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You are here: Minority languages → Expert in the Spotlight → Veronica Hertzberg

Expert in the Spotlight in 2011: Veronica Hertzberg

The expert in the Spotlight feature gives you the chance to interact one-on-one with our Ask the expert-section. The feature also provides interesting and insightful comments regarding the subjects mentioned above, in-depth content and exclusive Q and A’s.

Featured Expert / Area of focus

Veronica Hertzberg is working as the National Immersion Agent at Folkhälsan. Folkhälsan is a Swedish-speaking NGO (non-governmental organisation) in the social welfare and health care sector in Finland. It carries out scientific research and provides social welfare and health care services as well as information and counselling in order to promote health and quality of life. Folkhälsan was founded in 1921 and has combined scientific research and practical health promotion right from the start.

Within Folkhälsan you will find the section Language and Communication (www.folkhalsan.fi/sprak) that deals with children and language, support parents and practitioners who are working with children and language acquisition in schools and day-care centres. They also produce languages activating materials (www.folkhalsan.fi/spraklekar).
Her specialisation lies on immersion education and Swedish education in Finland, minority languages, education policy and bilingualism. She is also President of FIBLUL: an organisation dealing with all national lesser used languages in Finland (www.fiblul.fi )
On 6th of October 2011 the closing Conference of the Multilingual Early Language Transmission (MELT) project in Brussels took place. Folkhälsan is one of the partners of this EU-funded project even as Mercator Research Centre.

Face to face with Veronica Hertzberg

What is your background in the field of regional and minority languages/education/multilingualism?

I have been dealing with issues concerning RML-languages (Regional and Minority Languages) since the early 1990’s when I started my work at Swedish Assembly in Finland. When Finland became an EU-member state, FIBLUL established, as a kind of umbrella organisation for the RML-languages and from those days the international connections were built up as well. During the last 6 years I have been working as the National Agency for Immersion Education at Folkhälsan.

What do you think is the major challenge in your field of work?

Within in Finland I am facing two major challenges: one is to build up sustainable and good quality Swedish medium schools in the unilingual Finnish part of Finland.  To make the best out of them we would need to have more contacts to minority language schools in the rest of Europe. The Swedish medium schools should be as good as, or better than the Finnish medium schools. These Swedish medium schools are very small, with two to three teachers, and often less than 50 pupils. And in most of the schools the Swedish medium education ends after primary school, so for the secondary school we would need to have more examples on best practices.

The other challenge is how to increase the number of schools that would give immersion education. We have a lot of Finnish speaking parents that would like to give immersion education to their children, so there could be a lot more immersion schools around. But the municipalities are not so eager to open new immersion classes, while they are facing other problems such as fewer children in each school, and the economic crisis, so the Finnish authorities are not so eager to put any extra resources in immersion education. We should also work harder on how to build up a link between immersion education and education for immigrants.

What is one of the hottest new projects / items you are working on?

Folkhälsan is one of the partners in the EU-funded MELT-project (www.meltproject.eu ). The Multilingual Early Language Transmission (MELT) Project is a partnership between four language communities – Breton in Brittany, the Frisian language in Friesland, the Swedish language community in Finland, and the Welsh language in Wales. The term Language Transmission means the translation of languages from one generation to another, supporting the minority language transmission at an early stage. The background for Folkhälsan to take part in this particular project is that Folkhälsan is a member of a European Network called Network to Promote Linguistic Diversity ( NPLD www.npld.eu). On YouTube you will find an interview with me held at the NPLD International Conference 2010 concerning our experiences within the NPLD:

On the 6th of October 2011 the final Conference of the MELT-project was held in Brussels. The first copy of the Guide “Multilingualism for children's everyday life. A guide for practitioners working with very young children” was presented to Mrs. Kinga Gal. This product of the MELT (Multilingual Early Language Transmission) project is translated into eight languages (Welsh-English, Breton-French, Swedish-Finnish, and Frisian-Dutch), which aims to stimulate multilingualism at pre-school level, with a particular focus on minority languages. On the website www.meltproject.eu the PDF-files are available. The brochure for parents and the theoretical research paper are also available online. Folkhälsan is one of the partners of this EU-funded project even as Mercator Research Centre.

Picture: Presentation of the Guide 'Multilingualism', fltr Dr. Alex Riemersma (MELT project leader), Kinga Gal (Co-chair of Intergroup European Parliament for Traditional Minorities, National Communities and Languages) and Veronica Hertzberg (In charge of the Guide)

Are there any important references such as articles, links, etc. you would like to mention?

Do you have any questions on these topics?

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Featured topic

Our focus this month lies on Multilingual Early Language Transmission