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The language syllabi make a significant contribution not only to the development of communicative competences, but also to social and civic competences, furthermore, to the students’ cultural awareness and expression.  

As a result, the European Schools foster a unique multicultural outlook in students which is a great advantage in both their higher education and in subsequent employment.  

Students in the European Schools have an outstanding opportunity to use the foreign language(s) they learn in their everyday life and in communication with fellow students and other members of the school community. This contributes in a significant way to an excellent working knowledge of languages.  Language tuition is given by teachers who are native speakers in the language they teach.  

Depending on the language section the pupils study English, Finnish or French as their first language (L1). Under certain conditions the school can offer mother tongue tuition in other official languages of the European Union when the language in question becomes L1. 

Starting in the first primary year, pupils study English, French or German as their second language (L2), which is also known as the ‘working language’.  

The third compulsory language (L3) begins in the first year of the secondary cycle. Starting in the fourth secondary year it is possible to choose one more language (L4) as an elective subject. In principle, L3 and L4 can be any official language of the European Union for which there are enough pupils to create a teaching group (Finnish, Swedish, French, German, Spanish etc.) 

In addition, the school may offer advanced studies in the language of the section (L1) and in the second language (L2), as well as Latin and Greek as elective subjects at secondary level. 

Languages are taught in groups consisting of students from different language sections. 

Finnish and/or Swedish languages are not compulsory subjects in the European School of Helsinki (except Finnish in the Finnish section). 

Target levels

  Early education Primary Secondary Year 3
Secondary Year 5 Secondary Year 7
L2 0 A2 B1  B2  C1
L3 A1+  A2+  B1+ 
L4
0 A1  A2+ 
ONL (Other National Language) A1.1 oral A1.2 A2 B1 B2 

 Common European Framework of Reference for Languages

L1 L2 L3 L4 ONL

L1

The teaching of Language 1 has a special importance in the European Schools: it is a vital means of establishing and confirming the pupil’s linguistic and cultural identity, and thereby providing a foundation for engagement with other subjects, notably with other languages and cultures.  

The objectives of the course are:  

  • to develop pupils' abilities to communicate effectively in speech and writing and to listen and respond with sensitivity and understanding;
  • to encourage them to be enthusiastic, responsive and knowledgeable readers;
  • to assist their development as effective students when transferring these skills to other learning contexts;
  • to enrich pupils' lives by introducing them to experiences beyond those encountered in their daily lives, and to contribute to their personal and social development.

Due to small class sizes teaching of different subjects is often organised in combined classes i.e. consecutive year groups together. The combined classes allow greater opportunity for pupils to learn from each other, to contribute in class, and to consider many different perspectives. Smaller teaching groups allow for more one-on-one teacher and pupil interaction; individual strengths and areas for improvement are more readily identified. They also offer each individual the opportunity to speak and to be heard, thus building the pupils’ ability to form and express an opinion. 

L2

L2, or second language, at ESH is taught in small groups which helps to create a comfortable and supportive atmosphere. We are fortunate to have pupils from around the world. Within one class there may be many different mother tongues, fostering an atmosphere where language learning is valued and respected.  

Native speaker teachers provide students with an essential example on which to model their own L2. Additionally, native speakers can nurture a pupil’s ability to understand nuance and other subtleties of meaning.  

L2 is used in language lessons and elsewhere in the school; pupils use their L2 daily. L2 is spoken in subjects such as Art, Music and Physical Education where pupils can interact with each other across the sections using a range of languages. From S3 onwards History and Geography are taught in L2 thus introducing specialist vocabulary and allowing pupils to develop their already sound knowledge of the language and its structure and use. 

L2 is a compulsory subject in the European Baccalaureate. 

L3

The third compulsory language (L3) begins in the first year of the secondary cycle; it is compulsory from S1 to S5. In principle, L3 can be any official language of the European Union for which there are enough pupils to create a teaching group (Finnish, Swedish, French, German, Spanish etc  

The teaching of the language starts from level zero. The tests for different L3 languages are harmonised from the spring of Year 5 in Secondary School. If L3 is studied until S7 it can be taken either as an oral or written exam in the European Baccalaureate. 

The European Framework is used for assessing a student's progress. By the end of S3, level A1+ should have been attained. Similarly, level A2+ should have been attained by the end of the S5 and level B1+ by the end of the S7. In order to reach a level of B1+, students need to have studied the language for six years.  

Students’ individual needs will be taken into account as far as possible during the teaching of the language L3. The classroom language will be the target language. Teaching resources and methods are versatile. Students will be offered various exercises in order to practise all aspects of the language and the focus of the teaching is on the functionality of the learning the language.

L4

Starting in the fourth secondary year it is possible to choose one more language (L4) as an elective subject. In principle, L4 can be any official language of the European Union for which there are enough pupils to create a teaching group (Finnish, Swedish, French, German, Spanish etc.) 

The teaching of the language starts from level zero. The tests for different L4 languages are harmonised from the spring of Year 5 in Secondary School. If L4 is studied until S7 it can be taken either as an oral or written exam in the European Baccalaureate 

 The studies will start with simple vocabulary and expressions of everyday life and situations. The studies will enable students to communicate in that language in most everyday situations, through both oral and written language, and to reach the level of the language that is required for following media. 

The working methods are mainly communicative and the idea of both written and oral exercises is to be as practical as possible. The Internet, videos, different computer programmes and other audiovisual materials are used to improve the knowledge of language and awareness. 

The European Framework is used for assessing a student's progress. Level A2+ should have been attained by the end of S7. In order to reach a level of A2+, students need to have studied the language for 4 years. 

The L4 exam in the European Baccalaureate is similar in form for all languages.  

Finnish and Swedish as Other National Language (ONL)

The ONL syllabus aims to promote natural and communicative use of the language and is intended to prepare learners to follow third-level courses in Finnish/Swedish should they so wish. It seeks to provide students with the ability to manipulate and use different types of texts and to give them a deeper awareness of the Finnish/Swedish language, culture and literature.  Studying ONL Finnish/Swedish is an optional subject and it is offered from the year 3 of the Primary. The target level at the end of the primary is A1+. 

Swedish ONL can only be requested for Finnish speaking pupils in the Finnish section. The aim is to introduce Swedish as the other national language and as a part of the Finnish culture and every day communication and life. Language learning is practical, communicative, varied and student-orientated. Swedish language studies at the European Schooling Helsinki introduce both Swedish- Swedish and Finnish- Swedish dialects and cultures.