Learning Finnish: Why and How

One of my 2014 resolutions is to continue to learn Finnish, an initiative I took in late 2013. If you wonder where I got the strange idea of learning this quite rare language, Sofia Polykreti is to blame! She tweeted about her undying love for Finnish someday. It only took me a few seconds to search for videos of Finnish speakers on YouTube and realize that Finnish didn’t sound anything like Swedish (which I’ve always found too harsh-sounding, but then it’s only my opinion). It was pretty much love at first sight.

Okay, Emeline… But why on earth did you decide to learn Finnish?

That’s a question I get asked a lot. Well, I have a few answers to it:

  • I’ve always been interested in Nordic countries. I’m by no means a fan of cold weather, but I must admit there is something quite peaceful about them. Is it the quality of their democracy or perhaps their education system? Maybe a mix of all that.
  • Finnish doesn’t sound and look anything like all the languages I’ve had the opportunity to study. Actually, the only Finnish word that got in the English language was… “sauna” (original, I know). Completely starting from scratch is a challenge, but an interesting and rewarding one, don’t you think?
  • It has an interesting culture with some interesting directors to discover and some inspiring architects.

Yes, this is a school. Photo by Jussi Tiainen

Why, yes, this is a school.
Photo by Jussi Tiainen

  • It will allow me to discover the history of a European country that’s rarely spoken about.
  • As I work with three mainstream languages, namely English, Spanish and French, I will be able to add it to my working languages in a very distant future. I know it will take a while before I’m able to be fluent, but I like having long-term objectives. Having a rare combination is worth it, both professionally and personally speaking.

How are you going to manage to learn such a difficult language by yourself?

Herman Boel recently said that no language is difficult to learn, it is just a matter of motivation. I wholeheartedly agree with his statement. If you like a language, you won’t be so scared of its possible difficulties and will be more willing to overcome them.

I will be working with Leila White’s From Start to Finnish book and audio material. Each week, I will be learning a new lesson with a day spent to review the previous week’s work. This will involve doing exercises (which is fundamental to learning a new language!), reviewing vocabulary and grammar and practicing my listening comprehension. The only problem I’m facing as of now is to practice my oral expression skills. I clearly don’t have the time and the opportunity to take an offline class, so I will have to be creative and find another way to express myself (recommendations welcome, by the way!). Once I have the basics under my belt, I will be trying to read texts from other sources, such as yle.fi which offers articles in simplified Finnish.

I will document my progress at the beginning of each month. This will allow to monitor my progress and set myself better and precise objectives. And if anyone wants to joint the fun, they’re certainly welcome!

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