Hi, 5 ways to improve your Finnish

Let’s be honest: learning Finnish is hard. And as Finns themselves will tell you: Finnish is not even that useful worldwide. However, as students and expats living in Finland, we want to integrate and be able to share the language and experiences as a Finn would.
Granted, there are prodigies which were blessed by the Kalevalan magical artifact Sampo that can speak fluent Finnish within a year. For the rest of us mortals, the path to go beyond Terve and Kiitos is a long, arduous one.
The following 5 ways to improve your Finnish will hopefully help you on this language adventure as they have helped yours truly.

In English  | 

Text Marcelo Goldmann

Get in the proper mindset

Learning Finnish will not be automatic (unless you’re one of the prodigies mentioned above). You have to first understand that learning a language requires effort, practice, and curiosity. Yes, it’s extra work, but if you like the Finnish language, it will be work that will bring you great pleasure. Because Finnish is not your mother tongue, the path to fluency will be challenging, but you’re not the first person to learn it nor will you be the last. You’re not alone.


An apple a day

They say “An apple a day keeps the doctor away”. This might not be strictly true, but what is true is that with everything, practice makes perfect. If you don’t have a chance to practice Finnish very often, at least try learning a new word every day and using it in a sentence. Another option is to watch Finnish programs on TV. It’s very challenging at first, but as the days add up, you will start understanding more and more.


Don’t be afraid to make mistakes

Most people will be flattered that you want to speak their language. Even if you make mistakes when speaking or writing, do your best to be understood. In the end, the most basic purpose of language is moving information from your head to the other person’s head. If you succeed at this, even with less-than-perfect grammar, you will be one step closer to mastering the language.


Be proud of your progress

No one will be as harsh on you than yourself. Be proud of all the little progress you make in your Finnish. It’s not only important to work hard and practice; you should also pat yourself in the back  every time you have a successful conversation or manage to solve a situation which requires the Finnish language.


Don’t give up

In Finland, it is very easy to be “lazy” and default to the lingua franca English. Most Finns have at least a rudimentary understanding of English and you will be able to survive in most scenarios with just that. Especially after you have learned the basics of Finnish, the difficulty curve will rise exponentially and you will be tempted to give up because “it’s just too hard” or you “just don’t have time”. Everything that’s worth it requires work and effort. If you want to learn Finnish, just keep practicing and don’t stop; you will find yourself, without even noticing it, speaking more and more Finnish without having to interject with English or “Finnglish”.

Published 9.4.2019

Marcelo Goldmann

A Doctor of Chemical Engineering from the University of Oulu. "Life is like a rubber duckie, you gotta keep it afloat to see its splendor." Instagram: @marcelogman

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