Fresh Out of Finland | Q&A with Short Courses Finnish Tutor Meri Luoma
Here’s why a Finnish Short Course should be on your radar in 2020
With 2020 just 6 weeks away, now is the time to start planning your new year’s resolutions and what better way to do something different this January than to learn a new language? Specifically Finnish!
The University of Edinburgh is the only university in Scotland to offer the Nordic language and just one of two in the UK.
We’ve been offering Finnish Short Courses since 2018 and as of September, we have a brand new teaching fellow, Meri Luoma – who moved here from Finland to join our team.
We caught up with Meri to learn more about the sometimes overlooked language. From having one gender-neutral pronoun to NOT being a Scandinavian language, here are 7 reasons why we'd recommend learning Finnish in 2020.
1. Welcome to Edinburgh! What made you decide to join us here at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Open Learning?
For a long time, it has been my dream to teach Finnish abroad and I got very excited when I saw the University of Edinburgh was recruiting. I had never been to Scotland before, but I had a very positive image of the country.
I read about the University of Edinburgh and was impressed. Finally in the job interview, I was convinced I would really like to work at the Centre for Open Learning, as the people who interviewed me seemed to think about language learning the same way as I do. I am happy and grateful for this opportunity and so far, haven’t regretted the move to Edinburgh!
2. Why should someone learn Finnish?
Finnish is definitely not a mainstream language, but how cool is it to say you can speak it? The fact that you know Finnish makes you more interesting in the eyes of employers – it also tells them you are determined and open for new things! It’s likely different than any other language you’ve studied before, so it will broaden your way of thinking. It is a huge boost for your confidence when you notice you understand more and more and can make yourself understood in a new language.
Whenever you study a language you also learn about the people, culture and country it’s related to. Finland is a quirky, equal, and problem-solving country. It has beautiful nature, interesting history, clean and fresh food – and Finnish people are fun, uncomplicated and a bit odd. Become friends with one and they will take you to their summer cabins. Say a couple words in Finnish and they will love you forever.
3. What type of language is Finnish? What sets Finnish apart from Scandinavian languages?
Finnish is NOT a Scandinavian language which often is surprising to people! It is a Finno-Ugric language, which belongs to the Uralic language family. Other Finno-Ugric languages are, for example, Estonian, Hungarian, Karelian, Sami languages, and several small languages spoken in Russia. Finnish is quite similar to Estonian, and if you know Finnish, you can understand quite a lot if you visit Estonia and read the street signs and advertisements.
While Finnish is very different from Scandinavian languages, it has a lot of loan words from Swedish (Finland used to be part of Sweden for 700 year, until 1809), German, Russian, Baltic languages, and nowadays English.
Finnish is an agglutinative language, which means it has lots of endings instead of prepositions. Finnish has no grammatical gender (words don’t have a masculine or a feminine gender, and there is only one word for “he/she”, which is “hän”). There are no articles in Finnish, so both “a band” and “the band” translate into “bändi”.
4. What are some benefits of taking a Finnish Short Course?
You get to know amazing people and become a part of fun and warm community. We have activities outside the course, including a weekly coffee hour. In December we will have a Christmas Party, and there are more festivities coming in the spring. There’s a quite big Finnish community here in Scotland as well, and they organise lots of fun events throughout the year.
5. Tell us a bit about your teaching style...
This is probably something you should ask my students! At first I try to find out why the students are in the course and why they want to learn Finnish. I try to make the course content match their interests and motives as much as possible.
I want the activities and exercises to vary a lot because everyone's learning preferences are different. Our courses emphasise listening and speaking, but all the other areas (reading and writing) are practised as well. I try to bring cultural aspects into the classroom too. For example, we might listen to Finnish songs and discuss their meaning or why they are important in Finland. We might watch videos and examine what they tell us about Finnish humour or values.
Our goal is that the students could use Finnish in real life, in real situations, with people important to them. And to have fun!
6. What do you think people are most surprised about when they learn Finnish?
With verbs there isn’t a future tense. We just simply use the present tense. Some are surprised by how many loan words there are from English and other languages, and how easily you can make a word “Finnish” by ending an “i” in the end (for instance, “president” is “presidentti”, and a “bus” is “bussi”. In Finland the relationship between students and teachers is also quite relaxed. Teachers are referred to informally by their first names, for example. This can feel weird in the beginning if you are used to a more strict teaching culture.
7. What would you say to someone who’s on the fence about learning Finnish?
Give it a try! You will probably learn a lot about yourself on the way, have some fun, impress people with your new skills, help your brain, and get to eat delicious cinnamon rolls (pulla)!
We offer beginner and elementary Finnish courses in Terms 2 and 3 with spaces still available. These courses are ideal for people who have had minimal contact with the language to students who have completed all three beginner's courses. For more information about the level available and to book the courses, click the link below.