SMK blogs

Language schools at museums | 13.may.2014

The museum as part of inclusion and integration in relation to new citizens

Our project about language centres/adult learners of Danish as a second language at museums is entering a new stage. So far we have gained new inspiration and new experiences that will influence our education activities and the methods used to bring words and art into play together. What is more, we have also learnt a lot about how we at the SMK can play a part in the process of inclusion and integration of new citizens in Denmark.

The three language students and project employees at the SMK, Maija Ivanova, Vahid Abbasi, and Lezel Indal, have completed their films about words and art. Opening our doors to these new partners has been tremendously inspiring and enriching for us at the SMK. Not just for the museum as an institution and for us in our professional capacity as museum employees, but also for us personally as Danish citizens born and bred in Denmark. In recent weeks we have noted, with great interest, how the Danish Minister for Social Affairs and Integration, Manu Sareen, has called upon all citizens in Denmark to share in the responsibility for ensuring successful integration. Hiring Maija, Vahid, and Lezel - and enoying such fruitful collaboration with them in recent months – has truly made things come together for us: The art museum forms the setting for new and established citizens of Denmark to meet and co-operate – and the responsibility for successful integration is shared!

Our project is far from over. But we are continually assessing and evaluating its progress – in a very informal way. At a meeting with Lezel, Maija, and Vahid we talked about what they feel they take with them from their  time as employees at the SMK.


During a meeting with Vahid, Maija, and Lezel we are visited by the SMK film crew. They have put together a draft for a trailer presenting the students’ films about words and art. We are treated to a sneak preview.

”I am also one step closer to becoming integrated.”

The three language students all agree that their Danish language skills have benefited tremendously from coming to the museum every day and speaking in Danish with many different Danes – not just with their partners at home and their teacher at the language centre. ”It is a completely different, more authentic way of learning,” says Maija. Vahid also states that prior to his employment at the SMK he would very quickly switch to English whenever Danes did not understand his Danish. “I don’t do that anymore. Now I simply repeat it in Danish. Over and over. Until they understand. For I know that when you guys here at the museum understand me when I speak Danish, so can they. They’ll simply have to!” Vahid goes on: “But Danish skills isn’t all I’ve learnt. I am also one step closer to becoming integrated.” Vahid explains that he has a stronger feeling of being part of society because he knows us now and has held a real job at the museum: “I felt like a real employee.” Maija and Lezel concur. They point to how they enjoyed the working environment at the museum, how they liked their colleagues, how they could make their own coffee and tea, and how they gradually got to know more people as they walked the hallways, saying hello to SMK staff from other departments, how they would visit “secret rooms” and look behind the scenes, e.g. in the conservators’ workshops, the staff canteen, etc.  And then there was their staff ID card, complete with photograph and code: “It just gave us a childish, lovely feeling of being special”, says Maija.

Working with Danes

Lezel also states that she has learnt how to work with Danes. She points to how she has worked independently, but without feeling alone. There has been a plan, a structure, and an excellent sense of fellowship. She also says that “here at the SMK I have enjoyed great freedom to express my own ideas and be creative. That’s a really nice feeling. It’s different from the Philippines, where you might find yourself coming up against more restrictions and limitations as far as personal viewpoints and ideas are concerned."

Language exam

Lezel has just passed the Module 4 language exam at the Copenhagen Language Centre. She’s a busy woman. She is a trained nurse, and in Denmark the Danish health authorities impose very specific requirements on what Danish language modules you need to complete – and the grades you need to achieve – in order to be able to work as a nurse in Denmark. Part of the Module 4 language test requires you to prepare a monologue. Lezel chose to speak about e.g. “My work at the SMK” and “My favourite work of art”. In that way she could apply the new knowledge she had acquired through her hard work at the museum, drawing on those new skills and insights in her oral exam.

A new point of entry to the world of art

Working on a film script about a work of art of one’s own choosing has created a new point of entry to the world of art, says Maija: ”I’ve learnt how I can experience and appreciate art in future. I now feel confident enough to say: What do I think about this? I have learnt a different way of engaging with art. A way that’s more fun. And deeper, too!”

Lezel agrees! She has discussed art with her friends while working at the SMK. At some point during her project they asked her why she chose an ugly silver sculpture made out of garbage. “They thought that was strange.” Maija remarks: ”But ’pretty’ isn’t always interesting”. And Lezel continues: ”But I actually do think it’s a nice sculpture! It reminds me of so many things and is so interesting to me.”

To Lezel, Vahid, and Maija, the only fly in the ointment is that they cannot continue their employment at the SMK. As Lezel says: ”I am impressed by how much I have learnt by being here. So it would be nice to stay longer!”

And now …

The project goes on. We must now determine how we can use the lessons learnt from our excellent co-operation with Lezel, Maija, and Vahid. Their films about words and arts must be finalised in the editing room, and work on developing our teaching sessions and education resources aimed at language students will continue. Also, this point in time is where our partnership with the French scholar Sophia Labadi really takes off. She will use the project as part of her international research project. She has just arrived in Copenhagen and will conduct her work at the SMK over the course of the next months. You can read more about this partnership in the next blog entry.


Written by Annette Skov, Julie Maria Johnsen og Nana Bernhardt.

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