It’s no secret that if you’re traveling to Finland you don’t need to speak Finnish. People in Finland, young and old, speak English very well. That begs the question, “Why would I learn Finnish then?”
For starters both Finnish and Swedish are both the official languages of Finland. That means almost all the signs you see will be in both Finnish and/or Swedish. I’ll be the first to tell you that not being able to read signs is a huge pain for anyone in a foreign country.
On top of that, I’m a big believer in assimilating to the native culture. This means eating traditional food, drink and also learning a functional amount of the local language. I’ve found this makes for a much more authentic and enjoyable experience.
Lucky for you learning Finnish is relatively easy.
When you speak English as a first language, it’s fairly easy to pick up languages that at least use the same letters as you. Finnish is one of those languages.
When traveling everything that can go wrong will go wrong. You’re just getting off the airplane, trying to get a bus to the city center. You’re trying to find a hotel. And you can’t figure out which sign goes to the city center or the suburbs.
It’s then you’ll wish you had taken the time to learn Finnish.
In Finland the locals can be a little cold at first. Learning Finnish can bridge the gap as an outsider. If you grasp the baisics of the native language, their friendliness to you increases exponentially.
I ended up enrolling in Fluent in 3 Months (link) and applying the overall concepts of the program to Finnish. I’ve never been a huge fan of in-person language lessons. With a busy schedule, trying to coordinate lessons with a local instructor is very time consuming. Jumping online when I have a few free minutes to learn is much more convenient for me.
What Is Fluent in 3 Months, and Can You Really Learn Finnish Online?
If you’re a self-learner, you’re going to love Fi3M.
My issue with learning languages has always been the practicality of it. It doesn’t do me any good to know how to say ‘Mom/Dad/Sister/Cousin/Second Uncle twice removed’ when I’m out and about in a place like Helsinki. I need to know the basic stuff that makes life easier to live.
Things such as…
Which bus stop is this?
May I have a [insert food/drink]?
Where is [insert attraction]?
Maybe even an “inside joke” or two
I don’t need to ask someone about their family because I’m simply not going to be doing that. Sure, there is a time and place for that, but if you’re traveling abroad you need to learn how to handle yourself in day-to-day conversations, not have intimate conversations with people.
That’s a flaw that many language study programs have—they teach you too much fluff. While this is “easy” as it’s only a matter of saying individual words, it’s absolutely useless in real-world application.
As you can see, the Finnish alphabet is almost identical to the English alphabet. The only exception is the “A” and “O” with two dots over it. Another thing you might see is two letters together. Ex: Bus= Bussi. The “ss” just means you make the sound longer when you are speaking. For the most part you can pronounce things just as you would reading them in English.
Not too bad, right?
If you want to learn Finnish as a self-starter, it’s a good idea to combine visual and audio learning with typical language lessons. This means that their flashcard system will effectively “burn” pictures into your mind, too. While at the same time the audio pronunciations will connect what you see with what you hear. This way you have two points of reference when trying to remember a specific Finnish word.
They also have many easy to reference lists of the most common 100, 200, 300etc. words used. I also found their search feature extremely helpful for when I was in a crunch and needed to know a specific word.
I have to come clean about what I said earlier. Learning Finnish is easy, at first, but gets progressively harder as you move towards mastery. Yes, many words sound just like those in English except with an “i” on the end(prounouced “ee”). But then you come across words like Hyvää yötä (He-va-yeta)— Good night. You start to realize there is a bit more nuance than just adding an “i” on to every English word.
This is where Finnish Pod comes in handy. Finnish words are either very easy to pronounce or quite difficult. Luckily, Finnish Pod lets you jump around and focus specifically on the words you are having trouble pronouncing. After a while you will see patterns. Many of the letters you are not used to seeing together like “Hy” (pronounced “He”) are used over and over again.
Being able to enunciate words in their proper way will greatly help you out if you end up in a sticky situation. When in doubt sound the word out like you would in English, chances are you will be close enough locals will understand you.
Whether you want to start to learn Finnish or become fluent, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better option than utilizing the lessons given in Fi3M. It gives you practical advice that you can use and practice in the real world, while foregoing a lot of the unnecessary work that many other learning methods choose to dedicate themselves too.
I don’t know about you, but I need to be able to ask for a coffee much more than ask how the weather is. I can always just look to the sky for that.
‘Til next time,
PS: If you want to get good at a language like Finnish fast, make sure to check out Fluent in 3 Months.
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