The last post I wrote about learning Finnish was in April (almost 7 months ago now!). I had just moved to Helsinki and I was a few weeks into a 2 month intensive Finnish language course. I have been studying Finnish for over a year now. 8 months in Finland and 4.5 in the UK.
So, on returning to Finland for another winter season as a Husky Guide, I think it is about time to explain: Why I am doing this challenge? What I have been up to for the last few months? Did I achieved my language goal? What are my next steps…
I have been thinking about this a lot recently. There was a particularly uninspiring day where I questioned whether it is even worth it… So, I think a re-evaluation of why I am learning the language will be beneficial.
- Curiosity – To see if I can…
- To learn about the culture and people on a deeper level – Languages are there to communicate with others, through writing, speaking and listening. But, every language has unique qualities, and by learning it, you will understand more about the culture.
- To be able to communicate with people in their own tongue – Although many Finns do speak good English, many don’t and it always feels great to have exchanges in the native language.
- To challenge myself – Challenges help me focus my energy and time, and I enjoy doing them and find them rewarding and interesting.
- To learn – I’ve always wanted to speak another language, fluently, so… (next point)
- Why not? – There’s nothing to lose by trying.
- I work and live here – I am a trained guide, and will be working a second season here now. It will only help if I have a good grasp of Finnish, and being in the country is the perfect place to learn.
WHAT HAVE I BEEN UP TO SINCE APRIL?
Quite a lot has happened in this time, and to stop myself getting carried away and writing a a small flowery essay, I have done a summary below which should fill in the gaps.
THE LAST 7 MONTHS
April – Mid July – Helsinki
During this period I moved to Helsinki and studied on the intensive Finnish Course for 2 months. I worked in a bar part time to try and keep the bank balance level. I was speaking as much Finnish as I could. I also spent some time with family and friends who were visiting from the UK, and went on several trips around the country in my free time. And I sold my dear Toyota Corolla.
Mid July – End of August – UK
Returned to the UK in mid July. I got my Paddlesport level 01 coaching award, also learnt to roll a kayak in the process and then had knee surgery at the end August.
September – December – UK
It was mainly spent recovering from surgery and doing a selection of temporary jobs when I was able to do so, and selling a load of stuff on ebay. The first stages of rehab went well and my doctor said I would be able to work as a guide again in December.
December – April – Taivalkoski, Finland
My doctor said I could start doing guiding work from December. Coincidentally, a few days later I received a message from Saija Lodge, asking if I was available to work this season. I accepted and I am currently back in Finland for another winter.
WHILST IN THE UK
Language-wise I continued to study Finnish almost daily whilst I was in the UK, doing the below regularly.
- Speaking with my girlfriend in Finnish – Almost daily basis, around 10-20 minutes before changing to English
- Speaking with a language partner – 30 minutes every 2 weeks
- Messaging Finnish friends and people on the HelloTalk app – Few times a week
- Reviewing my flashcards on the Anki app – Usually a couple of times a week. I wasn’t adding new words however.
- Using the Worddive App – 30 minutes 5-6 days a week. I got in touch with Worddive and told them about my challenge, and they kindly offered me 6 months free use as a guest blogger. I will write a full review about this application soon.
I was keeping my Finnish ticking over. I was still learning, but I feel I wasn’t putting that much energy into it, plateauing slightly. Although, looking at the list above, I was doing more than I realised.
DID I ACHIEVE MY LANGUAGE LEARNING GOALS?
NO! My original plan was to achieve fluency. After a few months of studying, I adjusted this to a more realistic target. I hoped to achieve a B1/B2 level – An intermediate to high intermediate level (Using the CEFR chart as a benchmark). I thought that this might be possible, but I didn’t quite make it there either.
I also set myself many ‘mini’ goals such as reading and speaking more, to learning how to conjugate verbs. I achieved some of these goals and failed massively in others: take a look at my previous blog posts for a summary.
So what is my level? Realistically, I am at an A2 level, sometimes dipping into a low B1 level, in almost all areas (Understanding, Speaking and Writing). Some areas are better than others.
MY NEXT STEPS AND LANGUAGE GOAL
Throughout this journey I have felt a few ‘movements’ inside my brain, as if a giant cog had clunked forward one step – “Aha” moments. These moments feel incredible, so I will keep chasing them.
I am at a level where I am comfortable speaking low to intermediate level Finnish, but for me to follow the conversation fully it usually has to be on my level.
So… Over the next few months in Finland I will aim to.
- Regain my curiosity of the language – Immerse myself and study more
- Speak more – Try at least 30 minutes a day
- Write more – To friends and in a diary
- Listen more – To converstaions, radio, audio books and TV
- Read more – Read aloud regularly also
With a focus on:
- Increasing my listening understanding
- Increasing my vocabulary – Adding words on anki
- Understanding grammar rules better
- Refining my use of post prepositions
- Learning more tenses and using them in everyday conversation
And, more importantly, my NEXT GOAL, by the end of July is to have:
A LANGUAGE LEVEL OF B2 IN FINNISH
I’ve just read through the B2 level (shown below), and it is an ambitious attempt, but lets see how I get on.. I mean it is not as ambitious as trying to learn fluently in 5 months, who in their right mind would even attempt such a ridiculous task!?… ahem).
So, till the next time.
B2 LANGUAGE LEVEL BY CEFR :
Spoken Interaction: I can interact with a degree of fluency and spontaneity that makes regular interaction with native speakers quite possible. I can take an active part in discussion in familiar contexts, accounting for and sustaining my views.
Spoken Production: I can present clear, detailed descriptions on a wide range of subjects related to my field of interest. I can explain a viewpoint on a topical issue giving the advantages and disadvantages of various options.
Listening: I can understand extended speech and lectures and follow even complex lines of argument provided the topic is reasonably familiar. I can understand most TV news and current affairs programmes. I can understand the majority of films in standard dialect.
Reading: I can read articles and reports concerned with contemporary problems in which the writers adopt particular attitudes or viewpoints. I can understand contemporary literary prose.
I can write clear, detailed text on a wide range of subjects related to my interests. I can write an essay or report, passing on information or giving reasons in support of or against a particular point of view. I can write letters highlighting the personal significance of events and experiences.