This article is written by a visiting star Jevgeni Särki. Jevgeni's profession is to help people with self-confidence in social situations. Currently Jevgeni lives in Riga, the capital of Latvia, where he studies psychology at the university.
Do you want to learn Finnish language faster? The best way to learn a new language is to speak it as much as possible. The more you speak, the more practice you’ll get. The more practice you get, the faster you’ll learn.
This is why I present 9 tips, which will help you speak and learn more Finnish. These tips work for other languages as well. I personally moved from Finland to Latvia last year and have used these same tips to learn Latvian language.
1. Learn this important sentence right now
Learning a new language can be difficult and scary. For this reason it’s worth learning the following sentence and start using it every time, when you are talking with new people:
”Anteeksi, minä en vielä puhu suomea, mutta yritän oppia sitä”.
It means: ”Sorry, I do not speak Finnish yet, but I’m trying to learn it.”
This is a very good sentence for the following reason:
When people get to know, that you do not speak Finnish yet, they will act sympathetically and understandingly towards you, even if you make mistakes or speak very slowly. They may even help you to talk the right way! Many Finnish people also have a lot of respect towards people, who try to learn Finnish language.
2. Attend many different kinds of situations and events
People use different words and talk about different topics in different situations. If you are attending a music concert, you will speak about different things than you would speak in a football match. If you attend a dance class, you will speak about different things than if you attend a yoga session. You will speak about different topics in a grocery shop than in a school.
The more you attend different kinds of events and situations, the more you get to speak about different kinds of topics. This way you will learn more Finnish language than if you just visit the same situations over and over. This is why I recommend you to actively attend as much different situations as possible.
Going to a new situations may feel difficult. But the fact is, it’s most difficult the first time around. The second and the third times will be much easier. The first time is always the hardest. The first time you will be in a new situation, you will learn new words and talk about new topics. After you learn these, they will make it easier to go to the same situation next time.
One great way to talk more Finnish is to attend Finnish language meetings. Suomi Sujuu organises two meetings a week, in which you can both listen and speak Finnish language.
3. Say at least something in every situation
We Finns are quiet people. We can deal with many social situations without even talking to each other! For example, we can visit a grocery store without even talking to a cashier! In Finland you do not have to speak, if you do not want to. But staying quiet is not a good thing if you want to learn Finnish language as fast as possible.
This is why I recommend you to say at least few words in every situation you find yourself in. If you go to a grocery store, say hi to the cashier when you come in and wish him/her a farewell when you leave. When you board a bus, say hi to a driver. If you go to a library, ask a librarian about where to find a particular book, instead of searching for it yourself.
4. Ask one question in every situation
The effective method of learning a language is to ask a lot of questions. When we ask questions, we get to speak the language. When other people answer our questions, we get to listen to their answers. This way we get both to speak and to listen.
For this reason I recommend you to ask a lot of questions. Ask at least one question in every situation. I personally use this method every day when I’m learning Latvian language. For example:
- When I’m in a shop, I may ask the cashier: until what time this shop is open?
- When I am in a taxi, I may ask the driver: has he had a good day today?
- When I am in a post office, I may ask an employee: how much does it cost to send a letter to Finland?
I do not ask these kind of questions because I am really interested in the answer. I ask them, because this way I get to practice speaking the language.
At first it is important, that we ask mostly easy questions. That way asking questions will not become too difficult for us. It’s easier to speak, when we are not speaking about too difficult topics.
5. Don't be concerned, if people don't understand you yet
Learning a new language may feel difficult and stressful. That is natural, because doing completely new things usually is difficult! You may feel stressed out, because you do not want to make mistakes all the time. It may feel embarrassing to say something the wrong way.
I personally want to encourage you to speak Finnish as much as possible, even though you make a lot of mistakes. Especially in the beginning mistakes cannot be avoided, they just have to be endured. The most important thing in the beginning is to speak a lot, not to speak 100 % correctly. Do not be overly concerned about making mistakes!
Even we Finns do not speak 100 % correct Finnish! So it’s not too serious to make some mistakes while speaking.
6. Ask constantly about meaning of the words you don’t know yet
There are a lot of words in Finnish language! It can be difficult to remember them all, especially in the beginning of your studies. For this reason it’s a good habit to ask about their meanings. When you hear a word that you do not know yet, you can ask what it means:
”Sorry, but what means the word joulupukki?” / ”Anteeksi, mutta mitä tarkoittaa sana joulupukki?”
”Sorry, but what means the word pesukone?” / ”Anteeksi, mutta mitä tarkoittaa sana pesukone?”
”Sorry, but what means the word aikataulu?” / ”Anteeksi, mutta mitä tarkoittaa sana aikataulu?”
The more you ask, the faster you’ll learn. You also get to have fun conversations, when people try to explain the meanings of different words to you.
At first it may feel embarrassing to be constantly asking about the meaning of the words. It’s understandable that we feel this way, because we do not want to bother other people too much. You can try to find some courage in the thought, that this ”asking phase” will last only a short time. When you finally learn the word, you won’t have the need to ask about it ever again. Also, most people are usually eager to help. We just need to ask!
7. Ask other people to help you with your speaking
We Finns are often too sensitive and tactful. If we speak with a foreigner and he/she makes a mistake while speaking, we are afraid to bring it up, because we don’t want to hurt his/hers feelings.
If you want to learn Finnish fast, it’s often worth to mention, that you want your mistakes to be corrected. Ask people to correct your mistakes, give them permission to help you. For example:
”Minä yritän oppia suomea. Arvostan todella paljon, jos minulle sanotaan, kun teen virheitä.”
This means: ”I am trying to learn Finnish. I really appreciate it, if you tell me, when I make a mistake.”
Again, most people are eager to help, as long as we first ask for it. Many people also respect it a lot, that someone is humbe enough to ask for help!
8. Speak in two languages
If you are speaking with someone in Finnish, but don’t know how to say something, you can use the ”two language trick”:
Say the sentence first in English and after that try to immediately say it in Finnish. This way your companion will know, what you are trying to say (because you said it in English). Often enough he/she will even help you say it correctly in Finnish too.
”Can you please tell me, where can I find a Nordea bank?” and immediately after that the same in Finnish: ”Osaatteko sanoa, mistä löydän Nordea -pankin?”
9. Smile a lot and behave positively
Learning a new language, asking questions and asking for help are difficult things. We may often feel embarrassed or shy, because we feel that we are not good enough. Luckily there is a one easy way to protect ourselves from this embarrassment: smiling a lot and behaving positively.
This is effective for the following reasons:
When we cannot speak the new language yet, we may speak very slowly and incorrectly. For this reason many people feel that it’s very tiresome to talk with us. We know it and that may make us feel embarrassed.
When, in spite of this we act positively and smile a lot, we can count on being received more positively by other people. People mostly like other people, who are positive. And when we know, that others will probably receive us positively, we may find some additional confidence to speak Finnish.