4 Things That Are Easy About Learning Finnish
There is plenty of stuff around the internet about how difficult the Finnish language is to learn – hell, it was this fact challenge that got me learning it in the first place!
After studying it for nine months now I can see that in many ways the internet is right but also that Finnish is misunderstood: it’s not that it’s particularly hard, it’s more that it is completely different!
This post isn’t declaring that I’m finding it easy – far from it – it’s more to highlight the parts of the language that I’m finding painless: every cloud has a silver lining and all that!
Learning a language is like learning to bake. To a novice baker making something as complex as French macarons may seem impossible, I’ve been there: it took me quite a few years of baking to reach a point where I felt confident to make them.
It was those years of baking though that gave me the knowledge of the techniques to know what I was doing: the how and why recipes work.
If vocabulary is the ingredients then grammar is the recipe that brings them all together.
It can feel a little overwhelming: it’s overwhelming me all the time!
To combat this I try to focus on the positives, the things that are easy about the Finnish language.
Yes, there are only four things but they are all fundamentally important things!
4 Things That Are Easy About Learning Finnish
1. Finnish Is Phonetic
Say what you see!
That means every single letter in a word is pronounced in Finnish, including doubled consonants and vowels (diphthongs).
There are 29 letters in the Finnish alphabet yet only 21 of them are used regularly, making the alphabet pretty small (the other letters generally appear in foreign loan words and names).
The pronunciation of each letter never changes either, making things even simpler.
There are no silent letters and emphasis is always on the first syllable.
See, easy peasy!
Some of those diphthongs can be tricky though for native English speakers (i.e. me!): öy, yö – uh oh more like!
And don’t forget to roll your Rs!
2. Those long Words Are Not As Scary As They Look!
I used to be terrified of the lengthy Finnish words when I first started learning the language.
Now my vocabulary has grown I can see that they are mostly individual words strung together to make one word, often with a little bit of grammar attached to the end.
It’s surprising how quickly your brain starts separating out the words and the grammar.
They also make sense too with their rather satisfying straightforward translations.
Rautatieasema : railway station >> rauta : iron tie : road asema : station.
Astianpesukone : dishwasher >> astian : dish pesu : wash kone : machine.
Pöytätietokone : Desktop Computer >> pöytä : table tieto : information kone : machine.
Kovakuoriainen : beetle >> kova : hard kuori : shell (i)ainen : suffix to create a noun
Sateenvarjo : umbrella >> Sateen : rain varjo : shadow (a personal favourite of mine, adorable!)
3. Rules Are Rules, And They Are Your Friends!
OK, so the grammar is overwhelming but it is logical, in comparison to English – for instance – which is terribly vague and extraordinarily contradictory.
Follow a recipe word for word, with the correct ingredients, and – in theory – your bake will be successful.
It’s the same for Finnish: apply the rules and the grammar falls into place without exception 99.9% of the time.
I like those odds!
This as an example of how confusing English grammar is:
“i before e, except after c”: believe – conceive.
So… neighbour, science, leisure, feisty, ceiling, conceive, ancient – I could go on!
This kind of crazy rule-breaking just wouldn’t happen in Finnish!
It’s simply a case of learning the rules, and trying not to become overwhelmed by the sheer quantity of them!
4. Finnish Has No Grammatical Gender.
There is no grammatical gender in Finnish vocabulary, words are not male or female.
There is none of that le/la, el/la malarky you find in the Romance languages.
There are also no separate words for he or she in Finnish, it’s simply ‘hän’, regardless of whether you’re speaking about a male or a female.
How’s that for equality!
Finnish is a very gender neutral language and it is all the easier for it!
How is my Finnish Going?
I’m trying hard not to get bogged down with the heavy weight of the grammar, breaking my studies into small chunks.
Recently I’ve been building up my vocabulary (the easy bit) and now I really need to start to focus more on the grammar.
I don’t feel that I’ve progressed as much as I hoped by the end of the summer – I’m still woefully unable to properly form sentences – and I’m hoping that diving into the grammar will help.
I just have to keep remembering those (many) rules are logical and take comfort from the easy stuff!
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What things do you find easy when learning a language? Comment below!