= Happy Midsummer!
As usual, I'm celebrating the shortest night of the year in the countryside by a beautiful lake. It's traditional to stay up most of the night, but last year and the year before that I was fast asleep before 10 pm. I suspect that tomorrow I'll do the the same, but we'll see!
Here's a great video from the brilliant Almost Finns about Finnish Midsummer celebrations. The video is in Finnish, with subtitles in Finnish, Arabic, Spanish and English. Do you celebrate Midsummer or Juhannus?
A student of mine asks:
I keep seeing the word "tarha" at the end of longer words: puutarha, eläintarha, lastentarha. What does "tarha" mean?
Here's a list of words ending in tarha with their translations to English:
puutarha - garden
hedelmätarha - orchard
omenatarha - an orchard with mainly apple trees
mehiläistarha - bee farm
lastentarha - day care center or kindergarten
eläintarha - zoo
If you look at the list, you might see that the words all have something in common (besides ending in tarha). These words all mean enclosed spaces that contain something specific: trees (puu), fruit (hedelmä), apples (omena), bees (mehiläinen, mehiläis-), children (lapsi, lasten), animals (eläin).
Tarha used all on its own usually means lastentarha, so a day care center or kindergarten.
Lately, I've been spending a lot of time in Malminkartanon omenatarha, or the apple orchard in Malminkartano, where I also took the background picture:
Who would have thought parenting would be so time consuming? Over a year ago, I seriously imagined I'd have the time and energy to update this blog at least once in a while, but the reality of it was quite different, as everyone except me knew well in advance. It's been a difficult and wonderful time, with all kinds of stuff (like teething and a global pandemic) going on.
I returned to working full time on Monday, and resuming blogging seems much more realistic, at least at the moment! Send me your questions and I'll do my best to answer them.
Before I switch my focus back to Finnish, here's a picture of my baby from two days ago:
Lapset kasvavat niin nopeasti!
= Lapse+t kasva+vat niin nopea+sti!
= Child+t-plural grow+3rd person plural so quick+ly!
= Children grow up so quickly!
Happy Easter everyone! I've had a busy few months adjusting to parenthood, but we're slowly but surely finding to do things besides changing diapers. I've even been able to edit some new posts, so I'll hopefully be able to post something in the not too distant future!
In the meanwhile, here's another brilliant meme from Very Finnish Problems. Yes Finland has the best Easter eggs!
This meme from the delightful Very Finnish Problems has been making the rounds in my social media feed lately:
Every time I see it I'm consumed by an urge to help that poor cat. I don't know this particular cat and don't know how to reach it, so I've decided to help you instead.
The Finnish y is actually not that difficult for speakers of most languages, it just needs a bit of attention and a bit of practice and feedback - ideally from a trained teacher, but in a pinch any Finnish speaker will do - before it starts coming naturally.
Let's look at the cat's mouth more closely:
You'll notice the cat's tongue is out of his mouth. This will not help you pronounce y. Your tongue must be inside your mouth! Otherwise the cat does have the right idea. Let's do this.
Start by saying uu, like in the Finnish word uusi 'new'. In English, u is often written with two o's, like in the words food, choose and booze. Here's me saying uu:
To go from uu to yy, simply move your tongue all the way to the front of your mouth. When you do this, your lips will also move slightly to the front, but it'll happen automatically when you move your tongue. But do not make the mistake the cat made, keep that tongue inside your mouth!
For those of you who prefer watching a video to reading instructions, here's a quick lesson of how to pronounce y! Make sure to turn the English subtitles on, the lesson should be easier to follow that way.
Post your y in the comments for feedback from me!
Happy New Year everyone!
Our beautiful son was born on the 16th of December and all is well with the whole family. We're very happy and completely in awe of our new family member.
Posting has been slow and will be for the time being, just until we get some new routines going. Nähdään ensi vuonna!
Hänen pienet jalkansa!
My KPT-post has proved trickier to write than I expected (but it's coming!) so in the meantime, a question that I answered in the Facebook Finnish study group Let's Learn Finnish Language. Kirez, who asked the question, has kindly allowed me to publish his question along with my answer here.
Google translate käännä “puheikielallä” as “speech language”...
I’m guessing a better translation is “vernacular”?
It gives me no translation for “yleiskielallä” - I’m guessing more formal or written language?
"Puhekieli" or spoken language usually refers to standard spoken Finnish (also "yleispuhekieli"). In my opinion, vernacular is not a great translation, as vernacular usually refers to more specific dialects or registers - in Finnish, vernacular is "kansankieli" or "paikallismurre" (local dialect). Like in all spoken varieties of any language, there is no one fixed form of standard spoken Finnish: forms vary depending on the area the speaker is from and the context the language is spoken in, and there isn't a clear cut line between "yleispuhekieli" and more specific registers of the language. However, the forms used in the Helsinki region are often seen as the neutral choice (but obviously it depends on who you ask!).
"Yleiskieli" is indeed a more formal version of Finnish and can be translated as standard Finnish. In its written form, it's also referred to as "kirjakieli". Spoken yleiskieli is used mainly in formal situations (often the speaker is reading out loud or has written and memorized what they're going to say), like the news, scripted shows on radio or tv, plays etc. In its written form yleiskieli is also called "kirjakieli", literally "book language" usually translated as standard written Finnish.
I've been wanting to write a proper blog post about kpt-changes for ages, and I have a question in my inbox that is the perfect excuse!
First though, a word about kpt-changes in general.
In Finnish, words tend to morph in different ways depending on the meaning you want to convey. For example, cake in Finnish is kakku. Now, say your friends have suprised you with a cake on your birthday. In English, we just stick stuff in front, to get with a cake.
In Finnish, however, we stick stuff at the end of the word:
with a cake
= kakku + lla
(= cake + with)
Pretty simple so far. But, with the addition of -lla, the word itself also changes. One k goes away, and we get kakulla, with just the one k.
This is what I'm talking about when I'm talking about kpt-changes. These are a pretty weird and intricate part of Finnish grammar, and they're one of the reasons why we have memes like this:
The good part about Finnish is that compared to the so called soft little kitty languages like Swedish, there's often a method behind the madness, and that's true for kpt-changes also. Languages like Swedish can require much more learning by heart. Also, I've seen that same meme with English grammar pictured as that soft little kitten. I'm pretty convinced that the person who made that choice has never really had to study English grammar, which is actually ridiculously complicated once you get past beginner level. The thing is, with English, people are much more confident of speaking less than perfectly, so it can feel like it's just easy soft kitty going all the time.
Kpt-changes usually come up pretty quickly when you're just starting out with Finnish, and so they can seem like a basic thing that needs to be mastered properly right away.
With the help of Latrice Royale:
This is not true! KPT-changes are an inevitable part of Finnish, but they do not need to be mastered perfectly, not by a long shot.
I'm a native Finnish speaker, I have 12 years of studying and researching Finnish grammar under my belt, plus 11 years of teaching Finnish as a second language, and I still make the occasional kpt-mistake! I promise you, there is not a single Finnish speaker, native or non-native, who hasn't blundered their kpt-changes when they've come accross a word that they don't know. So it's a completely unrealistic expectation that you should have all of it down right away.
A lot of the time, what you're trying to say can easily be understood even if you make a mistake. However, sometimes kpt-changes do matter quite a lot. For example, a carpet, matto, can accidentally become a worm, mato. Which one you mean is usually pretty obvious from the context, but I don't think it would be fair if teachers just pretended that kpt-changes don't exist. So we usually bring them on right away so you know what you're in for.
Personally, I'm a big grammar nerd and all for understanding the logic behind what can seem like a muddle of random rules, so there's kpt-explanation post coming up very soon! I'll also finally be answering a reader question, thank you so much for them and thank you so much for your patience!
In the comment section of my YKI tips, reader Harry pointed out that my number one textbook recommendation for YKI prep (Hyvin menee 2) doesn't include answers to the exercises, which makes it a bit tricky for self study. Thank you so much Harry, I hadn't thought of this pretty crucial aspect of self study!
The answers and lots of extra material for Hyvin menee 2 are available in a separate teacher's guide (Opettajan opas). Also, the audio has to be obtained separately as well, and listening comprehension is a pretty important part of YKI prep, so you need to get your hands on that as well. If you're in Finland, all of this is available for free via your local library, but if you want to buy it new, it'll cost something in the neighborhood of 150-200 euros altogether.
Another, much cheaper textbook option is Suomea paremmin by Susanna Hart, which includes the answers to the exercises and the audio for about 40 euros. I don't think that Suomea paremmin is nearly as good as Hyvin menee 2 for YKI prep (for one, the audio includes Finnish actors pretending to be learning Finnish as a second language, which... cringe!), but it has many advantages for self study. It's much more concise so it can be a lot clearer and less overwhelming to study with, but that can be a mixed blessing - a less overwhelming textbook may mean a much more overwhelming test experience, so it's super important that you supplement it with more demanding online materials.
I'm currently 7 months pregnant, finishing a textbook of my own, teaching my regular students and classes, running my small business and napping at least two hours a day, so it's been slow going when it comes to blogging (not to even mention my PhD thesis!). I haven't forgotten about the blog though and will get back to your excellent questions as soon as possible!
First snow! Sometimes, winter arrives in October. Hei hei syksy, tervetuloa talvi!
Picture by Raili Ahonen
Last night I came accross this meme from Very Finnish Problems:
This meme hit such a nerve that the next day, I can't help but blog about it. I can't remember how many times I've been asked by eager students to explain the meaning of järjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänsäkäänköhän and the even longer negative version epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänsäkäänköhän. These words make me let out a heavy sigh every time. It's impossible.
Here's the thing: in Finnish, it's possible to construct endlessly long words. These aren't even words, really, but theoretically correct forms that don't actually mean much. In English grammar, a similar classic that you may or may not have heard of is Colorless green ideas sleep furiously, a grammatically correct sentence that doesn't really mean much when you look at it more closely. Epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydelläänsäkäänköhän is similar, it's composed of parts that all mean something, but the meaning of the entire thing is really slippery and nonsensical. Like a poem or abstract painting.
So, what are the parts that make up this modernist poem of a word?
First, we have to verb järjestää, 'to organize'. From that, we get the noun järjestelmä, which means 'system' or literally something that is organized. Then, we make it a verb again. We get järjestelmällistyttää 'to make into a system'. And then we make it a noun again! Because why not! Järjestelmällistyttämättömyys is 'the act of not making something into a system'. See how we're wading into Jabberwocky territory? I'll stop here, but feel free to keep going in the comments!
But yeah, the meme does have real point. Finnish words are often really long, which can be super confusing and annoying when you're starting out. We like to stick stuff together to make new meanings, and then we stick stuff at the beginning and end to convey things like tone, negation or asking. What are your favorite or most hated long Finnish words?