Language, culture and internationalisation

In general upper secondary education, you will learn skills to function in a linguistically and culturally diverse world. The aim is to support your growth as an active global citizen and to provide you with the knowledge, skills, and will to engage in discussion and initiatives on global issues.

In this section, the aim is

  • to identify what is meant by internationalisation and global and cultural competence
  • to identify what you already know about internationalism and what you can do to expand your knowledge, and
  • to learn how to express your ideas and discuss issues related to these topics, for example, when applying for jobs and further studies.


This section proceeds in the order shown in the figure, from the core outwards. It starts with what happens between the ears: the values and attitudes which guide how you react to matters of everyday life, such as opinions, behaviour, and languages. What knowledge, attitudes, and values is your identity built on? What are the issues related to the diversity of languages, cultures, people, and circumstances – to living in the midst of diverse internationalism?

We then move on to look at communities, such as family or friends from school
or hobbies. Communities can also be virtual: what groups or communities can
you join or follow on social media?

What are the skills needed to become a part of different communities, what
do you do well, what do you need to know more of? What language skills do
you need? What kinds of situations are likely to give rise to what you might
call cultural differences? The diversity of people, communities, languages, and
perceptions becomes apparent at the very latest when people do not understand
each other or are not being understood.

The outermost layer focuses on internationalisation from the perspective
of global cooperation. The aim is to reflect on one’s own responsibility and
opportunities to make a difference. Here, we discuss global citizenship, that
is, the efforts taken to develop the world in a more just, responsible and
sustainable direction. Various ways of making a difference are taught as early
as in primary school, such as participating in school sustainability projects or by
taking part in different kinds of voluntary work. Global citizenship skills can also
be acquired through activities at school, such as during an exchange programme
or international projects.Global citizenship skills can also be learned in everyday
life, with friends or at work, with people from different cultures and linguistic


Reflect on your experiences in your language profile

For example, if you have

  • participated in international school projects,
  • met people from different countries, at work or in your free time,
  • participated in international mobility or virtual exchange.

How did you use the languages you know? Did you learn something new? Did
you end up correcting your own understandings of different cultures?

International competence through mobility

There are many ways to develop global competence. Internationalisation is
often associated with international activities or exchange studies (mobility),
even though there are a variety of ways to develop international competence.
In general upper secondary school, participating in international cooperation
may entail, for example, volunteering in various international organisations in
Finland, participating in the school’s international cooperation projects from
your home computer, or applying for a job in an international company in

At the heart of international competence, however, is an understanding of the
kind of knowledge that international activities – such as learning to work with
people or travelling – bring with them. For example, does travelling provide
insight into how culture manifests itself in everyday activities and interaction?
Are there circumstances in which travelling offers only a superficial picture of
the culture of a given host country?


Me and my identity

Understanding your own identity forms the basis of linguistic and cultural competence: From what starting points, attitudes, and values do you approach situations where you encounter something new and alien to you? What languages and cultures make up your identity?


Me and my community

Communities (e.g., school, family, friends, and hobbies) are increasingly diverse, with no member of the community representing just one culture. Cultural identity is built from pieces of many different cultures, which are adopted through interaction with different people and communities.

Understanding the meaning and value of diversity requires curiosity and open-mindedness towards what is new or alien to one’s own community, that is, perceived otherness. Understanding diversity also requires being able to recognise cultural stereotypes and simplifications and the ability to break free from them. Culturally responsible citizenship not only requires the acknowledgment of diversity, but active inclusion in order to do our part in creating a just world.

Furthermore, global citizenship does not lead to accepting any kind of behaviour on the basis of respecting differences in worldviews. Global citizenship is rooted in respecting human rights and equality, and taking action to ensure that the human rights and freedoms of everyone are protected.

This section aims to foster an understanding of how language can encourage or restrict one’s own or others’ opportunities to participate and contribute to society. It will also highlight ways of interacting even when there is no common language.


Mediation as constructive interaction

Plurilingual and pluricultural competences support mediation. Mediation is the ability to communicate between different parties even when they are unable, for one reason or another, to convey messages (ideas, text, any given message) directly to each other. Mediation refers to means of constructive interaction that can be used to facilitate encounters and interaction between different parties.

Mediation is needed when communication breaks down for reasons such as:

  • the use of language, vocabulary, or a register of language that others are not familiar with
  • discussing issues of which others have less knowledge. In such cases, meaning-making is hampered by others’ lack of knowledge, which may be due to factors such as educational background, developmental stage (for example, when talking to a young child), or life experience.
  • there are cultural differences between the two parties
  • there are other constraints in the conversation, such as those related to hearing, vision, or fatigue.

    The descriptors below can help you become aware of and develop your own mediation skills.
Forms of mediation. An application of Takala, S., 2015: 52: source.


Plurilingual and pluricultural competence

Successful and effective interaction in linguistically and culturally diverse contexts is built on plurilingual and pluricultural competence.

Descriptors of plurilingual and pluricultural competence provide you with tools to assess your competence in relation to your proficiency in different languages, in combining them, and in using them jointly. Plurilingual and pluricultural competence may refer to the ability to use one’s own cultural or plurilingual competence to produce and interpret information, as well as the ability to make use of plurilingualism in interaction. Mediation is also part of plurilingual and pluricultural competence.

The picture below includes descriptors that will help you to understand the skills needed to operate in linguistically and culturally diverse communities.


Me and the world

The aim of general upper secondary education is to support your growth as an active global citizen with the knowledge, skills, and will to make an impact on global phenomena such as the climate crisis or biodiversity loss.

In the tasks below, the aim is

  • to identify and understand your own starting points for internationalism
  • to identify and understand different forms of internationalism
  • to find ways and opportunities to use your language skills as tools of cooperation and influence in global communities
  • to understand the importance of global cooperation in building a sustainable future and promoting democracy, and to find opportunities for such cooperation.