I’ve started Finnish lessons, which I love. The teacher is great and my classmates come from Canada, Spain, Venezuela, England, Nigeria, USA, Germany, Switzerland, Poland, Russia, Estonia, Nepal, India, Pakistan….who said Finland is not a diverse country?
Here’s a few things I’ve learnt about studying languages so far:
Finnish is not so difficult
Ha! Well the grammar is and we’re yet to really get into it, but the words are great. Lento (flight) + kone (machine) = lentokone (airplane). Jää (ice) + karhu (bear) = jääkarhu (polar bear). You get the idea. Which is why it wasn’t too difficult and felt so good to be able to answer my teacher when she asked me to say 65,493 (although it did take me a while)*.
It’s all relative
When learning weather words we used a map of the world and next to Sydney, Australia was an icon saying +10 degrees celcius. I of course used the adjective viileä (cool) but the correct answer was lämmin (warm). According to our textbook, “Etelä-Suomessa ei ole talvella aina pakkasta” (South-Finland is not alway freezing in winter). We must save the word pakkasta (freezing) for when it gets below -15.
Cowboys say ‘iii-ha-ha’
Finnish cats say ‘nau’, Finnish people say ‘oh-ho’ instead of ‘oops’ and Finnish cowboys say ‘iii-ha-ha!’
The brain is a filing cabinet
My theory on learning languages is that the brain is like a filing cabinet and each language goes in a different drawer. Somewhere in my brain is a drawer of high-school Japanese that is gathering dust, but if I had to open the drawer I could rifle through it and dust off some of what I learnt.
The thing is I am currently studying Finnish and Italian so when my brain doesn’t know a word in Finnish, it automatically goes down to the next ‘foreign language drawer’ and starts looking in the Italian drawer. Which makes me want to say things like “Minä olen uudesta seelannista ma abbiamo vissuto in Australia per dieci anni.” (I am from New Zealand (FINNISH) but we lived in Australia for ten years (ITALIAN)).
My filing cabinet needs a spring clean
My brain is getting a work out as my Italian class is conducted in Italian and it takes me a while to realise when the teacher has switched to Finnish, which is okay if I know the Finnish words she has used (“For homework do exercise…”).
With all this jumping between languages sometimes I go to tell people ‘I am learning Spanish’ – which is not true – and my mind quickly recalibrates and grabs hold of ‘Finnish’ which has led me at times to tell people ‘I am learning Spinach.’
I think I need to lie down.
* kuusikymmentäviisituhatta neljäsataayhdeksänkymmentäkolme