“Enymärä”: Thoughts on the use of Finnish as the majority language in locally published EFL activity books

Judit Háhn

EFL textbooks, Immigrant students, Equality in education, Language of instruction, Language policy


It has been a long tradition in Finland to use locally published textbooks in primary foreign language education. The books have been designed for linguistically homogenous groups of students, which explains why Finnish, as the learners’ L1, is the instructive metalanguage chosen for the EFL activity books. However, the growing number of immigrant children in the Finnish educational system raises the question to what extent these activity books can serve the needs of linguistically more diverse groups of learners. The connection between the two languages is so strong that Finnish seems to serve as a precondition for the acquisition of English. The high proportion of tasks requiring fluency in Finnish and the exclusive use of the language in the instructions might position Finnish as a gatekeeper language and thus hinder the acquisition of English in the case of non-Finnish students. The background trigger for the research was the case of an immigrant child, who had problems solving the English workbook exercises due to his weak Finnish skills. The paper investigates the role of Finnish in six EFL activity books that are used in Finnish comprehensive education to see to what extent it is present in the books, what functions it takes and what difficulties the lack of fluency might cause in task comprehension and solution. The analysis will be supplemented by interviews made with teachers of English and a textbook author to explore their views and experience regarding the use of the majority language in the activity books.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies