This research project sets out to analyze the local language practices in increasingly multilingual and globalized construction sites in Finland. The focus is on the language practices ‘on the floor’, i.e. on the interactions between construction workers. The project zooms into these interactions with the methods of multimodal conversation analysis (Mondada, 2018).

We video-record construction projects and focus on analyzing how the participants coordinate collaborative tasks in interaction. In this, they may use linguistic resources of different languages, as well as embodied and material resources.


Construction industry in Finland provides employment for an increasing number of adults with immigrant background. It also attracts temporary workers, especially from Estonia. This diversification of workforce brings about increasing multilingualism which, in turn, creates new kinds of challenges for work-related language practices.

Construction sites are also an arena for language learning. For one thing, every newcomer who starts working at a new site needs to learn the relevant technical jargon used, and ways to interact in an acceptable way (Holmes & Woodhams, 2013). For another, for the workers with immigrant background, a construction site may also serve as an environment for acquiring the local language (Svennevig, 2018).


The results of this project will provide new understanding about how language in general, and different languages (Finnish, Estonian, Arabic, English), in particular, are used in multilingual construction sites as part of the physical work.

In addition, our analyses bring new understanding on the role of language in the organization of physical work. This information is not only important to understand the language practices of manual and physical work but will also have a lot of applied value in developing language education and integration training.


The project is funded by the Academy of Finland (2020–2024), decision number 332470.

Research team

Niina Lilja, PhD, is the PI of the project. She works in the field of interactional linguistics and multimodal conversation analysis and is especially interested in role of embodiment and materiality in language use and learning. She is very inspired by construction sites as constantly evolving physical environments and loves to analyze hand gestures and bodily movement in the evolving space. She has published on the use and learning of Finnish as second language in various interactional contexts, such as language classrooms, everyday interactions, construction sites and social circus workshops. For more information, see https://www.tuni.fi/en/niina-lilja

Hanna-Ilona Härmävaara, PhD, works in the project as a postdoctoral researcher. She is interested in multilingual language use and language learning. She works in the field of interactional linguistics and multimodal conversation analysis, and her work often has an ethnographic approach. She has published on topics related to receptive multilingualism, linguistically asymmetric interaction, and mutual intelligibility of Finnish and Estonian. Her favorite topics to study include language play, translanguaging, and the next interesting thing she finds in the data. For more information, see https://www.tuni.fi/en/hanna-ilona-harmavaara

Nathalie Schümchen, PhD, is a postdoctoral research fellow in GLO-LO. She is particularly interested in language use and learning in contexts outside of the classroom. Her research interests are in interaction in various social settings. She adopts an interaction analytic approach to the analysis of social interaction, drawing on Ethnomethodological Conversation Analysis. Nathalie is interested in analyzing resources such as talk, gaze, gesture, and material objects and people’s use of those in interaction. For more information, see https://www.tuni.fi/fi/nathalie-schumchen

Joona Poikonen, MA, is a PhD candidate and works as a researcher in the project. He is interested in multilingualism, second language learning in the wild, and the role of language in manual work. His PhD dissertation deals with the use and learning of Finnish as a second language in the context of vocational education. He works in the field of interactional linguistics and is inspired by the ecological approach to language learning. He is especially interested in analyzing the material ecology and the complex interactional space of the construction works. For more information, see https://www.tuni.fi/fi/joona-poikonen