I’ve been studying Finnish for a couple of years now, but I seem to have hit a wall. What could I do to get over this?
I feel you! With any new skill, there’s often a steep learning curve at the beginning. You easily notice your own progress, and it tends to be quite rewarding. But when you get to an early intermediate level, it can even start to feel like you’re going backwards all of a sudden. You’re actually not, you just know so much more now, and because of that it’s now much harder to put all that knowledge into practice. You find yourself making mistakes with things that you “should” know by now and you feel discouraged and like you’ll never learn.
My advice for this situation is to think about what would make learning Finnish as enjoyable as possible for you. What has been the most fun part of learning Finnish so far, for you personally? Do more of that! Or what have you always wanted to be able to do in Finnish? Start trying to do that! Try to let go of the idea of what you should be enjoying and think about what you actually enjoy. For some people, it’s really and truly conjugating verb after verb. It might be something like watching a series on Netflix, or listening to music, or a podcast, reading a blog or participating in some kind of community.
However, in my years of teaching Finnish I’ve noticed that there’s one thing that seems to be somehow above the rest: reading books in easy Finnish or selkokieli. A good simplified version of a book is just as enjoyable (or even more enjoyable!) and valuable as the original version, and for many of my students it’s been just the thing to get out of a slump. It often works even for those who don’t enjoy reading in general.
So a book in easy Finnish might be just the thing. Check out Hanna Männikölahti’s wonderful blog Random Finnish Lesson for tips on what to read. A book that I’ve often recommended to start with is Toppatakin alla on sydän (thank you Hanna for the tip). Another great one is Yösyttö, especially if you have small children. But there are lots and lots of options!
If you live in Finland, books in easy Finnish are easy to access for free at your local library, but you can also buy them online. Here is a list of free book samples in easy Finnish by Hanna. One of my favorite YouTube channels, Almost Finns, has a great video about books in easy Finnish, which is another great place to start.
Have you ever read a book in easy Finnish? What did you think? What books would you recommend? What has helped you stay motivated with your studies in the long term? Let me know in the comments below, or on Facebook!
Picture by LubosHouska
Voisitko selittää verbi koskea englanniksi? Miten mä käytän?
Could you explain the verb koskea in English? How do I use it?
The verb koskea is quite a tricky one, as it has quite a lot of uses and meanings that all look quite different at a glance. According to Kielitoimiston sanakirja, koskea has five main meanings:
1. to touch, as in to touch something with your hand:
Lapseni koski puhelimeeni likaisilla käsillään, ja nyt puhelinkin on ihan likainen!
My child touched my phone with dirty hands, and now the phone is dirty too!
2. to get involved in something
En halua koskeakaan tähän asiaan!
"I don't even want to get involved with this", so literally: I don't even want to touch this (topic/meeting/business..)
3. affect in a negative way
Työttömyys koskee monia ihmisiä.
Unemployment affects many people.
Tämä asia ei koske minua mitenkään.
This doens't affect me in any way.
4. to cause pain (literally or metaphorically):
Vastaan koskee. = Vatsa on kipeä = Vatsaan sattuu.
(My) stomach hurts.
Minuun koskee, kun luen Afganistanin kriisistä.
Reading about the crisis in Afganistan hurts (me).
5. to concern:
Nämä ohjeet eivät koske sinua.
These instructions don't concern you (or don't affect you).
Tämä ohje koskee koko toimistoa.
This instruction concerns (= is applied to) the whole office.
So the same verb can be translated to English in many, many different ways depending on the context it is used in.
Just a few questions. How is your teaching focus on yki testi?
I enrolled in another course and because we are 16 not all are given time to speak up.
Also most of materials are also from free resources which can be easily find online.
Thanks for your message and great questions!
The main focus in Steps towards YKI is on speaking and writing, and especially on personal feedback for both. Each week, there's a YKI style speaking task (that you record and send to me) and writing task that I give you personal feedback on. At the end of the course you also do a YKI style test in speaking and writing that I call the mini-YKI, which I assess as if you were taking the actual test, so using the YKI speaking and writing criteria and YKI levels (less than 3, 3 and 4).
We meet on Zoom for an hour each week. Most of the hour is spent in breakout rooms practicing speaking with your peers (3-4 people) exactly for the reason you mention - a group discussion of 12 people would not allow for a lot of speaking time per person, and also it can be intimidating for many of us to speak up in such a big group (I know it would be for me, and I'm quite extroverted). I visit each room for personal guidance, but the amount of personal guidance during the lesson itself is of course very limited. However, the group is a maximum of 12, so that does still allow for personal contact and guidance.
Then there's reading comprehension and listening comprehension, the materials for which are a combination of my own and freely available online resources, like Gimara's materials and Yle's YKItreenit. However, I find there's also a lot of value in having a professional teacher telling you which of the free resources to use each week, and also how to use them to your best advantage. The same goes for grammar, where I also supplement my own materials with freely available online ones. The proportion of how much of my own materials vs. freely available ones are used varies depending on the course, but I'd say on average 2/3 of all materials are my own and 1/3 is freely available. Especially listening comprehension exercises are often from free resources, as creating good quality YKI style listening comprehension exercises takes quite a lot of work. I do make some of those as well, but less than I'd like to if time and energy were unlimited.
I'm also available for any questions you might have between meeting during the entire duration of the course, and having a group of peers around also provides structure and support.
So, in short, the focus in Steps towards YKI is on speaking and writing and personal feedback for those, as well as personal support between lessons. The course includes quite a lot of independent work, as the homework is about 2/3 of the coursework altogether, depending on the student of course.
What a strange year 2021 has been so far!
I moved all my teaching online in November, when case counts started to climb in Helsinki, and have been 100 % online since. Though I love online teaching alongside with teaching face to face, I've learned that I do my best work when I'm in the same physical space as my students at least once in a while. I've started dreaming about teaching an actual group or class, and hope that it's not too far off.
All my projects are more or less stalling, though of course I'm really lucky that I can still keep going with them, and that I still have really wonderful students that I get to safely meet online. But the fatigue is certainly real!
We've also been having especially cold weather in Helsinki lately. This is a wonderful thing in an abstract sense - I love having four seasons, in theory - but winter is by far not my favorite, especially when temperatures are so cold that my face feels like it will fall off within minutes of venturing out. Masks do come in handy for that, I can't believe it took a pandemic to learn that covering your mouth and nose actually does help when it's extremely cold.
In addition to my lovely private students, I do have some wonderful things going on:
Talven ihmemaa takapihalla.
Talve+n ihme+maa taka+piha+lla.
Winter+genitive wonder+land back+yard+on.
Winter wonderland in my back yard.
(This is not my actual back yard, but almost!)
What a strange year we've all had! Despite the pandemic, I've wholeheartedly enjoyed teaching this year. Balancing running a small business and being the mother of a toddler is still a huge challenge, but my wonderful students and new
Here's Kärhämä's beautiful song about the history of the Finnish word for Christmas or Yule, joulu. This one doesn't have subtitles yet, but it's well worth listening to even if you can't understand the words.
Hyvää joulua ja onnellista uutta vuotta 2021!
One of my favorite blogs on learning Finnish is called Random Finnish Lesson. Hanna from Random Finnish lesson is doing a blog series on other Finnish teachers who run their own small businesses, and I'm honored to be a guest blogger there this week. Click here to read it!
The verb jankata means "to say the same thing over and over in an insistant manner":
Aina hän jankkaa sitä samaa asiaa!
= She's always saying the same thing!
Kärhämä is a folk music group that sings about the etymologies or origins of Finnish words. Here's their version of the origin of jankata, based on the brand new research article "Suomen Jankata" by Jeongdo Kim (2020), with subtitles in English!
"Stubbornly insisting, arguing,
Harping on the same old barking
Yakking like a false sonata
That’s the tone of the verb jankata!"
My previous post about preparing for YKI was written over two years ago, and also at a time when I wasn't quite up to speed on the latest developlments in the world of YKI. Now, I'm regularly helping students prepare for their YKI exams again, so it's high time for an updated version!
1. Start by getting on idea of what your current level in Finnish is. If you have access to a Finnish language professional to help you figure out what your current level is, great (you could even hire me to help you with this if you like). If you don't (and actually, even if you do), check out the criteria for the YKI skill levels. While your're reading the criteria, think about your current skills. Where are you on the YKI scale at the moment? The YKI levels correspond with the CEFR levels, so you might want to check out those as well. Helsingin aikuisopisto also has a test to help you with self-assessment.
2. Set a realistic goal. If you've only just begun to study Finnish, it'll take a year at the very least to get to level 3, and this is if you can study and practice daily. It might take much longer, because things like life and stress and insomnia and falling in love and spending all your time playing the guitar have a tendency of getting in the way of language learning. But if you're a gifted learner and have all the right resources to study hard and learn quickly, it's possible to get there in a year.
3. Make some kind of plan. When will you take the test? Will you attend a course or hire a private teacher beforehand to help you prepare? Will you use a textbook? There are many excellent teachers and YKI courses out there, but some great options are my very own Steps towards YKI online course and my Puhetta! B1-B2 course on speaking for more advanced intermediate students.
4. Practice with Yle's YKItreenit. If you plan to attend a course, you might also do these during the course, but some repetition never hurts. Gimara also has some great, free materials to help you practice for YKI.
5. Read Hanna Männikkölahti's YKI tips on her excellent blog Random Finnish Lesson.
6. Sign up for the test as early as possible. Before the current pandemic, you already had to be quick to secure a spot in the YKI test, especially in the Helsinki region, but now that some tests were canceled in the spring there is a real shortage of test spots, and I've heard that they tend to fill up in a few minutes. If it's a possibility for you to do the test in another city than Helsinki, that might be worth considering, as there's usually better availability in smaller cities.
7. Get as much information about the test as you can. Get acquainted with the structure of the test, and if at all possible, do some kind of practice test. You can find a demo test with explanations here. Most longer YKI preparative courses will include a practice test or even several.
8. Study in the months and weeks before the test, but relax the day, night and morning before. Panicky last minute revision may work for some people doing some tests some of the time, but the YKI test is a test with the goal of assessing all of your knowledge of the Finnish language. The day before, if you're not ready then it's too late anyway, so you might as well spend your time doing something fun to take your mind off it and to balance out the hard day of testing ahead.
9. Put it into perspective. Tests are never perfect, and they unfortunately never capture the whole truth about anyone's language skills. So if happen to fail or get a worse level than you hoped for, don't despair - maybe you had a bad day or some bad luck with the topics assigned in the test. Take some time to figure out where the problem was and make plans to try again.
10. Believe in yourself. You can do this, I know you can!
Kuvan otti lil_foot_ (Pixabay).
In the last few months, I've been working on my very own online intermediate YKI course series, Steps towards YKI, and I'm happy to announce that the course is finally online and up for registration!
Steps towards YKI is a series of nine Finnish courses that will help students reach B1 (YKI level 3) and prepare for the YKI intermediate test, which is a Finnish language test often required when applying for Finnish citizenship. The theme of the course changes each month, as do the materials we'll be covering. It's possible to participate in just one course, do the whole series of courses or just pick and choose the courses that suit the student's needs best. I'll be teaching in both Finnish and English, so the course is best suited for those who are fluent in English.
We'll be meeting on Wednesdays at 18.30-19.30 on Zoom and using Whatsapp to communicate between lessons. Click here to learn more and sign up!
For more advanced students (B1-B2), I have a speaking and listening comprehension coming up. It's called Puhetta! and will take place online on Thursday evenings (18.30-19.30 Finnish time) in October. This will be the same course as the popular Puhetta! course that I'm teaching in August. More about Puhetta! here.
As always, I'm also available for private lessons. My teaching calendar for August is full, as is my face to face calendar for the rest of the year, but I have a few online spots left in September. More about private lessons here.
The wonderful language learning community Gimara interviewed me yesterday! I talked to Gimara's Marja Ahola about teaching and learning Finnish, about my new online course in August and about building a small teaching business. The video is in Finnish, but Finnish subtitles are coming up to help you follow along if you should wish to!
Gimara is a great resource for learning Finnish. They regularly post free video lessons for different levels from beginner to advanced on their various social media accounts, especially YouTube and Facebook.
Ask a Finnish Teacher / Toiminimi Mari Nikonen
BUSINESS ID (Y-Tunnus) 2930787-4
VAT NUMBER FI29307874
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+358 40 554 29 55