Students’ conceptualizations of monolingual Swedish-language spaces and bilingual practices at a bilingual university in Finland
Keywords:language policy, higher education, constitutional bilingualism, university students
This paper aims to analyze students’ discourses on language policies and practices in a Swedish-medium study program at the largest bilingual university in Finland. In educational discourse and practice in Finland, the position of Swedish as a de facto minority language has traditionally been understood as secured through institutional language separation. While the declared language policies at the University of Helsinki have witnessed a shift towards the simultaneous use of multiple languages, the structure of the study programs still reflect a policy of parallel monolingualisms (Heller, 2007). By analyzing student interviews using a spatially informed framework, we look at how the students in a Swedish-medium study program negotiate the meaning of the program as a linguistic space and how bilingual policies and practices appear to them in this construct. Our findings show that the familiar discourses of language separation in minority language educational contexts also circulated in higher education: monolingual Swedish-medium programs were seen as “svenska rum” (Swedish rooms or spaces), material and social markers of the status of Swedish at the university and guaranteeing the access to education in the other national language. However, bilingual policies and teaching practices were seen as necessary to deconstruct linguistic and social borders between students in different programs in order to prevent alienation and to improve language skills. Nevertheless, the existing bilingual courses were oftentimes experienced as marginalizing the users of Swedish and careful planning was pointed out as crucial in implementing successful bilingual and multilingual practices in higher education.
- 2023-05-23 (2)
- 2022-11-11 (1)
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Copyright (c) 2021 Tuuli From, Harriet Zilliacus, Gunilla Holm
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