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Lari Kotilainen

Lari Pietari Kotilainen
Born January 2, 1974, Kuusjoki

Master of Arts, 1999, PhD, 2008 (Finnish Language), University of Helsinki

Positions at the University of Helsinki from research assistant to professorial, 1997–
Lecturer in Finnish Language 2003-4, University of Cologne, and 2005-6, Uppsala University
Teaching, lectures and presentations as a visiting academic in Finland and Russia
Invigilator with the Finnish Matriculation Examination Board and Vice-chairman of the Finnish Language Examination Board

Singer-guitarist with the band Jytäjyrsijät

Publications, research projects, and other academic activity

Research themes: the language of the Internet, learning Finnish as a second language, school language teaching, language policy

Photo: Mika Federley
Written by Lari Kotilainen (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

Learning Languages through Cooking

Learning a foreign language often happens in the classroom or with your nose in a textbook, but languages are actually used in everyday interaction. There is therefore a divide between how languages are taught and how they are used. An EU-funded project called LanCook, or the European Digital Kitchen, aims to bridge the gap between the two.

The idea behind the Digital Kitchen is to bring language learning into familiar, everyday contexts, in this case the act of cooking. In the Digital Kitchen students cook according to instructions from a computer. The computer gives advice only in the language being learned. The ingredients and kitchen tools are fitted with motion sensors which allow the computer to determine whether or not the cooks have understood the instructions, and provide further assistance if necessary.

Researchers Salla Kurhila and Lari Kotilainen demonstrated learning languages by doing at the Science Market of the Helsinki Book Fair in 2014. Photo: Mika Federley.

In each of the six countries participating in the project, students cook local cuisine. Students of Finnish have learned the mysteries of our language by making fish soup and berry fool. The Finnish “department” is led by professor Salla Kurhila. Lari Kotilainen works as a researcher on the project. At the moment, the actual project, which included developing the system and gathering data, has concluded. The video material and observations are now being used to write research articles. One of them is titled “Can a kitchen teach languages? Linking theory and practice in the design of context-aware language learning environments.”

Further reading:

With the assistance of the LanCook project language kitchen one can cook an authentic fish soup, among other things. Photo: LanCook.


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