Let’s face the facts: French people generally get tired in advance of learning foreign languages. And if you have ever tried to practice French, which has a reputation as one of the most complex grammar systems and one of the largest vocabulary palettes, you may understand the reason why most Frenchmen are so lazy in that particular matter.
However, this should not be an excuse for not doing our best to acquire some basic knowledge: how to say hello and goodbye, how to introduce yourself, how to say thank you…
But let’s face another fact: Finnish is not only intimidating, it is hard. Before being part of the Foreign Correspondents’ Programme (FCP), I knew how challenging the mastery of the language is. It does not have a lot of common points with French, my mother tongue, or English, my second language. And even if Sweden and Finland have intertwined histories, it is obvious that thanking someone by saying tack so mycket (Swedish) does not look like kiitos paljon (Finnish).
Still, expressing emotions and exchanging are so important to me that each time I visit a country, I try to learn at least a few words. It is not enough to have a proper conversation, but I always notice that kind of satisfactory smile on people’s face. Sometimes it means “At least you tried!” Sometimes it means “Wow, great job!”
I have been practising Finnish for two weeks now. A few days before leaving, I bought Tuula Laakkonen’s language learning book. It has been tremendously helpful to acquire a basic knowledge in grammar and vocabulary. But still, you need to be tough – in other terms, if you don’t have any sisu (a Finnish word-no, phenomenon- loosely translated as “courage”), you can’t have a genuine experience of what Finnish really is.
I am not fluent at all (who could be in two weeks?), but the more I know, the more I want to know. That is what sisu really is, I guess. So, as I have succeeded in living that delightful experience, let me give you eight reasons why you should learn Finnish.
1- Because Finnish is rare, precious and challenging. You have sixteen different ways to use a word according to its place in a sentence.
2- Because some basic words sound like saucy words: porkkana (carrot), makkara (sausage), peruna (potato)…
3- Because in some cases, form follows function in a wonderfully obvious way. Case in point: monimutkainen (complicate).
4- Because when you go to the supermarket and there is only you, Finnish writings and Swedish translations, you are sure to have quite some fun.
5- Because karaoke in Finnish is so great.
6- Because it will help you feel like an authentic Finn. Very useful during sauna competitions.
7- Because if you don’t try, lihamuki (meat mug) won’t taste the same.
8- Because there is no better way to say I love you than whispering rakastan sinua.
Remember : whatever the situation, whatever the people, always strive for sisu!