TEFLON in Tampere

Author: trainee Kamilla Hyytiäinen, Tampere University 

Greetings from Tampere! 

One of the Finnish research partners of the Nordic Teflon project is based at Tampere University. In this blogpost you will get a brief introduction to the city of Tampere, the university and its various fields of science as well as the local research participants of the Teflon project and their academic achievements. 

Nordic cooperation between Sweden and Finland dates back to the Swedish era in the 18th century, when the city of Tampere, among other cities in Finland, was established by King of Sweden Gustav III in 1779, on the bank of The Tammerkoski rapids. Today, Tampere is the third largest city in Finland and the largest inland centre in the Nordic countries with roughly 238 000 inhabitants. Tampere has been an industrial pioneer in Finland since the very beginning and is still the centre of Finnish industry today. Versatile research, education and cooperation between companies and universities have maintained and developed the competitiveness of the region’s industry. 

At Tampere University, multidisciplinary research is conducted across the boundaries of fields of science with over 2,800 researchers. The focal areas of research lie in the fields of health, technology and society. In addition to basic research, new fields of research emerge at the university including e.g. gamification, augmented reality and sustainable cities. Multidisciplinarity is well represented in the Teflon project group: we consist of specialists in the field of logopedics, neuroscience, speech technology, language pedagogy and linguistics. 

Sari Ylinen has been working as an Associate Professor at Tampere University since August 2021 and she is currently leading the Teflon project group in Tampere. Ylinen has comprehensive experience in project management: she has previously coordinated various research projects funded by Academy of Finland, Business Finland and University of Helsinki. In addition to managing research projects, Ylinen has extensive work experience as a neuroscientist for over a decade and she has specialised in brain plasticity in language learning, among other things.  In recent years, she has studied articulation with the help of speech technology and gamification, which she aims to apply to children’s language learning and correcting their pronunciation errors. 

Other Teflon project members in Tampere include a language technologist and research assistants. Anna Smolander has worked in Ylinen’s projects for several years as a language technologist developing digital platforms for various learning difficulties. The Teflon Tampere research team has two research assistants, Kamilla Hyytiäinen and Saara Telinkangas, who are eager to familiarise themselves with how international research projects operate. Telinkangas studies Scandinavian languages and politics and is finishing her Bachelor’s degree while Hyytiäinen is an English and Swedish teacher student in the Master’s programme. The main tasks of the assistants include analysing Swedish speech samples produced by Finnish children in order to develop the speech recognition for language learning applications. 

We are all looking forward to diving deep into the world of digital language learning with our fellow Nordic partners and aim at scientific breakthroughs together! 




After the Easter it was time to get started!

The 6th of April was a great day. All the Teflon team members from Finland, Norway and Sweden were meeting for the first time. The spritits were high! Thank you Nordforsk for financing this project!

Planning is a crucial part of such a big project and the first three days we were going through the schedules, plans and cooperation possibilities.

Here’s a quick introduction of the multidisciplinary Teflon team partners:

  • Mikko Kurimo Aalto University, Finland
  • Sari Ylinen, University of Helsinki, Finland
  • Minna Lehtonen, University of Oslo, Norway (Turku, Finland)
  • Pernille Hansen, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Norway
  • Giampiero Salvi, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
  • Torbjørn Svendsen, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Norway
  • Sofia Strömbergsson, Karolinska Institutet, Sweden

Research for a reason

Nordic countries face the challenge of social integration of immigrants to the society. Language learning and especially oral language skills are critical for their integration. Immigrants with poor language skills are at risk of social exclusion, facing difficulties in contacting local people and finding employment. Also immigrant children should learn the language of their environment quickly to adapt to their new environment and to use the language in school and with their peers. The demand for learning Nordic languages as a second language (L2) is high: In 2018, about 132 000 immigrants moved to Sweden (Sweden and migration, 2019), 52 000 to Norway (Statista, 2019) and 31 000 to Finland (Statistics Finland, 2019).

Acquiring proficiency in a new language is challenging for many learners. To speed up learning but to avoid high costs of individual tutoring for the Nordic societies, new techniques of teaching languages suitable for scalable digital applications are needed (Meltzoff et al 2009).

New solutions

Digital applications enable language learning already before immigration. Moreover, digital applications are urgently needed in all learning, as shown by the current coronavirus epidemic outbreak, resulting in closing of schools in many countries. With digital applications, teaching can be provided by means of distance education (i.e., remote learning without physical contact). Such applications are likely to be in increasing demand in the future and many of them may require speech technology that is robust enough for non-native speakers which is currently not available for Nordic languages. While the importance of well-performing speech technology is growing rapidly in all languages, the smart speakers, robots, games and toys are emphasizing the importance of a new user group: the children. 

Covid-19 is causing it’s own barriers for this project as well but we truly hope that the recruitments and pilots will be succesful and achievable within the targeted schedule.

The recruitment is active at the moment. Later there will be an introduction post of research groups from each university. We are very excited to see who are the new talent joining our experts of Teflon project.