Research student set for Finnish adventure

22 February 2017

PhD student, Kaisa Pankakoski from Cardiff University’s School of Welsh, has secured grant funding from the Finnish Board of Education and the Philological Society of Great Britain for an extended research placement in Finland.

Kaisa will be based at the Department of Modern Languages at the University of Helsinki from April to August 2017 and will work with Professor Minna Palander-Collin, Director of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies and Professor of English Language.

During her time in Helsinki, Kaisa will cooperate with Finnish researchers to develop her PhD thesis, which is concerned with trilingualism, and conduct wide ranging consultations. This will include collaboration with a trilingualism researcher based at Turku University, as well as interviews with eight case study families (which form the basis of Kaisa’s thesis) and extended family members.

Kaisa Pankakoski by Liza Brunzell

Kaisa explains that the primary aim of her thesis is to: “… examine to what extent aspects such as family language strategies or sociocultural and sociolinguistic factors influence trilingual children's language transmission. Previous research has not taken into account children's perspectives and I aim to explore the possible link of children's experiences and language transmission. In particular, I am investigating trilingual children in two bilingual societies; Wales and Finland, but the research findings are expected to be readily transferable, and therefore be internationally relevant and important. It will also provide a comparative analysis of two different bilingual communities' trilingual families and the challenges and opportunities in raising children trilingually. I’m grateful for the funding I have received which will enable me to gather valuable qualitative data and engage with contributors in person.”

Family history and experience forms a major part of the motivation behind Kaisa’s PhD thesis. Her two children, aged 3 and 7, speak English, Welsh and Finnish, and will accompany Kaisa to Finland. They will attend a Finnish-medium early years education institution, which Kaisa describes as a “student exchange experience” of its own.

Kaisa adds: “I left Finland in 1998 and in that time I have lived in 13 cities across five different countries. I still have family living in Finland and this trip will be hugely important from a professional and personal perspective. I’m pleased the kids will be able to accompany me, and although my partner won’t be able to make the trip due to work commitments he will at least have the dog to keep him company!”

Dr Jon Morris, from the Language, Policy and Planning Research Unit at the School of Welsh, Cardiff University, recognises how important this trip will be for Kaisa’s research. He said: “Kaisa’s project will make an important contribution to work on how parents attempt to use minority languages in the home. Her project is unique, however, as it looks at how national minority languages like Welsh in Wales or Swedish in Finland are used by parents who already speak another language (as well as English or Finnish) and have perhaps moved from another country. We're thrilled that she will be able to collect data from families in Helsinki which will allow her to compare their experiences with those of families in Wales.”

The grant from the Finnish Board of Education will cover expenses related to living and working in Helsinki for five months while the scholarship from the Philological Society of Great Britain will go towards travel, transport and consumables.

For more information visit the School webpages.