How I’m Learning 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
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!
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!
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.
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!
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! ❤
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!