An important lesson in Finnish

With such a mild winter, the sea near Kaivopuisto is not quite frozen and resembles a big bay of slushy pea soup.


Across the soup lies Uunisaari, a small island that is a 3-minute boat ride away in summer and connected by a bridge in winter.


The island was once home to varnish producers and coffin makers. Today there is a restaurant and, of course, various sauna.



There’s also a swimming beach which can be used in winter for ice swimming when a hole is cut in the ice.


The island is popular with dog-walkers and there’s even a spot to sit and watch big chunks of ice as they float out to sea.


On the day I visited I was surprised by how many boats there were, left from summer and now filled with ice and snow.



I heard recently of a visitor to Finland who marvelled at the prolific Finnish artist Älä Koske, whose name they had seen everywhere in art galleries and museums. (Älä koske is Finnish for Don’t Touch).


So luckily I can speak Spinach and let you know that Uunisaari is definitely worth a return visit in summer – although you’ll probably find the fabulous Cafe Suljettu* has gone.

*Suljettu means closed


I’m speaking Spinach

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.

Ravintola = Restaurant

Ravintola = Restaurant

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)).


Finnish, Swedish, English

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