Question: All my usual Finnish courses are on a break in July, but I’d like to keep up with my Finnish. Any ideas on how to do that?
What a great and timely question! Most schools and training providers are closed in July (including my own small teaching business), but otherwise the summer is a great time to study and practice Finnish. Here are some ideas on how to do that.
1. Speak Finnish in real life situations. I know that this can feel like jumping into the deep end if you’re still at the beginning of your journey (and even later on), but there’s no shame in just using the Finnish you have and then switching to English or another language when you need to. Even if you just know a few words in Finnish, there’s already a lot you can do with just ”Hei, kahvi, kiitos” (look at you ordering a coffee in Finnish just like a native speaker would). If you’re in Finland, there are countless opportunities to speak Finnish in everyday situations: cafés, shops, libraries, the market, museums… The list is endless! You can also find some great opportunities to practice online, like social media (especially groups and pages centered around your interests are great, though a bit more advanced of course). For example, you could join a online bookclub, chat about parenting or join a foraging group.
2. Talk to yourself in Finnish. Out loud or by trying to think in Finnish, at home, in the car, while exercising. Just switching your brain to Finnish (or trying to) once in a while is really beneficial for your overall language skills. Don't worry about making mistakes, the key thing is to practice speaking or thinking in Finnish.
3. Self-study courses. There are some great self-study courses and learning materials that you can use any time, many of them free of chage. For beginners, Superalkeet is great, and Työelämän suomea is excellent if you’re at a more intermediate level. Puhutsä suomee is a good introduction to spoken Finnish and suitable for many levels, depending on how familiar you are with puhekieli. The freely available material Kotisuomessa goes from 0 all the way to B2. Apps like Duolingo, WordDive and Glossika can also be great. This is another list that just goes on and on!
4. Series, books, podcasts, music. These are always a good idea, even alongside a course. Books in easy Finnish are a great idea at level A2 and up, watching tv in Finnish with or without subtitles is great at every level. Listening to podcasts and music in Finnish will help you level up your language skills even if you don’t understand a single word at first.
5. Clubs and language cafés. Many Finnish language clubs and language cafés still continue meeting up in the summer, both online and offline. For example, here are all the events organized by the public libraries in Helsinki, all over the capital city region and online as well. Once you’re at an intermediate level, the topic of the meetup doesn’t have to be about learning Finnish at all – think of what you’re interested in and find out how to do that with others in Finnish. It could be an open university course on a topic you love or a dance class.
7. Attend a course or hire a private teacher. Luckily, not everyone is on a summer break in July. For example, my lovely colleagues Päivi Virkkunen and Liis Viks are available for private lessons all through the summer.
= Have a lovely summer!
Does the yki test require one to write/speak in kirjakieli? or can one use puhekieli?
Thank you for a great question! The answer depends on what level you’re aiming for, so I’ll be covering a few different levels in this blog post.
Written and spoken Finnish are quite different, which can be a real challenge when you’re learning Finnish. Standard Written Finnish or kirjakieli (also referred to as yleiskieli) is the form of the Finnish language that you’ll find in the newspaper, in formal messages and when listening to something pre-scripted, like the news or prepared speeches. Puhekieli or spoken Finnish is the form of Finnish that you’ll hear in everyday conversations and also in written form in informal messages, like on a lot of social media and instant messaging.
Like any language, Finnish is spoken differently in different social contexts and in different regions. When I talk about puhekieli in this post, I mean what is also known as yleispuhekieli or Standard Spoken Finnish.
So what does that mean for the YKI test?
YKI level 3 or CEFR level B1
If you’re aiming for a 3, which is the level required for Finnish citizenship, then you don’t have to pay much attention to whether you’re using puhekieli or kirjakieli. At level 3, the main goal is just to make yourself understood, and any version of the Finnish language is fine. What matters more is that you have enough language skills to manage in everyday situations. You don’t have speak or write elegantly and mistakes are very much expected, as long as your writing and speaking can be understood.
However, being able to show that you already know some of the differences between puhekieli and kirjakieli definitely won’t hurt. In the speaking test, it’s great If you can use some puhekieli, but just using written forms is also absolutely fine. For example, you might want to say mä for minä (I) and sä for sinä (you), and use the spoken language me-passive: mennään syömään, lähdetään and so forth. Likewise, if you can use kirjakieli for the more formal tasks in the writing exam, that’s great, but the main goal is to just write something in understandable Finnish. At level 3, you should also have a basic understanding of how to write formal and informal messages, for example, the phrases needed to open and finish a message.
YKI level 4 or CEFR level B2
At level 4, you should already be able to modify the way you’re speaking and writing according to the situation you’re in. So, for example, at level 4, you might be writing in casual puhekieli to a friend, but a more formal email would be completely in kirjakieli.
YKI levels 5 and C or CEFR levels C1 and C2
At levels 5 and 6 (YKI’s ylin taso or highest level), you’re able to really fine tune your lingustic choices to suit the situation you’re in. You can use and understand many different types of language easily and comfortably.
In my classes, I usually teach both kirjakieli and puhekieli, as I think that it’s important to know about the different forms and especially to understand both from the start. However, speaking in kirjakieli is absolutely fine, and writing in puhekieli already goes a very very long way. In the YKI test, if you’re aiming for level 3, use whatever you feel most comfortable with.
The writing and reading comprehension sections of the YKI test are conducted in a traditional classroom much like this one.
Pictuce by Wokandapix