Finnish: Pointers and Laments 1

Here I will provide pointers and laments on learning this isolated language. I am grappling with it now…

If you have never learned a foreign language, well, Finnish may not be for you. Languages are not for the faint of heart. They have many pieces that move in many different ways. Each sentence is like a series of moves in chess. If the moves make no sense, the opponent looks at you funny.

Grammar is necessary. You will have to learn it. Fred Karlsson’s Finnish: An Essential Grammar is aptly essential. It is a beautiful, well-ordered book. If you have never studied complex grammar before, never been introduced to the accusative or partitive, then you will find reading even a single page difficult. I can offer this advice: start on page 1 and read from there, copy out rules in your own little notebook as they come up, and create your own example phrases. The task is not Sisyphean, there is a terminus to the book. You can get through it. How do you eat a buffalo? One. Bite. At. A. Time.

But there is more to life than grammar. There is also grammar’s use. The Pimsleur audio cds are an excellent introduction to the language’s use in the life of a tourist. Proper pronunciation for ordering drinks, asking for a lunch date, and commenting on the “miserable weather,” is all present. Although an expensive cd set, these are important, especially considering Finnish resources are not necessarily at your local library. Unfortunately, Pimsleur does not offer audio teaching beyond the basic level.

The third thing, I have been doing is working through an excellent Finnish book called Complete Finnish by Terttu Leney. I am on Unit 3 and refuse to continue on until I am confident in my ability to do basic addition and subtraction in a foreign language. Math is a muscle memory thing, and those muscles don’t exist in Finnish.

A final note: children’s books. Amazon.com offers a precious few inexpensive Kindle children’s books. Learn about green slithering snakes, happy elephants, and assorted fruits and vegetables. It worked when you were 10 months old; it will work to expand your vocabulary now. And frankly, colors, animals, and childhood are far more interesting than hotel conferences.

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