CNS President’s Message – Communication for Expression
by Constantine Ioannou
Constantine in Stockholm
About CNS for 2021-2022
It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to the Canadian Nordic Society (CNS) for the 2021-2022 year! I am looking forward to engaging with you over the course of the year around interesting and relevant topics. The CNS Executive has been hard at work to prepare for a year of interesting speaker events and to find some inspiration as we continue to ride the waves of this pandemic.
This article is an opportunity for me to communicate with you about my interests and experiences that have helped to lead me to this wonderful association. I am honoured to have the chance to bring my enthusiasm for the Nordic cultures to my role as President. I am thankful for the outstanding contributions of the past president Karin Birnbaum as well as the past and current members of the Executive Council.
What do we have planned for this year? We would like to introduce you to the CNS PADLET! A padlet is an online bulletin board that gives you a visual “go to” for seeing the events that we have planned in the months ahead. We have our padlet ready for the remaining months of 2021 and plan to do a new one for 2022. Here is how you can easily access the CNS PADLET, which will be continuously updated as details and expansions on our speaker events unfold.
Go to: https://padlet.com/constantineioannou/d0s0z96ugyie4dw4 or simply use your phone’s camera to scan this QR code that will also lead you to the site on the internet:
Overview of 2021-2022 Speaker Events
Our events for 2021 and for the winter events of 2022 will continue to be held via ZOOM on a Wednesday night each month starting at 7:00 p.m. (note that we are staring earlier than last year). It is our hope that our Spring 2022 events will be ones that can be transferred to in-person events should the situation allow it. We will be sending the ZOOM link to you for each event.
We have confirmed the following topics for 2021 – follow the PADLET for more details:
Norway: National and International Health Matters
Canadian-Swedish Educational Collaborations
Nordic Noir (TV, Movies, Books)
The Christmas Cozy with our partner associations
And for 2022 we are working on these fascinating topics: Nordic Bridges Art Exhibition, Finnish Design, Nordic Cooking, Denmark’s Green Economies, Nordic Language Lessons at the AGM.
Who is Constantine?
You may have already noticed that my roots are not Nordic but my strong personal ties and professional interests are Nordic in nature. I am Greek-Canadian with a keen interest in language learning and have spent most of my career as an advocate for first or heritage language maintenance and multilingualism. In addition to learning and then teaching Greek, English, French, German and Spanish, I took multiple summer courses in Swedish and Norwegian in various cities as an adult which helped to cultivate my beliefs and professional perspectives in the area of language learning.
Constantine’s Thoughts and Interests
All languages are important. Growing up with a language at home and another at school, I recognized that the language(s) of our roots are important for helping us understand our background and to connect to our cultural heritage, as well as to connect to others with whom we wish to communicate. For this reason, I worked for many years with the International Languages Program which exists with most school districts in Ontario – a mandated program that offers instruction to elementary and secondary students in a language other than English or French. Many of you may already know about these programs – you may have attended them yourselves of have had family members, children, friends who have participated in them. Over the years, I have welcomed many adult learners into the high school program in Finnish and Swedish who felt that they were missing something by not having developed their ancestral language previously. This has also recently been the case of Norwegian which was recently offered in the program.
There are many reasons for students to enrol in these programs regardless of their heritage just as there are many benefits to learning another language. For English language learners (new Canadians), research has shown that academic success is enabled across all aspects of school when there is instructional time allowed in the first language. Empowering students in our ESL context certainly means facilitating acquisition of English for success, and there are similar findings and awareness of this aspect within the Nordic nations. Students also feel included when they see that their languages are validated by the educational institutions – that they are present, visible and active.
Language learning is certainly about more than getting to know ourselves and our heritage; it is the opportunity for us to get to know others as well. Multilingualism is beneficial to not only social cohesion but also to global relations and to developing a global awareness that encompasses intercultural understanding, interpersonal skills and effective communication strategies. Some researchers feel that when we start a language learning journey, we automatically expand our minds and become more open to comprehending different ways of communicating and seeing the world around us. Tove Skutnabb-Kangas (who studied about the acquisition of Swedish by Finnish students and currently works in Denmark) stated that: The observable advantage of bilingual or multilinguals is that they are more used to switching thought patterns and have more flexible minds. Their knowledge of languages makes them more familiar with different, often contradictory concepts, and this in turn makes multilinguals … capable of understanding sides of an argument.
I certainly hope to see more students (of all ages) include language learning as an ongoing lifelong goal. Canada has excellent potential and human resources for developing a multilingual vision and practice. Over the years I have rejoiced at seeing students use the languages that they have been learning to connect further with family members, to get to know their friends, to interact with others abroad and to deepen their understanding of culture, history, the arts and other disciplines through the linguistic foundations they have built. For this reason, I want to encourage members of the CNS to consider language learning as a path for expanding what we see and hear in life. Seek out a language of study – most are offered virtually on Saturday mornings (elementary programs and secondary school credit programs for teenagers and adults). I hope I see many of you there as well as at our many fascinating speaker events that we have planned for you this year. I look forward to communicating with you further over the course of the year and wish you continued safety, health and happiness.
The OCDSB offers many language programs and they include Nordic languages in 2021-2022.
Elementary (JK to Grade 8) includes Finnish and Swedish.
Secondary (Grades 9-12 and Adults) includes Swedish, Norwegian and Danish (offered new this year!).
Check out the registration information by visiting the OCDSB International Languages link: https://ocdsb.ca/continuing_education/international_languages_program