Talkin ‘bout my generation: Helsinki kids are putting an end to famous Finnish silence

When Finland was ranked as the world’s happiest country, many were quick to express their surprise.  Why? When it comes to keeping a stiff upper lip, the Finns are at the top of the charts. 

But Finland has a lot to shout about. The small Nordic nation ranks top tier in education, quality of life, and even boasts the cleanest air in the world. Luckily for the rest of the world, future generations of Finns are being encouraged to make their voices heard through a game-changing workshop. 

Making Young Voices Heard

On November 5th, the ‘Making Young Voices Heard’ workshop took place in Helsinki Central Library. There, schoolchildren and students were taught skills in communication and public speaking through exercises and hands-on interaction. 

As part of Helsinki Education Week, the workshop was based around the event’s theme, which this year was ‘student voice.’ And when it comes to developing voices, workshop leader and founder of Public Speaking Pro, Dr Anna Nikina- Ruohonen is an expert in her field. Dr Nikina- Ruohonen wants to take the fear away from public speaking. So she’s spreading the message to kids and adults that communication is both fun and engaging.

“Give the children the right tools, and they will shine,” Dr Nikina- Ruohonen explains.

Founder of Public Speaking Pro, Dr Anna Nikina- Ruohonen

Indeed, the workshop proved Dr Nikina- Ruohonen’s theory right. Kids like Daniel, who took part in the workshop, were taken out of their comfort zones when speaking in front of a live audience. But Daniel wasn’t nervous at all. In fact, he relished the experience. 

“This was a good opportunity to learn to improvise, as opposed to having it all planned out. It’s exciting to speak in front of a live audience,” Daniel says. 

Public speaking transcends cultures

Of course, public speaking isn’t just about stating a point; it’s an effective way to transcend cultures and boundaries. Now, at a time when Helsinki becomes ever more international, communication is critical. 

This is just one reason why Ben Thrash, Deputy Head of School at the International School of Helsinki, is keen to encourage kids to express themselves.  

“The school runs a debate club, as well as a Model United Nations and lots of other curricular experiences,” Thrash says. Some of his students attended the workshop, which, according to Thrash, was a great way to get students in touch with the real world. 

Another educator who praised the workshop was Dr Kevin Gore of Haaga-Helia University of Applied sciences. As a senior lecturer, Gore has seen Helsinki turn into a truly international environment. He was pleased to see how the course strengthened confidence and communication among participants and witnessed students gaining a deep understanding of various perspectives. 

Sebastian, aged 14, also enjoyed the social aspect of the workshop, where he was able to share opinions, use his creativity and have fun. 

“The best part is when people listen to you and are interested in what you have to say,” Sebastian says. 

Clearly, the course was popular with all who were brought together for an engaging learning experience. So, could this be the start of the end for the famous Finnish silence? Perhaps. And as Finland continues to inspire the world, many are eager to hear what this small Nordic nation has to say.

3 replies

  1. When I first moved to Finland, I had a debate with a local man. We were seated in a restaurant. Later a man came over to me. He was a proud Finns. He asked me how do you Americans do it? What, I asked. Take a position and of challenged debate it so confidently, he responded. Sine then, he and others have invited me to talk to students. It is taking time but as word of me spreads..students are stating to talk back to me when I ask questions.

  2. I am an American Finn whose 4 grandparents immigrated from Finland at about the same time. They took a number and waited for their turn. , I had to add that! My mother was the 1st born American Finn, she had 3 sisters who were born in Finland. When I married it was to a wonderful American Finnish man with glacier blue eyes and blonde hair. I was a brunette with green eyes. His parents were 1st generation born American Finns as well. He and I had the last of the 100% Finnish gene laden children, minus the 6% English I found I have (it’s those Vikings!). My maiden name is Kekkonen and my husband is a Backman. All this background to say: My dad was a quiet man, my mother was a talker in comparison. My sister and one of my brothers are on the quiet side, with another brother who likes to talk as I do. My husband was also a quiet man – he says that when we dated all he had to do was drive and I talked. My kids are on the quiet side with a son who is not a spontaneous talker. Everyone has college degrees with 3 master’s degrees as well. I find it interesting that within my family and my husband’s as well, there are more quiet people than just your normal people who talk. My kids are 3rd generation Americans so will be interesting to find out how their children compare. Though no one has married a Finn so that won’t be a true test.

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