Experiences at the Helsinki Book Fair 2016

As a group of five students from Bielefeld University, we have been to the book fair in Helsinki to work at Lecti Book Studio’s stand. In the following “chain interview” we are talking about our experiences by interviewing each other. Participants: Florian, Janine, Katrin, Jana and Tatjana

Florian: Janine, please tell me about your first impression when you arrived at the book fair? What was the first morning arriving in the fairground hall like?

Janine: At first the fair seemed overwhelming. When I came into this huge hall shortly before 10 o’clock, walking past the people waiting to get in, I felt excited but also a bit worried because I had no idea how to find the stand of Lecti. In the end, I found it with the help of the map, but only after wandering around completely lost for 15 minutes.

Florian: I know for a fact that you have already been to Helsinki before. Did the book fair present a different side of Finland, or Helsinki in particular, to you?

Janine: I have indeed been to Helsinki before multiple times visiting friends, but this was the first time I had time to experience the city on my own for a while. It was also the first time I was here not for a holiday, but with a purpose and a daily schedule.

This showed me that, in the end, Helsinki is a city like any other that is not just made for tourists, but also a place where normal people live and work every day.

In addition to that, I had the chance to share my experience with the “sights” of Helsinki with the rest of the group on Friday, when we had some free time to explore the city.

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Blue Elephant meets Finland – one of the creative photo projects of the trainees

Blue Elephant meets Finland – one of the creative photo projects of the trainees

Janine: Katrin, you have been to other book fairs before, right? Was the book fair in Helsinki like any other, or where there any striking differences?

Katrin: Well, it was definitely smaller than the book fairs I have been to before. But the atmosphere can be compared to the book fair in Leipzig, Germany. A lot of readings, interviews or discussions on several stages that made it possible for the audience to experience authors or artists and maybe ask them questions. What I like about Leipzig, and also about Helsinki, is that the book fairs focus more on the readers than on the distribution.

Janine: The book fair and the stores of Helsinki city are full of little temptations. Did you buy any souvenirs during your stay?

Katrin: Yes. I really like the Moomins and with Finland (and Swedish-speaking Finland) being the home of the Moomins it wasn’t that difficult to tempt me into getting something Moomin-related. If I were able to read Finnish or Swedish, I surely would have bought some books at the fair as well.

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Jana discusses an Easy Read book with a book fair participant

Jana discusses an Easy Read book with a book fair participant

Katrin: Jana, you were already familiar with Lecti Book Studio as you’ve been to Varna, Bulgaria, for an internship. On the basis of that, did you have an idea what tasks might be awaiting you at the fair?

Jana: Yes, I have been to Varna for a few months as a trainee. However, that did not prepare me to visit Finland (laughs). Even though I never attended a book fair before, I knew the publishing house Lecti Book Studio, so yes I knew what kind of events to expect.

Katrin: At the book fair there were many different events, a variety of different publishing houses and even workshops. Besides the stand of Lecti Book Studio, what left the greatest impression on you?

Jana: I think the multiple performances at the Totti Scene (a stage) were very interesting. My personal highlight was our presentation on Friday. It was really great to be interviewed and to share insights of our project around Maailma kotona.

Another great workshop was a conference about Nordic writers from Iceland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland, which was offered with translations.

To sit in front of the cabin where the translators translated the ongoing debate simultaneously – that was just impressive!

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Florian and Jana on the scene with Dr. Sabira Ståhlberg

Florian and Jana on the scene with Dr. Sabira Ståhlberg

Jana: Florian, you became interested in Swedish, have you started learning yet?

Florian: Yes, Swedish is indeed one of many languages that I would be interested in learning one day. Working in the Swedish section of the book fair definitely enforced that wish. I already had a look at a learning app and might start with that. However, I didn’t really have the time to start yet.

Jana: What part of the work was the most challenging for you?

Florian: The most challenging single event definitely was being on stage talking about our book project. I have to admit that I was quite nervous before, but it was an interesting experience to see that this nervousness went away, as soon as the interview on stage started.

I learned a lot about myself through this challenge. Just in general, crossing the language barrier in different ways in each and every conversation I started was really difficult.

When you approach somebody you don’t know if this person speaks English, German or neither of the languages you have to offer. This made it really difficult sometimes to find the courage to just start going to people and try.

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We suggest that you read the book Maailma kotona

We suggest that you read the book Maailma kotona

Florian: Tatjana, you once learned the basic skills of Finnish. Was it possible to re-activate some of your vocabulary knowledge while attending the book fair?

Tatjana: Oh yes. It was a really great experience for me and a pleasure to listen to Finnish and Swedish for the whole day. During the first night in Helsinki somehow some phrases popped up in mind, so I felt next day at the book fair more at home with the language.

I even started to dream a little bit in Finnish (and other languages). These positive language experiences have further aroused my interest in Finnish, so I am very motivated to learn this beautiful language again.

Florian: You attended our workshop for Easy Read books and you study German as a foreign language.

What did you learn in this workshop?

Tatjana: Firstly, I learned that the discussion in Finland about Easy Read is similar to the one in Germany. At the workshop the focus was on Swedish Easy Read. A growing number of pupils of the Swedish speaking minority have problems with reading Swedish [literature].

In Germany the discussion is a bit more controversial. At the beginning of the language learning process, learners can gradually approach original literature with Easy Read.

So we agreed that the Easy Read books enable not only language enthusiasts, but also people, who have little access to literature on different language levels to read the content of significant original literature at a comparatively simple level.

See photos and read more about the adventures of the trainees from Bielefeld university on Lecti Book Studio website in Swedish and English.