If you’re here you’re probably wondering why the hell am I learning Finnish? It might have even crossed your mind, how you can study one of the most hardest languages in the world.
Well the first is to drop that negative mindset, if you want to actually learn how to study Finnish you need to get rid of those negative beliefs and focus on your why.
Start by asking yourself why you are studying Finnish. From there it will make the journey much more manageable.
Personally, I am studying Finnish because I married a Finn and moved to Finland in 2020. We were in a long distance relationship for 3.5 years and were ready to start a life together.
Trust me, I have been there where you are, at the beginning wondering how the hell would I learn Finnish. That’s why I wanted to share my tips on how I am studying Finnish, while reading through the tips there is one thing I want you to remember.
Things take time. You have to trust in the process, and always remember your reason why you are learning Finnish.
To be completely honest with you, whenI started studying Finnish I didn’t know if I was coming or going in this language. The words carry direction and I still have to really think about it before I say it aloud.
Learning Finnish is going to be a lifelong process, it’s going to happen overtime so during your language learning journey please be kind to yourself as you grow.
Why am I Learning Finnish?
Well I guess you can say for love, but that might be too cheesy for some of you. I honestly feel that if I am living in a country I have to know it’s language. It is respectful to that country’s language and history.
Although a majority of the world speaks English, I don’t like using that as a reason to not learn the language. Besides, I hate the feeling of being left out of the conversation.
I really just like to talk to people.
It’s fun being able to talk to Tuomas’ grandfather, even though my sentences are small I feel like we have gotten to know each other so much better than if I were to not have spoken Finnish.
Over time I keep finding more and more reasons why I want to learn Finnish. I want to absorb as much of this language and culture as I can so I can better understand the ones around me.
~*This post may contain affiliate links to products I found that are perfect for those wanting to know more about life in Finland. This means when you purchase using my link below I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you.*~
Understanding the CEFR Levels for Finnish Language
The CEFR or the Common European Framework of References for Languages is a metric you are going to see a lot when you’re studying Finnish.
If you are just starting out in your language journey then you are considered A0, so when looking into courses or books keep that in mind.
Because I accidentally bought a language book aimed at B1 level and felt so lost the entire time.
Having the right resources matter during your journey, if you get something way too hard early on it’s going to turn you off to the entire process.
Currently I am A2.2 level and while I can have some minor conversations in Finnish, I would say that I feel very elementary.
I still require time to think before speaking and if I feel like I am in a stressful situation I will ask the speaker if they “Puhutko englantia?” because I don’t always know the right words.
Another important thing you should know about the levels is that you don’t have to be a master of the grammar rules to increase your level.
The CEFR levels are more about how much you can understand, not how great your grammar is.
Which is reassuring to know because my grammar is awful.
If You’re Just Starting Out
We all have to start from somewhere, throughout the whole process of learning Finnish, you will constantly learn and forget the things you know. Give yourself a lot of grace when you forget things. They will eventually come back to you.
If you are just starting out with your Finnish language learning journey then I highly recommend trying out Varpu from HerFinland’s course Conversational Finnish For Beginners. This course is excellent for those that are new to studying Finnish and want to go at their own pace.
I use Uusikielemme’s website all the time, literally all the time. It’s such a great resource and all the people who work on it are literal angels. The only drawback is I suggest you look for a specific article at a time as it is very easy to fall into a rabbit hole there.
When it comes to studying another language there are two main ways and they are partially or fully immersive.
Partially immersive textbooks will have a text written in a common language, for Finnish I have seen partial textbooks in English, Russian, and German, but there could be more.
These types of books are great if you are someone who gets stressed about the idea of going into the deep end too quickly and want to take your time fully understanding the language.
Before I studied in the classroom I liked books that were partially in English.
Now I prefer books that are fully in Finnish, or fully immersive textbooks. This changed because I found that learning certain concepts in Finnish is easier to understand in Finnish.
But you will always see everything translated to English in my notes because I need to know what I am talking about
If you are interested in hearing my thoughts about books I have tried when studying Finnish then you can check out my Finnish Language Book Recommendations here on my blog this list contains both free and paid Finnish resources.
If You Are Living in Finland
For me personally, studying Finnish became a lot easier after moving to Finland and taking a course.
There were a lot more options of courses and books I had access to, and not to mention living here required me to use the language more.
In this part of the blog you will find different ways you can learn Finnish while living in Finland. You’ll see that there are different options depending on your own needs when coming to Finland.
Not everyone is going to follow the same path and that’s fine, this is something you will see a lot when you talk to different expats/immigrants in Finland.
The purpose of this is to show you the different options available so you can make a better decision for yourself and your life.
Look Within Your Community
A good place to start with learning Finnish is by checking out different Finnish courses within your area.
This is a great route for those that are going to University in Finland that are interested in learning the language or could be considering a future in Finland.
These programs aren’t as intensive and can be planned around your life.
A lot of places will list their Finnish courses on Finnishcourses.fi this website contains both in person and online Finnish language classes that are based on your CEFR level.
Learning Finnish is a lifelong journey, just like how you constantly learn new words in your mother tongue everyday you will always learn new things about Finnish.
This website is a great resource to have no matter what level you are because there are classes for every level.
You can always bookmark this blog post to save this resource list and check back on it for updates and things you might have missed when you are just starting out.
I recently completed a Finnish language course provided by TE Palvelut that you can apply to through your local TE Office.
Attention: The availability of the program and what the program has to offer depend on the area you live in as well as what type of visa you have to live within Finland.
In this program you will learn more about Finnish language and culture, while also preparing for your next steps in Finland.
This route is best for those who are unemployed living in Finland, refugees, and for those who want to learn the language in order to pursue their current or a new career in Finland.
For example if I wanted to continue practicing physical therapy in Finland, this would be a way for me to learn basic Finnish, then I could eventually continue studying Medical Language in Finnish.
But I decided to change careers in Finland, because I just don’t want to do physical therapy in Finland.
Cultural Tip: Going back to school in Finland isn’t viewed as negatively as it is in the US or other parts of the world. It is very common in Finland for people to go back to school and switch careers. So if you want to switch careers and meet the visa requirements then I strongly recommend looking into this program.
Now that I have gone through this path I am going to go to a TUVA (or more recently known as VALMA course). Which will then prepare me for the Ammattikoulu afterwards.
I will go more into detail about this program and what it provides in another blog post. This is mostly to let you know that it is an option.
5 Mindset Shifts You Need to Make Before Studying Finnish
Be Kind To Yourself
I might have said this a thousand times by now but learning Finnish is a marathon not a sprint. It will take time and you will be constantly learning and forgetting things throughout the entire process.
Your ability to speak Finnish is not tied to nor should it be tied to your self worth. Expect this process to take years, most of the immigrants I met in Finland have said they have felt truly fluent in Finnish in about 3-10 years.
It honestly just depends on the person. Which also means you should not compare yourself to others. You have your own brain and your brain is different from their brain.
You will be much better at learning Finnish if you don’t stress yourself out about all the small details like “I should be at this level by now”. Treat yourself kindly during this process and know that it will all work out as long as you trust in yourself and the process.
Give yourself love, grace and whole lotta room to make mistakes.
Figure Out Your Goals for Learning Finnish
When I moved to Finland, my main goal was to learn Finnish so I could integrate into society better and know what’s going on in the world around me.
I am a firm believer that if I am moving to a country and plan on living there then I need to learn the language.
Often you will hear other people say that “everyone speaks English” and while there are a majority of people in Finland who speak great English there are also some that don’t.
You’ll also miss out on some great conversations with old people if you don’t speak Finnish.
If your goals are similar then I suggest looking at fully immersive courses which means they will teach you Finnish in Finnish. Fully immersive language courses have been provided to be the best way to teach a language because it helps you to think in that language.
On the other hand you could be just starting out in your Finnish language journey and the idea of going balls to the wall can seem a bit intimidating. In that case I suggest you start with courses that are at your own pace.
There is no right or wrong way of learning a language, the important thing is that you are honest with yourself and what your goals are.
This will then help set you up for good study habits in the future. Which will then make studying feel a lot less like studying, because you know what your goals are.
Ask Yourself Why is Learning Finnish Important to You?
When deciding why you want to learn Finnish this is going to be something you’ll have to think about. Your reason why is what is going to help you keep going, because unlike a goal, your reason why is linked to emotions.
I can say my goal is to speak fluent Finnish, but my reasons why, well there’s a lot of them and they keep me motivated towards my overall goal.
It’s funny, while I have been studying Finnish my list of “why I do this” has increased. It started with one day getting Finnish citizenship. Then along the way I have added being able to talk to my new Finnish family, because Ukki (Tuomas’ grandfather) doesn’t speak English.
Now it’s to understand more about Tuomas, I want to be able to be part of that conversation when he is talking in Finnish with his friends, I want to know who he is in Finnish.
Your reason why is going to be your motivation until you reach your goal. It’ll even inspire you after you reach your goal, because you’re able to see all the progress you’ve made by sticking to learning Finnish.
Get Comfortable With Being Wrong
First off, learning anything new is going to be hard. It’s going to make you uncomfortable and feel stupid.
The same can be said about learning Finnish. Before starting at the Integration Program, I was really competitive, I always wanted to be the best, which means I would also constantly compare how I was doing with others in my class.
It didn’t make me feel good at all. Whenever I saw someone score higher than me I knew that I must be stupid if I can’t understand something they understand.
This is probably the worst mindset you can have when learning Fininsh and I am cringing at myself for thinking this way.
Now, I constantly remind myself that I am learning” and I am not going to be perfect right away whenever I start thinking about “how dumb I am. If you ever come to a Tiktok Live where I am doing my homework you will see this.
It’s a small mantra but it does the job and prevents me from getting stuck on a negative cycle.
You have to remember that studying Finnish isn’t a quick process, it’s something that you will keep learning for the rest of your life.
That means you’ll be okay if you don’t understand partitiivi right away and if your brain feels like it’s melting at the end of every class.
Just review your notes, then move forward, whatever you’re stuck on now will no doubt come back up again and when it does it’ll make more sense than it did the first time.
Which brings me to my next point.
Allow Yourself to Have Breaks
Your brain needs time to rest in order to process everything that you are learning. And trust me when I say you’re going to be learning a lot.
There are even going to be times that you don’t realize your studying.
If you are living in Finland and learning Finnish then the entire country becomes your classroom. When you are sitting on the bus, or going to the store you will be practicing Finnish.
Your brain is going to be on the look out for words you might know or are similar to words that you are learning.
You might even have family members who encourage you to talk in Finnish to keep practicing.
Honestly, you’re going to be so knee deep immersed in the language you’ll be begging to get out.
Those are the times you take a break. Call your family back home, talk to your friends, do stuff in your native language.
These are things I use to keep my sanity when I feel like my entire life is being consumed by Finnish.
Giving yourself breaks will also help prevent you from getting burnt out, so if you need a break then take it.
Remember, your mental health is more important than how fast you can learn a language.
3 Easy Ways to Study Finnish
Think About What Interest You the Most
One misconception we have around studying is that it needs to be done around a book, app, or even memorization.
While those are all good tools to use while learning Finnish it’s more important to find something that interests you and use that interest as a passive way to learn the language.
For example, if you are a person who loves to sing, then your passive studying can be to listen to Finnish music and sing a long in Finnish. This is a fun way to study because you learn pronunciation, and over time you can use the song the measure your progress.
At some point you’ll be able to understand the song more and more. When that happens you’ll be amazed with how much you have learned.
You can do the same thing with Finnish movies or kids books.
Though, if you are just starting off in Finnish I don’t recommend venturing into the wizarding world of Harry Potter, the author who adapted the Harry Potter books into Finnish did an amazing job of creating a unique experience for Finnish audiences.
Save that series until you are around C level.
Personally, I like to do a little of each. Right now one of my favorite songs is Ram Pam Pam by Bess and Frida by Behm.
I have been listening to Frida the longest so it’s been awesome to see how far I’ve come since when I first heard the song.
I like to combine my reading with watching, so I will watch old disney movies
Y’know… the ones that you already know by heart
And watch those in Finnish with Finnish subtitles. It’s super nostalgic and I don’t have to concentrate as hard as I would if it was something I have never seen before.
I will say you have to be careful of the movies because the subtitles don’t always match with what’s being said in the movie.
It’s a fine example of puhekieli (spoken Finnish) and kirjakieli (written Finnish)
Sometimes it bothers me, and other times it doesn’t. I can say for sure that Snow White (Lumikki) has the best match for the subtitles and what’s being said so you can always start with that one.
Whatever your thing is, find it and come back to it periodically and use that tool to gauge how far you have progressed in your language journey.
Figure Out How You Like to Study
I am probably the worst student out there. I hate studying. I find it so boring and will do anything I can to make studying into a game. Because playing games is way more fun than studying.
So before you start diving into studying Finnish think about how you want studying to look like for you. Ask yourself how long do you want to study for? What is your ideal studying environment?
When I study at home, or even in a library I tend to get distracted or feel antsy. I prefer to study in cafes or bars (if they have wifi 🤣)
If you’re living in Finland then going to a cafe or bar will be a great way for you to practice your Finnish skills. I learned my first words in Finnish at a bar
But I am also a kinesthetic learner, I learn best by doing, even if that means I might have a bit of liquid courage during the doing phase.
If you are new to learning styles then you can take this quiz on EducationPlanner.org website and find out your learning style.
Understanding your learning style will help you also understand your weakness and strength which will better help you plan accordingly when it comes to your Finnish studies.
Don’t Be Afraid to Mix Things Up
One of the biggest things that helped me in University was understanding you can’t approach all material the same way. Once I understood that it gave me more freedom and flexibility when it came to learning new material.
This is also a great way to approach and learn Finnish. Because as I mentioned before, I get so bored with studying and the only way I can stay engage is to mix it up when I feel like I am plateauing.
In order to not get tired of it I sometimes need to change my perspective.
Some weeks I feel like I need to focus on writing so I can remember certain words or grammar rules better. Doing this makes me think logically about what I am learning and apply it.
Then there are times where I have problems with pronouncing or using words that I just learned so I will replace that word or phrasing with the English equivalent or just sometimes Finglish my way through it.
When it comes to reading and listening then I like to re-read my text book because it always has relevant passages in the beginning of each chapter.
Which is better than reading kids books in Finnish in my opinion. You are more likely to retain the information if it’s something that you can relate to your everyday life and I think Oma Suomi does a great job of that.
Listening is probably my weakest area in Finnish, and I recognize that it will come in time and it’s not something that can be rushed. For now, I watch Tiktoks and try to really pay attention to what the creator is saying.
Some of my favorite Finnish tiktok creators are:
@Jasmin.ngo (Travel, Food, and DIY)
@Suhmatti (Comedy sketches and skits, so thankful he has subtitles)
@Boniasiivous (Cleaning hacks)
Whatever platform you enjoy using, try to find Finnish creators on there, and listen, read, and even write to them to let them know how much their content helps you in your language journey. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the language if you are unable to.
You Always Have a Choice and Can Pursue Whatever Path You Think is Best for Your Future.
Learning a new skill is never a linear process. It’s going to have it’s highs, lows and a few plateaus mixed in between.
It’s going to be rewarding and frustrating, hell there are some days that I cry and some days where I’m like yes I can take on the world.
Just remember that you always have a choice, you always can choose the pace you learn, how you study, and what paths you want to take in the future.
I wish you the best of luck on your Finnish journey, I know you will be great at it because Finnish is a fun language to learn.