How I’m Learning Finnish

How I'm learning Finnish – tips for taking on a new language. Learn Finnish.In a previous post I explained my somewhat strange reasons for learning Finnish and I thought it would be a good idea to share some of the techniques I’ve found that are helping me learn this difficult and fascinating language.


>> I have written an updated post – one year on – about how I’m learning Finnish and it’s packed with even more links and resources. (Opens in a new tab) >>


While this post is aimed at learning Finnish, the techniques can be applied to any language.

I was originally going to buy a book: you know the kind, the ones that come with a CD or MP3 but I changed my mind as I couldn’t find a book (in the UK) with enough exercises to help implant this language in my brain. Instead I’ve found quite a lot of stuff online and the tools listed here are the ones I like and that I’ve found to be useful.

Due to my transient nature, I don’t always have access to the internet, so I’ve also included my favourite off-line techniques.

My Favourite On-Line Tools for Learning Finnish

Quizlet:

I’ve been using RandomFinnishLesson’s ‘sets’ on Quizlet and I’ve found them to be excellent at drilling vocabulary and set sentences/terms into my memory. There are flashcards, repetitive quizzes and audio quizzes that help not only with building vocabulary but also with spelling and a smattering of grammar.
Using Quizlet has definitely fast-tracked my progress since I’ve been using it.

Learning Finnish Quizlet. Learn Finnish

YouTube:

Search “Learn Finnish” or something along those lines on YouTube and you’ll find a wealth of videos. The YouTube video that spurred me on was this two-part video on the Finnish alphabet by Laura Chabinak (which I actually found on Pinterest: I’ve created a Learning Finnish Pinterest board).

She is a non-native Finnish speaker and I found her easy to understand, something clicked when I watched her video and realized how phonetic Finnish is: know the alphabet, stress the first syllable and you’ve pretty much nailed pronunciation!

Laura has lots more Finnish videos and I’ve found a lot of them to be quite useful and a great, friendly, introduction to the language.

Learning Finnish on Pinterest. Learn Finnish

Uusi Kielemme – Finnish for Busy People

This website is grammar heavy which is perfect as the Finnish Language is grammar heavy! It is well set out and easy to understand, I use it to cross reference more than anything.

I’ve found that simply learning parrot-fashion doesn’t work for me, I need to know why words change, and, boy, do Finnish words change!

  • For example: I learn the word for water: vesi, Then I find it in this sentence, on the language app on my phone: Mies ui vedessä. (man swims in the water).
  • I know that -ssä means ‘in’, so ‘in the water’, but why has vesi become vede? The app doesn’t explain, it just wants me to memorize it.
  • But I need to understand why to learn it, so I cross-reference with Uusi Kielemme: I find the appropriate page for post-positions (rather than prepositions, a lot of Finnish location words come after the subject) and see that the subject needs to be put into the genitive case before adding the –ssa ending.
  • I look on the page for the Genitive Case and find that when vesi is placed into the genitive case the si is dropped and replaced with ‘den’: vesi = veden. When placed in front of a post-position the n is dropped: vede(n) + ssä = vedessä

Yes: welcome to Finnish Grammar! 😉

Finnish grammar is overwhelmingly complex yet extraordinarily rule-driven. Rather than trying to memorize it, I’ve found that taking it in tiny chunks like this, cross-referencing as I come across it, far more useful and it sticks: curiosity driving my ability to absorb information.

Learning Finnish TwitterFollowing Finnish People on Twitter and Instagram:

This is fun, interesting and good for discovering fresh vocabulary. It’s also good for introducing spoken Finnish as opposed to the mostly formal, written Finnish I’m learning.

I tend to use this with Google Translate, but it’s very satisfying to be able to translate things without it.

The posts are often brief and concise therefore less confusing and overwhelming than other forms of text.

Other websites I use:

Random Finnish Lesson:

I like the posts on this blog, mostly grammar but also other useful stuff, but I find it hard to find what I’m looking for. The author of this website created the sets I use on Quizlet. Good for random browsing!

Verbix:

Finnish verb conjugation, good for checking I’m conjugating my verbs correctly! Should I really get as excited as I do about verb conjugation? I get immense satisfaction from it!

Google Translate:

Not perfect, but great for quick translations and translating web pages.

I follow Finnish Word of the Day on Facebook, I love my random päivän sana!

My Favourite Off-Line Tools for Learning Finnish

Music: This is a top tip!

Music has been a lot more useful than I originally thought it would. I began by searching for Finnish music on YouTube, more out of curiosity than anything. I found some tracks and artists that I liked and enjoyed them so much I bought and downloaded a few tracks.

Listening to them regularly has given me lots of vocabulary: I hear the words, without knowing their translation, they still enter my head. When that word then pops up elsewhere, like when I’m learning new vocabulary, it is already familiar: I only have to affix a meaning to them. It’s like creating a shortcut to learning!

Sometimes I’ve heard the words so often, I’ve looked them up: it’s that curiosity again! I prefer music to TV for this, I find I’m too busy visually following the story to focus on the words.

Building ‘Visual’ Pictures:

I take a mental snapshot of my surroundings and try to label everything in it, like a language map, filling in the gaps by looking up words. I’ve found this to be an effective way of building vocab and also of testing out a smattering of grammar too.

Kauppahalli language map. Learning Finnish. Learn Finnish

Mobile App:

I’ve been using Finnish in a Month by Learn Like Kids: it has worked for me but there are other ones on there too. I bought this app for a couple of quid and I’ve been pretty happy with it. I like that I can layer my learning with a different tool, and that I can practice without the internet, such as on train and bus journeys.
Just learning Finnish from this would have left me with a very limited vocabulary and no grammar but it has been good for giving me a foundation to build from.

Old Fashioned Notebook and Pen:

I make drill vocab lists to practice and review what I think I know, repeating until I know the words off by heart. This is good for practicing spelling too and great for long train journeys!

Visiting Finland!

Actually going to Finland, for two weeks last December, gave me lots of new words and oodles of confidence.

I’ve explained in the previous post about learning Finnish why I’ve chosen to take on this language and how my trip to Finland inspired me to persevere with it.

My Awesome Finnish Friends!

They are there, online, for my every confused query! I love you guys, you know who you are: I hope I don’t drive you too crazy! ❤

Learning Finnish FB help


I try to practice everyday if I can, even if it’s just a brief repeat of a lesson on Quizlet or my phone app. My Twitter and Instagram feed produces on the spot opportunities for a quick translation.

I’m in it for the long haul, I know it’s not going to happen overnight. The grammar overwhelms me sometimes but when it does I simply take a step back and go back to basic vocabulary drills, the grammar needs vocabulary to build on: you can never learn too many words!

Similar posts you might be interested in, don’t disappear!

How I’m Still Learning Finnish. One year on: all the resources, links and tips.

Why I’m Learning Finnish This was the hows, here is the whys!

4 Things That Are Easy About Learning Finnish It’s not all nightmare grammar!

Helsinki: The Thought Of Leaving Was Unbearable I lay my heart out to this beautiful city.

Runeberg Cakes I ate one of these delicious Finnish cakes in Porvoo and couldn’t wait to bake them back home.

Korvapuustit The same goes for these Finnish cinnamon rolls too! Amazing!

Beautiful Suomenlinna in Pictures a crisp December day on this island fortress.

Tampere: Finnish Sauna, Finnish Food and Finnish Snow my friend introduces me to Finland culture!

Are you learning Finnish? I hope this helps, if you have any other tips or recommendations do share them below in the comments box: I’d absolutely love to hear from you even if you don’t!

By Rachel A Davis   Follow on Bloglovin

12 Responses

  1. Sartenada says:

    My way to keep up those languaes which I have learned, is to watch from Internet, films and tv-series directly. For example I watch German tv-station ZDF from Internet and thus my German skills are active all the ime.
    Sartenada recently posted…Ice crystals / Cristales de hielo / Cristaux de glace / Cristais de geloMy Profile

    • Rachel Davis says:

      I listen to Finnish radio all the time, that certainly helps too. I don’t watch too much tv as I’m out of the habit with my lifestyle, radio feels more natural to me but great tip!

  2. Maria says:

    These tips are amazing! I’ve played with the idea of learning Finnish and noticed that there isn’t as much material on offer as for other languages, so this is amazing. I’m going back to Finnish Lapland in March for a few weeks and it would be great to know at least a couple of words and phrases!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Hi Maria!
      Have you? That’s amazing to hear, that’s not just me then! I’m currently in Finland right now, I’d love to go up to Lapland too! I hope you manage to get a few phrases under your belt before you go, let me know if you need any you can’t find (can’t say that I’ll know them but I may know where you can find them!).

  3. Natalia says:

    Rachel, thans a lot for your tips! I’m learning Finnish about a year but I still can’t speaking with natives. I paste stickers with new Finnish words on m wardrobe.

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Hei Natalia! Great to hear from you, that’s a great tip! I put stickers around my home with grammar on it and it really helps doesn’t it! I’ve been properly seeding for about a year now too and while I can understand quite a bit of written Finnish I’m still quite a long way off speaking it. I’m in Finland right now actually and I’ve been pretty shy using what I do know too!
      Good luck with your studies! Onnea!

  4. Sergio Méndez says:

    Wow, awesome Rachel. I love Finnish language too but I haven’t tried yet to learn some, but I hear music at least.
    In other hand, I took Greek as my, right now, my third language after Spanish and English, I’ve started hearing music and later reading everything by myself in Internet, I get some grammar book, a dictionary and phrase books, and some friends to visit there to improve. Everybody get impressed why a Chilean guy try to talk a not-so-easy language, but for me sound very sweet. I love it.
    Keep going on and learning more! Terve!

    • Rachel Davis says:

      Kiitos Sergio! I listen to a lot of Finnish music now and I find I can ‘sing’ along to quite a few of the tracks, it’s definitely a good way of getting vocabulary stuck in your head.
      I now have a grammar book as I really needed something to clearly explain the grammar that I can refer to without the internet. It has been a bit of a revelation!
      Wow, three languages: I’m envious! Impressive! Good luck with the Greek, I bet that’s an interesting language, it has a different alphabet doesn’t it? I enjoyed trying to fathom the Russian alphabet a few years ago when I traveled through. Do you find it makes learning the language harder or more fun?

  5. Marjorie says:

    Wow those are great tips and websites ! You helped me a lot !!! Thank you !

  6. Wow, Rachel just reading those grammar explanations has made my brain hurt! Well done to you though for putting so much work in to it. I know how much it means to you and I have no doubt that you will crack it!
    thegrownupgapyear recently posted…‘Mini-moon’ booked!My Profile

This site uses Cookies - By using this site or closing this you agree to our Cookies policy.
Accept Cookies
x