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?
I'm happy and honored to be a guest blogger on the awesome Random Finnish Lesson today!
The post is about practicing pronunciation and our book Fonetiikka suomen kielen oppijoille.
The post is in simple Finnish, so if you already know some Finnish, you'll be able to understand at least some of it.
I teach Finnish in Helsinki and online, mainly private lessons but also at Helsingin työväenopisto, which is a non profit adult education institute funded mainly by anyone who pays their taxes to Finland. Organizing a course in Helsinki costs a few thousand euros depending on things like the length of the course, how many people are attending, the venue, the study materials, the teacher's salary and how much VAT you need to pay, so for profit private courses can get pretty expensive for the student. However, at Helsingin työväenopisto you can do a semester long course, twice a week, for 47 euros, and a four week course for as little as 8 euros. We have a variety of Finnish courses for different levels as well as many other languages, philosophy, cooking, yoga, music and art history, just to name a few. So if you're in Helsinki, be sure to sign up!
I have four courses coming up this autumn:
Suomi 2: Finnish for those who already know the very basics
This group started from 0 with me in September 2017. We've covered all of Suomen mestari 1 so far and will be doing chapters 1 to 4 from Suomen mestari 2 this autumn. The group has evolved along the way, with lots of new faces in January, so don't worry if you weren't there last year! There will be lots of communicative exercises as well as music and movement to help you learn, and as with me always, a focus on speaking and spoken language, pronunciation, intonation and rhythm. But of course we'll also be digging into writing, reading comprehension and grammar.
Place: Opistotalo, Helsinginkatu 26, room 405
Time: Tuesdays from 16.45 to 19.15 and Thursdays from 16.45 to 18.15
Suomi 4: Intermediate Finnish
This is a brand new group for me, and our starting level will be B1.2. At B1.2, you're able to communicate quite fluently in basic situations, like buying a coffee, having a simple one on one conversation in Finnish or writing a simple e-mail in Finnish. Following a rapid conversation between native speakers may still be really confusing, but you should be able to catch words and phrases here and there and make educated guesses about what's going on. Same goes for reading a newspaper - you might not understand everything yet, but your guesses about what the article is about are usually right. The news in simple Finnish, Selkouutiset, is quite easy to understand at this point. You're also able to do some more complex stuff, like expressing your opinion in Finnish in both written and spoken contexts. You might still make lots of mistakes and have complete blackouts every now and then, but you can usually make yourself understood.
In this course, we'll be covering chapters 1-4 from Suomen mestari 4. We'll be looking at the more advanced grammar structures found in written Finnish as well as diving more deeply into spoken Finnish. As we'll only be meeting once a week and covering quite a lot, make sure you have time to study at home, to do a lot of homework and to practice your Finnish regularly.
Place: Opistotalo, Helsinginkatu 26, room 405
Time: Thursdays 18.30-21.00
Suomen kielen ääntämiskurssi: Finnish pronunciation
These are two mini courses that I'm especially happy about, which will be pretty much identical in content. But you're very welcome to attend both if you really want to practice your pronunciation and don't mind repeating some of the same exercises!
In four two hour sessions, we'll be covering the basics of Finnish pronunciation: intonation (also known as the melody of speech), rhythm, vowels, consonants and combinations of sounds, especially diphthongs (ie, ei, äi, iä, ou, uo, öy, yö...). There will be lots of exercises to to both in class and at home. We'll also be doing a lot of listening to help you with your listening comprehension. No prior knowledge of Finnish needed, but I'm hoping to make this a very useful course for anyone struggling with pronunciation or listening comprehesion, regardless of level. We'll also be using music and movement to help you learn as efficiently as possible.
Place: Opistotalo, Helsinginkatu 26, room 405 (we'll also be using the language studio, room 316)
The first course will be on Tuesdays from 15.00 to 16.30 starting on the 11th of September.
The second course will be on Tuesdays from 13.00 to 14.30 starting on the 30th of October
Enrollment begins on the 17th of August at 11 am, and you can find more info about all my courses at Työväenopisto here at ilmonet. Hope to see you in my classes in September!
Picture by arunas68