This year’s Finnish Fulbright Language Teaching Assistant in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies tells the IAUNRC about herself, her studies, and her experiences at IU.
Can you introduce yourself briefly and tell us a little about your background?
I am Sanni Törmänen from the University of Jyväskylä, Finland. I am majoring in Finnish language and specializing in the study of Finnish both as a second language and as a foreign language. During my teacher training in Finland, I was able to teach Finnish as a second language in different settings, but the Fulbright FLTA program here has offered me a great opportunity to gain work experience in teaching Finnish abroad. Before coming to the U.S., I started writing my master’s thesis on digital literacies of adult literacy learners in Finland. At the University of Jyväskylä, I also worked in the Center for Applied Language Studies, mostly for the National Certificates of Language Proficiency.
How many sections of Finnish language are you teaching?
I assist in two levels, introductory and intermediate. Even though I am an assistant and not a primary instructor, I have been given the chance to take a lot of responsibility in teaching, and for this I am very grateful!
What classes are you taking here at IU?
In the Fall Semester I took Arabic in order to be able to relate to my students as language learners, and a course on less commonly taught languages. This spring I am also taking two classes, one about baseball as history and the other about language testing. I like sports, and in case you did not know, Finnish baseball is considered the national sport of Finland, so it is going to be interesting to make comparisons. Of course, the main purpose of taking the course about baseball is to learn new things about American society and culture. The class on language testing is a more obvious choice.
Is this your first time visiting the United States? If so, what are your thoughts?
I have visited the United States twice before, but only as a tourist. I noticed before that the people here are very chatty, helpful and friendly, and my opinion on that has not changed. Now, I have also learned that the U.S. is a huge country, and things can change a lot from one city or state to another, so I don’t want to make too many generalizations. I can say, however, that I feel at home in Bloomington since I prefer small towns.
Is there anything you miss from Finland that you haven’t been able to find here?
Rye bread, xylitol chewing gum, and a dish draining closet. I am also struggling with the lack of sidewalks in many places.
What is your favorite thing to do at IU so far (when you're not teaching or taking class)?
IU Auditorium has so many great shows on offer that it is sometimes hard to choose! I also went to see the Nutcracker and enjoyed bowling and playing pool at IMU during the Fall Semester.
Do you think learning the Finnish language is difficult for a native English speaker?
The Finnish language can be challenging because it is different. People have usually heard about our 15 grammatical cases, but there are also many features of the Finnish language that are easy to learn. For example, it uses the Latin alphabet, there are no articles, and the pronunciation is phonetic.
Is there anything you would like our readers to know about Finland?
Finland is well known for its education system, and it is often presented as a winter wonderland with the real Santa Claus, reindeer and the Northern Lights. If you want to learn something new, try reading up on Finnish literature, design, gender equality or innovations, for example.