Text: Laura Iisalo
Language is more than a communication method. It lays the foundation for learning, self-expression and understanding, and enables the formation of an identity; what we understand about ourselves, and others.
– Language forms the basis for all learning and the way we perceive the world, concludes teacher of early childhood education Katri Borm, who is one of the two founders of Kielinuppu, a producer of pedagogical music for children.
The method was founded as part of a study project four years ago by Borm and Sarah Goncalves, who are both students at the University of Turku’s Department of Teacher Education in Rauma. The inspiration came from the doctoral thesis of Jenni Alisaari at the University of Turku, who concluded that singing is an efficient way to teach a language.
Language lays the foundation for learning, self-expression and understanding, and enables the formation of an identity; what we understand about ourselves, and others.
Personal experiences of what it means to be bi-lingual, gave an even wider perspective to the project. Borm speaks Finnish and German in her family, while Goncalves speaks Portuguese as an addition to Finnish.
– We wanted to create an easy to use tool that is available for everyone. YouTube seemed like a good channel for us because one of our missions is to increase equality. There are many children with migrant backgrounds, and those that have lingual challenges. We wanted to provide every child with an opportunity to get excited and to enjoy learning Finnish through a playful method, Borm says.
From a study project to a life’s work
To this date Kielinuppu has created 47 songs that are easy to learn and absorb. The lyrics stem from everyday events and children’s play. Some of the popular songs teach children about emotions, the names of the weekdays, and numbers.
The songs are targeted at early childhood education professionals, parents of young children and speech therapists, but they are also used in language teaching for immigrants and school children. There has been no marketing – or even a budget for it – but information has passed by word-of-mouth and Kielinuppu videos have now been streamed over 3.5 million times.
– It has been a surprise that so many people have started using Kielinuppu. We are happy that so many children have been able to utilise the songs. For us this has been a once in a lifetime experience, Borm says.
She has produced a joint dissertation with Goncalves about Kielinuppu during their bachelor studies and they have almost completed their master’s thesis. Expanding the method is something that has crossed Borm's mind but she says that Kielinuppu is, and continues to be, a non-profit product that is available for everyone.
– It’s great that I have been able to take part in starting something new, and I hope that there will be others who come up with something similar. There is an endless supply of possible topics for songs and many ways to create them. I believe in the power of singing and music, yet I don’t know where this all leads to. In that sense this has turned into a life’s work, Borm says.
Katri Borm and Sarah Goncalves have received grants from the Satakunta Regional Fund in 2017 and 2020 for producing musical language learning materials for children in early childhood education.