English in Finnish teenagers’ everyday lives

Tarja Nikula and Anne Pitkänen-Huhta

This project focuses on the role of the English language in Finnish teenagers’ everyday lives. Officially, English is a foreign language in Finland and the most popular foreign language learnt at school. Unofficially, given the ever growing presence of English in the everyday lives of young people (e.g. through popular culture, media and new technologies), encounters with English are not restricted to school contexts any more. In this project we investigate how Finnish teenagers perceive the role of English in their everyday lives, and in that way seek to understand the significance of English for their identity construction. While there are studies on the role of English in various forms of youth discourse less is known about teenagers’ own understandings of how English affects their everyday lives.

Theoretically, the study draws insights from discourse analysis, literacy studies and ethnography and uses a multi-method approach to gain a versatile, emic picture of English penetrating Finnish teenagers’ discourse practices. The subjects are 15-16 year-old boys and girls, with whom we have had sustained contact for 18 months. The data consist of interviews, group discussions, students’ self-made recordings of their everyday language use, and a collection of their perceptions of English in the form of written and oral diaries, photographs and visualizations.