How to Learn Finnish and Stay Sane

I’ve been learning Finnish for some time now, and I had my fair share of ups and downs. So, I decided to go over my learning experience to figure out what caused my falls and what I can do better. I noticed that my learning difficulties is a direct result of a certain line of thinking. There are particular thoughts that block my efforts at times. I tried to collect these thoughts together and add some tips on how to manage frustration and achieve some progress along the way. This list is not conclusive, and there are other ideas that get into my head whenever I take a Finnish grammar book, but I found those listed below particularly harmful and tricky to deal with. Mainly, it’s a manual for me, but I’ll be happy if it helps someone else too. So, here they are:

“Finnish is a difficult language”

Lama
Source: Vivas.us

We all heard it many times. There is a statistic out there confirming this fact too, so I’m not going to argue this thesis. Instead, let’s travel in time and go back to our first experience of learning any foreign language. Didn’t it feel overwhelming? Wasn’t it tricky and hard? I vividly remember trying to speak English to our native-speaking teachers in a summer school camp. They were smiling and nodding, but I could tell that they didn’t understand what I was trying to say. It was upsetting. Same applies to any other learning experience. For example, riding a bike. How easy was it when you first tried it? How many times you fell down and hit yourself before you could keep your balance and turn the pedals? When you try something for the first time it’s always hard. Don’t allow yourself to overthink the difficulty of the task at hand. You’ll get better over time, if you practice a lot. Fails are inevitable, so, instead of fearing them, accept them and move forward.

“I don’t have skills to learn this language”

language skills

To be honest, I’m not sure there is such a thing as a language skill. To be good at languages you need a good memory (to be able to form a vocabulary and have a good command of rules) and logic (to understand how rules work and how different topics are interrelated). Both of those can be improved. Memorize poems or browse Internet for some exercises to hone your logic thinking skills. There are some useful apps too. Through some trial and research I’m sure you’ll find something that works for you. Can’t improve both? Focus on one. You’ll soon notice how it affects your studies. I did some memory exercises and it helped me to enhance my Finnish vocabulary. Of course, I still have some bad days, when the word I learned in the morning is completely out there and living its own life somewhere else outside my head by the evening. But the number of good days increased too, and this does feel good. Also, doesn’t let yourself think that you can’t do something. Of course, you can. Everything is possible and is not predetermined in any way by some given abilities. You just use what you have and work with it.

“Finnish language doesn’t make any sense”

Many times when I start diving into a new grammar rule, I look like this:

Sense

It does make sense though and the more you learn the more you’ll notice it. Any language is like a spider net – even the smallest threads are a part of a big system. You just need to keep observing – I’m sure you’ll spot something! Finnish is a very interesting language, because most of the words capture the main essence of things they name. For example, the verb “uskaltaa” means “to dare”. It’s related to word “usko” – faith, believe. Indeed, daring to do something requires a strong belief. Another example – “paino” means weight, and the verb “painottaa” means “to emphasize”. And again, emphasizing is, in fact, putting more “weight” on something. It’s always exciting to uncover hidden connections and it makes the process a lot more fun too. If you can’t wrap your head around the concept of the Finnish language right now, don’t get discouraged. The most important thing is to continue learning efforts. The meaning will unveil itself along the way.

“It takes too much time to learn Finnish”

after 5 min of study

Sometimes, I start thinking how long it will take me to perform a certain task. For example, I think that it might take me one more year to be able to draft a decent email to a friend. It will probably take me 2 to 3 years to master emails about professional topics. Although, it’s only an approximation, it’s scary. If you also like to run these annoying calculations from time to time, try to look into the future, say 5 years from now. If you stop any efforts now, 5 years from now nothing changes. However, if you continue to learn, 5 years later you’ll be able to do something you can’t do today. For example, have a conversation with a doctor or an interview in Finnish. Also, if you stop your language accounting and use this time to learn new words or practice a grammar rule, you’ll be one step closer to your goal. Even 5 min a day makes a difference. To conclude, don’t be carried away by the negative thoughts – try to focus on your goals and move forward no matter what. Sooner or later, you’ll achieve them!

start studying

Hope this was helpful to you! Have a great rest of the week everyone!

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4 thoughts on “How to Learn Finnish and Stay Sane

  1. The thing about languages is that it’s all about practice and the thing about practice is that it doesn’t have to be actual conversations. It can be silent vocalising, it can be mere thinking in that language, it can be sentence construction, it can be thinking about word translations, it can be reading, it can be writing, it can be looking at a comic, etc. It’s about activating your brain and honing your phonemes. The latter will not only help you speak properly but also help your understanding of spoken word.

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  2. Privjet Jilena, your text hit me and hard. I have just started to learn russian and it is not an easy language.At the course we have just learned the cyrillic alphabet, to read and to write, they are completely different as you know. So it is not easy. What we can do, just study. A good motivation helps a lot. Have interesting days with the finnish grammar.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Добрый вечер! 🙂 It’s nice to hear that my feelings and experience with learning a new language resonated well with you. And how exciting it is that you are learning Russian! Очень хорошо 🙂

      Yes, the difference between how the words are spoken and written might be drastic. But there are some nice things about this language too – there is no “puhukieli”, just few slang words. There are also fewer verb tenses and less cases compare to Finnish.
      I definitely agree that practice and regular exercises are key to success 🙂 Keep me updated on how your studying progresses and let me know if I can be of any help 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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