Reading time: 5 mins | Text and photos: Makoto Chiba
Learning a new language is an exciting journey. Learning Finnish is not as easy as learning widely spoken languages such as English and Spanish. The Finnish language is often regarded as one of the most difficult languages to learn. Most Finns can speak English fluently and therefore, most immigrants like me think at first that there is no need to learn Finnish at all.
But as time passes, you realize little by little that Finnish skill is one of the essential elements which enrich your life in Finland, and it helps a lot to incorporate yourself into the Finnish society. As an immigrant who has lived in Finland for over 5 years, I understand the pain of starting the study journey and the feeling of agony.
Starting to learn a new language is stressful, but what if you can avoid the stress and instead, make the learning enjoyable and fun?
In this blog, I would like to highlight my findings on how to make studying Finnish fun and effective. Here are the tips that I would like to share with you.
1. Make use of the internet and apps
There are so many free learning materials available on the internet nowadays. Compared to time back then, people had limited learning resources and had to carry heavy dictionaries and grammar books with them all the time. But now you can find everything on the internet. Choosing the relevant learning materials and apps help you to master the language faster and more effectively. I often use the following websites and apps:
Netflix: Watch movie with Finnish subtitles
Verbix: Finnish verb conjugator
Suomi-englanti online dictionary
Tatoeba.org: Example sentences generator
If you are living abroad and facing difficulties to learn Finnish, you may want to try the interactive lessons with native teachers in an online environment. During the lesson, one can practice conversation and pronunciation for example.
2. Going to Finnish class
Of course, you can study Finnish by yourself from the scratch until the end, but in my opinion, there is a limit how much one is able to improve the skills when studying alone. When you study alone, it is especially hard to improve speaking and listening skills, so it is advisable to go to a Finnish language class twice or at least once a week.
In the interactive Finnish lesson, you can learn Finnish with a teacher and your friends. You will realize that you are not the only one who is studying Finnish and might find out that others are struggling too. During the class, you can encourage each other and share best practices for studying Finnish efficiently. One of the benefits of going to the class is that you can ask help from teachers immediately, e.g. regarding the Finnish grammar.
3. Writing a diary in Finnish
Writing a diary is my secret way of studying Finnish. Diary does not need to be long. It can be 2 or 3 sentences in the beginning. You can write down whatever you want such as daily activities, happenings and what did you learn on that day. When you write your diary, you should not concentrate too much on the grammar. Of course, if you know the grammar, you can utilize it correctly, but if you do not know, there is no need to be perfectionist at this time.
The best way to maximize the learning outcome is to show your diary to your Finnish teacher or Finnish friends who you know and ask for correction. In this way, you will understand in which parts you have made mistakes. Next time when you write the diary, just keep those mistakes in mind, and try to avoid them.
4. Speak Finnish as often as possible
Speaking Finnish is not easy, and you need a gut to speak Finnish in front of Finns.
But don’t worry! There is no one who can speak PERFECT Finnish. Even Finns cannot and neither any Finns expect you to speak native-level Finnish. Just speak with Finns and make mistakes and learn from those.
I have been working in several Finnish companies so far and I still cannot speak Finnish fluently, but everyone understands my Finnish. I realized that it does not need to be perfect. Speaking is a communication tool, so we speak to communicate. It is not an exam where you need to prove your Finnish speaking skills. I also often write down on my phone’s notepad what I could not explain but wanted to explain in Finnish. If you are with Finnish friends, you can ask immediately about what you want to say, but if not, write down and ask from friends or teachers or family afterwards.
5. Read texts aloud
Honestly, I am not a book lover but reading texts will significantly improve your Finnish skills in many ways. By reading texts, I mean for example reading news, articles, children’s books or any other that interests you.
Reading the content which you are interested in makes you feel like you want to understand more about it and increases the motivation to read in Finnish.
Additionally, I utilize my Finnish textbooks by reading the stories which use the spoken language. By reading the stories aloud, I improve my pronunciation and speaking skills. It also helps me to read and understand sentences faster.
In my Finnish study journey, there is one theory that I have always kept in my mind.
I pay special attention to the spelling and pronunciation of words. Why? What are the benefits of this? If you know the correct spelling and basic grammar, it helps you to read and write texts faster and more accurately.
Additionally, if you know the right pronunciation of the word, you can pronounce the words in a correct way when you speak Finnish. It will be easy for Finns to understand what you are saying, and you can also get the flow of speaking.
Furthermore, it helps you to hear the words easily when listening to Finnish. When I learn new vocabulary, I write down not only the words but also example sentences that I might use in a daily conversation. In this way, you can remember the new words better, and can use them when you are in the actual situation in your daily life.
I hope these tips help you to study Finnish in a fun way! You can do it!