesday the 19th March we celebrate Minna Canths' Day in Finland, and that is why I chose this remarkable woman as the topic in our conversation groups this week. I collected some information on Minna Canth, both as a person and also as a writer and cultural figure. Then I took two sets of copies of the text, and erased paragraphs one, three, five and seven from one, and paragraphs two, four, six and eight from the other copy. Then I took more copies of the 'dissected' versions and gave them to people in class. The idea was that people, in pairs, had different kinds of handouts, and it was their job to share the information they had with their partner. In other words, half of the people translated text from paragraphs one, three, five and seven from Finish into English, and the other half did the same with paragraphs two, four, six and eight. This turned out to be grat fun, although people said that translating relatively difficult text right off the bat was challenging.

Naturally, we also discussed Minna Canth and her significance. We all agreed that in her own time she had very modern and shocking ideas concerning for instance women, their abilities and their position in society. She was convinced that women could do more than just stay at home and take care of children and do household chores, and she didn't see marriage as the ultimate goal all women should reach for.

Next week we'll talk about different Easter traditions, since we'll celebrate Easter over the following weekend! My favourite Easter delicacy is Pasch; I could eat huge amounts of it... :)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Week 11; March well on the way

This week we got back from our winter holiday and continued "business as usual".

On Monday we watched short clips from different films and discussed them. It is always interesting to hear people's opinions about these kinds of things, and although there is no accounting for tastes, we actually agreed on quite a few things in our discussion. We were all amazed how Chaplin was able to make Gold Rush using the technique of the 1920s (the cabin really seems to be swinging back and forth!), and we also agreed that certain actors and actresses seem to be able to 'become' the character they are playing (take Daniel Day-Lewis or Meryl Streep, for instance).

On Tuesday and Thursday we could not watch film clips because -unfortunately- we don't have a proper DVD player in our classroom in Suonenjoki. That's why we did exercises using different kinds of cards (played Alias etc), and talked about general things. Next week, on Tuesday the 19th March, we will celebrate Minna Canth's Day, and I have prepared some material around that topic.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Week 9

This week we talked about several things in our discussion groups. On Monday we talked about the Nordic Ski World Championships, but on Tuesday we barely touched the subject! That was because the people in the Tuesday group said that they do not like to watch any sports events on TV and therefore are not at all enthusiastic to talk about the ongoing Ski World Championships! On Monday and Thursday we talked a bit about the these games, and many people felt that it is a good thing that there are many different kinds of events within the field of cross-country skiing. Especially the sprint and pursuit -types of events seem to interest sports fans, maybe due to the swift turns these races may take.

We also continued last week's topic a bit, because I had some information on different kinds of wedding traditions in different cultures. We learnt, for instance, that in Japan it is customary to give a cash gift, and that cranes symbolize longevity and fidelity. We also noticed that for example in Jewish or Native American wedding traditions certain things have very strong symbolic meanings. Also the emphasis of family and seeing weddings as a unifying ceremony joining two families together seems to be important in these cultures.

Next week (week 10) we'll be having our winter holiday, so there will be no lessons then.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Week 8; wedding memories

Most of the wedding memories we talked about this week were nice; people have attended weddings where the happy couple has really been happy and beautiful and deeply in love, and also the wedding arrangements have been working very well. There was actually only one wedding memory of a dreadful wedding. In this occasion, many of the guests got too drunk and as a result, started to pick a fight with other guests. Understandably, the rest of the wedding party felt very uncomfortable and couldn't get home fast enough.

Some of the participants in the discussion groups have been married for a long time. In fact, there is one student who will celebrate her 50th wedding anniversary with her husband this August, and an another one who will have her 30th wedding anniversary in the spring! Those are quite remarkable achievements in today's world where divorce is not only possible but actually quite a common solution for many couples.

I thought that next week we could talk about two separate topics: first we could discuss weddings a bit further (compare wedding traditions in different countries and cultures), and then we could also talk about some current events (like for instance the Nordic World Ski Championships in Val di Fiemme).

Friday, February 15, 2013

Week 7; souvenirs

I think my idea of talking about different souvenirs and different cultures worked quite well. In all of the groups we seemed to run out of time because people had so much to say, and especially on Tuesday we barely got through everybody's souvenirs. I think we all got some new information on different sights as well as good tips concerning these places. Also some cultural aspects came up; for instance, two ladies have both visited Jordan, and we talked a bit about some things a western (female) tourist must be aware of when travelling there. On Monday we learnt a lot about the Americans and the American culture, because one of the participants in that group lived in the USA for some time. He was able to reflect some aspects about the country and its people through a Finn's eyes, and I think we all found it interesting to listen to. It was also very intriguing to hear about some other places as well, because some people have visited quite exotic places or places few people get to go to. For example, one person was allowed to visit a monastery which is usually not open for everyone. In order to get a visit, you'll have to have recommendations on your behalf, and even if you do, you still might not get to visit the place because the number of foreigners per group is strictly regulated.

Next week we are going to talk about weddings, and memories concerning them. I've asked people to think about stories of memorable weddings; wonderful or terrible. We might also watch some photographs, who knows. The reason I came up with this idea is that I'm actually having my 10th wedding anniversary with my husband next week. We intend to celebrate the occasion, and therefore weddings and anniversaries are on my mind pretty much right now. It's nice to look back to my own wedding, and it will be interesting to hear what kinds of wedding memories people have in our discussion groups!

Friday, February 08, 2013

Week 6

This week we familiarized ourselves with the outcomes of a Grundtvig -project called Memory Matters - the Making of Social History. I explained what the Finnish, Polish and English partners did within this project, and then we focused on the Irish partners' results. They used short films as a means of recording and preserving social history (traditions, customs) to future generations. We watched three short films in class, and even though we had some technical difficulties with the sound, people said that they found this topic very interesting. In the first film, the Udder Way, we saw and heard how milking a cow has changed over the years during the past few decades. A Day in the Bog showed us how the Irish people have long lifted turf and used it as fuel. In this short film people used traditional tools that have been used for turf lifting, and I must admit that it seemed that those rather simple tools are a useful way of making turf blocks. In the third short film, called the Box Iron,  we saw four ladies talking about how difficult ironing was (and still is!) with a box iron.

Next week I thought we could talk about cultures and cultural differences. For that purpose I'll ask people to bring some souvenir(s) to class. An ideal item would be something that is typical to that particular culture, and something that brings back memories to the person who brought it. The idea is, of course, to talk about the observations of different cultures people have made when travelling, and perhaps compare them to our culture. I'm actually really looking forward to these discussions. Let's see what we'll come up with!

Friday, February 01, 2013

Week 5

On Monday and Tuesday we translated and compared proverbs in English and Finnish.

On Thursday my original idea was to go through the results of a Grundtvig -project our adult education centre was recently involved with. You see, four different partner countries co-operated in a Grundtvig -project called Memory Matters - The Making of Social History in 2010-2012, and it is interesting to examine what the four partner countries were able to achieve. The Finnish partner -our adult education centre- worked on memory schools for senior participants, and was able to formulate a useful concept. The memory school study groups were established in Suonenjoki and Vesanto, and they had meetings every week for one and a half hours at a time during the study term. Every other meeting was dedicated to tasks intended to activate the brain, and theoretical information on brain functions. In every other meeting the participants concentrated on reminiscing (looking back to sth); for instance, memories connected to their childhood, grandparents, household tasks, school etc. The memories were first written down on paper and then read aloud and tape recorded in class. This way it is possibe to preserve these valuable memories to future generations, and it was actually one of the key objectives in this project to begin with.

The other partner countries involved in this project included Poland, Ireland and England, and next week I thought we could examine what for instance the Irish did within this project. The idea was that all the participants focuced on different things within this project, so for instance the Polish or Irish participants didn't have their own local memory schools, but their preservation of social history was carried out in an entirely different fashion. We'll look into that next week.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Week 4

This week began pleasantly, because we got a new member to join our Monday discussion group. She seemed to fit right in, and participated eagerly in the discussion. That was nice! Accommodation is a topic everyone certainly has some personal experience about, and that is probably why people had a lot to say about it. Although people didn't necessarily know all the appropriate words all the time, the discussions didn't end or suddenly wither away. We went through some words and phrases together, and many people actually said that they learnt a lot of useful vocabulary this week. Also it seems to be an insurmountable fact that there is something inconvenient or uncomfortable or infuriating or just plain awful in every home! You see, everyone knew instantly what they would change in their homes if they could when I asked them about it! And in all honesty, I must say that although I'm otherwise very pleased with my home, I would definitely make our kitchen bigger if I had a magic wand.. The kitchen is otherwise functional and renovated to suit my taste, but a few extra square metres wouldn't hurt at all.

On Thursday we started comparing different proverbs in English and Finnish. Some of them are exactly the same in these two langauges, but there are some that are quite difficult to translate for instance from English into Finnish. It is also interesting to detect how things are expressed in different languages. For instance, animals used in proverbs seem to vary from language to another, like in the proverb "to kill two birds with one stone" and "tappaa kaksi kärpästä yhdellä iskulla". In English they have birds, we've got flies.

We're going to talk about proverbs on Monday and Tuesday, but quite honestly, I don't have the foggiest of what the topic on Thursday will be! I have some ideas but nothing definite. Luckily, I still have almost a week to come up with a suitable topic for the lessons.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Week 3

This week started a bit poorly; I had to be on sick leave on Monday and Tuesday. I got back to work on Wednesday and still felt nauseus and weak, but was able to get through the day. On Thursday I felt better, and we had our discussion lessons as usual. For some reason our group was quite petite, but we were still able to maintain vivid discussion. We actually talked about a variety of topics ranging from impolite doctors to films we've recently seen. The actual topic of which I had prepared some material for the lesson was accommodation, but like I mentioned, we also talked about many other things.

Accommodation will be the topic for the Monday and Tuesday groups next week, and on Thursday I thought that we could go through different proverbs. Some students have actually asked if we could compare proverbs in English and Finnish, so next week we'll do just that! Some proverbs are almost identical in these two languages, like for instance "a rolling stone gathers no moss" and "vierivät kivet eivät sammaloidu", but instantly it might be quite difficult to know how to translate for instance "fine words butter no parsnips" into Finnish!

Friday, January 11, 2013

Week 2; the first full week after the Christmas break

Teaching began again this week after being on a Christmas break for about a month. It was nice to see my students again, and we had interesting discussions in the groups. On Monday and Thursday we had a bit of a shortage of participants; I wonder if lots of people were sick..? I heard a newsflash on the radio saying that we have epidemics of both influenza and the noro -virus going around the country. I had the noro -virus last winter, and it was absolutely horrid! The virus made me so weak that I fainted on two separate occasions on my way to the bathroom! Now I have been trying to be extra careful with germs and have continuously been washing my hands (and forcing others to do it, too).

Anyhow, this week we discussed important events that took place in 2012, and in all of the groups we also talked about what we had done and where we had been around Christmas and New Year. On Tuesday and Thursday we also started to familiarize ourselves with vocabulary concerning accommodation, and people described their homes to one another. The idea is to continue with this topic next week a bit further. Today I had a phone call from a lady who said that she would like to join our Monday discussion group. I said that she is very welcome, and so we agreed that she will start attending the classes next Monday! It's always nice to get more people involved, and it's a proven fact that active people who take an interest in many things live much longer than their passive fellow creatures!

Friday, January 04, 2013

Back to work!

I got back to work on Wednesday the 2nd January. Some time off did me goog, and I feel enthusiastic about coming back to work again.

This week I didn't have any teaching, but I focused on administrative duties of different kind, and was able to tick many things off of my 'to do' -list. Teaching will start again next week, and on Monday we will talk about some important events that took place in 2012. On Tuesday and Thursday we will discuss different forms of accommodation and compare our living and housing arrangements.

A new year, new tricks. Yes, today I got a new phone to be used at work, and I have a feeling that it will take some time for me to learn how to use it.. Provably, I was able to answer the phone when it rang, and I was also able to select a new ringtone better suited to my taste, but I think it might take a while before I can send e-mail and attachements with this new gadget, or use the bluetooth smoothly or... Hopefully we will become friends, my new phone and I. You see, I've had experiences of electronic devices that have had the same logic as I do and I have had absolutely no problems with them, and then I've had some appliances (phones, digiboxes etc.) that I've never learnt to use properly. That's why I feel that certain electronic devices seem like friends; they really seem to understand me and we get on with each other. Just like real friends, they may have some infuriating qualities but for the most part the coexistance is nice and smooth. Why can't all technical appliances be like that?!