Internationalisation in organisations

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Course: Guide for Organisations [UNDER CONSTRUCTION]
Book: Internationalisation in organisations
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Date: Saturday, 15 June 2024, 4:58 AM

1. Guide to internationalisation in organisations

International students, both exchange students and international degree students, enrich organisations’ operation. They can give new perspectives and ideas on how to run and develop organisations’ activities. Diversity inspires creativity and makes student organisations a more inclusive for all.

The University, society and the labour market have long been moving towards an increasingly international future. Everyone is not able to go on exchange during their studies or complete an internship abroad. By ensuring that international students can participate in an organisation’s activities, its members get the opportunity to experience internationalisation at home.

Organisational activities also help international students get integrated into Finnish society. A lack of social relationships and networks along with problems getting employed are the biggest reasons for the difficulties international students have staying in Finland after their studies. Organisations have a key role in responding to these challenges, as organisational activities allow international students to learn about Finnish culture and meet Finnish students.

You should also remember that international students are not a homogenous group. Some of them are on student exchange, typically lasting for the autumn or spring term or one academic year. International degree students, on the other hand, have arrived in Finland to complete an entire degree, usually at the master’s level. A significant portion of the students coming to Finland to complete a degree are also planning on staying in Finland after their studies.

Reaching international students and changing your organisation’s operating methods might seem like a daunting task, but it is possible to internationalise an organisation’s activities gradually. The following guide shows different ways of adopting an international perspective in the organisation’s events and operating methods. The guide is divided into three sections: the first one (A) features measures that are easy to implement, while the second one (B) contains changes that require a bit more effort. The third and final section (C) consists of internationalisation methods that affect the organisation’s activities in a more holistic and comprehensive manner.

You can also download the guide here.

2. Multilingualism in organisations

Multilingualism refers to proficiency in more than one language. In student organisations, this might mean using English or other languages in the activities in addition to Finnish and/or Swedish. Multilingualism does not meant that you have to have a perfect command of foreign languages. In practice, many of us already are multilingual as almost everyone has some level of proficiency in other languages than just their native language.


The University, society and labour market have already long been moving towards an increasingly international future, and this can also be seen in student communities. The number of international students and thus the need for multilingualism will continue to increase in the future, too. International students also enrich organisational activities, and it is important to provide them, too, with opportunities to participate in organisational activities.


Multilingualism may seem complex and demanding, and you might think that it is too much of a hassle to take international students into account. However, you should have a flexible attitude towards multilingualism: You do not need to change entirely into English, for instance. Instead, the goal is to enable parallel language use and to make it possible for people who speak different languages to take part in the activities. The key thing is for people to be able to communicate in a language that suits them and for them to be understood. Everyone does not need to speak all languages – the people involved in your organisation can support and help one another according to their own language proficiency.


How can organisations start promoting multilingual activities?


  1. Establish your organisation’s starting point. What language or languages do you use right now? What languages would you like to use?
  2. Apply the steps toward language awareness in the workplace of the Language boost project. The steps will help you reflect on your organisation’s multilingualism and ways to promote it in small steps.
  3. Take the demands on your resources into account. Multilingualism takes time and requires you to develop your operating methods. For this reason, we do not recommend forcing the change. Instead, you should try out different things and discuss what works for your organisation and what your resources allow.
  4. Be flexible and avoid perfectionism. You may have different needs in different situations. You cannot and need not do everything perfectly.
  5. Let people work on their language skills. Your members may want to improve their language skills. Do not automatically change to English if someone does not speak fluent Finnish. Instead, ask them which language they want to use in the conversation. Do not correct another person’s English unless they have asked you to do so.

3. Trilingual glossary

HYY has put together a glossary to support organisations with their multilingual communication. The glossary includes key terms you may need in organisational activities. The glossary works primarily in Finnish (the explanatory comments, for instance, have not been translated into Swedish or English), but it can also be used by others than those who speak Finnish.

The glossary is specifically meant to be an easy-to-use aid to support you. For this reason, we have tried to keep the number of alternative translations for terms as low as possible. The translations we do provide should work in most contexts encountered by organisations. We have also briefly illustrated the use of words that may be open to interpretation with examples and comments – although these explanatory comments are only available in Finnish. However, the translations included in the glossary are often not the only possible way to translate the Finnish terms, and you should not be afraid to use alternatives that have not been included if they seem to fit the context better.

If you want to suggest any additions or have any other comments on the glossary, you can contact HYY’s board or personnel.

You can download the glossary here.

4. More resources

Language boost

Language boost is a project aimed at improving the language skills of international experts. The project also provides support for developing multilingual work communities. Student organisations can also apply the project’s resources to reflect on their multilingual activities. For instance, is it possible to practise speaking Finnish or Swedish in the organisation, and what steps can the organisation take to move towards language-aware culture.

●     Check out the project’s publications.



●     MOT dictionaries (requires you to log in with your University user account)

●     Finnish Government Termbank Valter

Machine translation systems

Machine translation systems help users translate texts quickly but can make occasional mistakes. You should always revise the translated text or only use it in unofficial contexts. Many machine translation systems also store the text they translate, which means that you should not translate confidential texts online.

●     The European Commission’s eTranslation (requires registration)

●     EU machine translation system

●     DeepL Translator

●     Fiskmö project’s translation system (translates between Finnish and Swedish/Norwegian/Danish)

●     MOT Translator (requires you to log in with your University user account)

●     You can translate entire documents in Microsoft Word (instructions)

University of Helsinki

The University of Helsinki aims to operate trilingually: in Finnish, Swedish and English. The University has a Language Policy, Guidelines for Language Awareness and language recommendations for its administrative bodies for this reason. The Language Policy sets out policies on the University’s language practices, whereas the language recommendations help the University’s administrative bodies operate multilingually, and the Guidelines to support the everyday multilingual encounters, discussions on language issues, and language learning opportunities for both students and staff. Your organisation can use these documents as templates or reference material when reflecting on the multilingualism of your operation.

●     The University of Helsinki’s Language Policy

●     Guidelines for Language Awareness

●     Language recommendations for administrative bodies in Flamma (requires you to log in with your University user account)