34 tips for learning Finnish
Pick out at least one tip from each of these lists on how to learn Finnish during your free time. You can find more tips for language learning on the website of the Centre for Multilingual Academic Communication (MOVI).
- Memorise new words every day. Three new words a day is already over 1,000 words a year!
- You can write the names of objects on notes and put them up at home and in the office.
- Change your phone’s language to Finnish and start learning new words!
- Practice vocabulary with Memrise and other mobile apps.
- Make yourself a set of flashcards. Write a word in Finnish or Swedish on one side and add a translation or image to the other side. You can go through the cards alone or with someone.
- Divide up long words. Divide long words into sections and think about what the sections mean. For example: työlupahakemus is made up of työ = work, lupa = permit and hakemus = application.
- Write poems with new words. Rhymes and stories help you remember unfamiliar words.
- Watch programmes subtitled in Finnish in Yle Kielikoulu. If you don’t understand a word in a programme, you can click it in the subtitles and see a translation.
- Read aloud – it helps you learn words. It is easier to memorise words when you read, speak and hear them.
- Watch Finnish-language films or TV series with Finnish subtitles.
- Follow Finnish youtubers.
- Listen to radio in Finnish and watch Finnish programmes from services such as YLE Areena or Katsomo. You can first listen with your eyes closed and then watch and listen at the same time.
- Listen to news in Finnish on plain language websites. Yle uutiset selkosuomeksi offers news and other audio in plain language that have been read aloud more slowly and clearly.
- Learn words by listening to music with the Lyrics training app.
- Visit textbook publishers’ pages to listen to textbook chapters. Digital books have glossaries that you can transfer to your phone and listen to whenever.
- Record important phrases on your phone for different situations, such as cafés, the library or at work. Then listen to the relevant phrase, for example before ordering coffee, and repeat it to the barista. When you have learned the phrases, record new ones.
- Watch a TV show and repeat words, phrases and expressions you hear. Imitate the tone of voice, expressions and gestures.
- Play Alias, i.e. the game where you explain words. Look at a picture and explain the word in Finnish. You are not allowed to say the word itself or a part of it. The other person guesses what the word is.
- Ask your colleagues to speak Finnish with you every day for 10 minutes in the break room.
- Always ask about any words you don’t understand: “Sorry, what does 'joulupukki' mean?”
- Ask Finns to use Finnish with you: “Sorry, I would like to learn Finnish, can you please speak more slowly?”
- Read free magazines, newspapers, comic books and blog posts in Finnish. It is easiest to start with short, topical texts or ones that otherwise interest you.
- Follow a Finnish chat forum and observe what is being discussed and how. What kind of language and expressions are people using?
- Read a text together with someone else. Each pick out the words that you think are most important for the text and write them down (at least 20 words). Then go through the words together.
- One option is to read the news article in your native language first and then read the same page in Finnish.
P.S. Reading is the best way to enrich your vocabulary.
- Write poems, stories or silly sentences about grammar rules. The sillier the sentence, the easier it is to remember.
- Write a pocket grammar book in your phone or a small notebook to collect grammar rules and mnemonics. This way, you always have your grammar rules with you so you can review them any time, like on the bus. It is also easier to remember grammar rules when you write them down yourself.
- Write sentences with different component parts highlighted with different colours, e.g. yellow for the verb, green for the subject and orange for the object. Read texts and colour in the different component parts.
- Use a program like Word to write, because a red line will appear under a word if you mistype it in Finnish.
- Send a small message in Finnish to a friend or colleague every week.
- Actively write WhatsApp and Facebook messages. Model your messages after what your Finnish friends write.
- Social media offers a lot of suitable learning materials. It would be best for you to produce content yourself as well.
- Pick out ten new words from a paragraph in a textbook or some other text and use them to write a short story. Use all the words you picked. This helps you learn vocabulary in addition to producing text.
- Read a text in the target language, like a magazine article, and write down the parts that the text consists of: What does the text tell you first? And after that? Each paragraph has a core idea. Find it and write it next to the paragraph. Once you’ve analysed the structures of texts written by other people, it will be easier to plan your own writing.
Do you have time for a new hobby? Or do you have an old hobby that you could take up again? Many hobbies allow you to get to know new people, and most hobbies will also help you improve your language skills. For example, if you go to a workout class, it is okay if you don’t understand everything the instructor says right away. The movements speak for themselves, and many instructions get repeated so many times that you’ll gradually learn them. Another positive thing is that you will meet people who are interested in the same things as you and you get to learn language about things that are important to you: you can learn the names of birds on a birdwatching course, food terminology in a cooking class and vocabulary about music and performing music if you join a choir. And much more of course: people at hobbies will usually talk about a wide range of everyday topics.
You can find affordable and versatile options for hobbies offered by adult education centres, for example. It is often a good idea to enrol for courses immediately (=on the same minute) when enrolment begins because many courses are very popular.
Check also these
8 videos on work-related situations in which the hotel receptionist serves the customer in Finnish.
©2023 Aija Elg and Emmi Pollari and Taija Udd
Everyday language learning, April 2023, by Aija Elg and Emmi Pollari and Taija Udd, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The material can be found at kielibuusti.fi