Terve! Welcome!

Hei! I’m going to be blogging here about my experiences attending a Finnish course. The course aims to prepare students for the YKI language test. This is the test one needs to pass at intermediate level as part of applying for Finnish citizenship. 

If you’d like to find out a bit more about me vs. the Finnish language click here.

For a quick fix of Finnish: this blog also has a Finnish word of the day page here. 

Seitsemän kuukautta myöhemmin / Seven months later…

It is now 7 months since I took the YKI test and the last few days have shown me that my Finnish learning journey is far from over.

I am a Doctoral student (tohtoriopiskelija) and I need to apply for funding. My supervisor recommended the Karjalaisen Kulttuurin Edistämissäätiö (Karelian Cultural Fund) as a place to apply. One problem. The application and all supporting documents had to be in Finnish.

Doing this application (which I have just sent) really brought home to me the difference between being able to use Finnish in everyday life, which is what the YKI test should test you on, and trying to write an academic text in Finnish and translate all my wooly theoretical ideas from English to Finnish.

The first thing I tried was to just copy and paste everything from my english language Research Plan (RP) into Google translate (GT) in big chunks. DO NOT DO THIS! GT will just mangle the text beyond all recognition! GT is fine for translating individual words and simple sentences but it doesn’t usually get the case endings right. A better online tool to use is Wiki Sanakirja as this gives you all the inflections (in the table labelled taivutus). However you can only translate one word at a time so for a 6 -page research plan that would take forever! And translating word by word, even if you get all the endings right probably means you lose a lot of the ‘sense’ of the text. (disclaimer: I am -obviously- not a translator so just guessing here! If any translators are reading this please comment on this below!)

After its GT scrambling I gave the text to M to read. He couldn’t make any sense of it and after many anguished cries of “Mitä sinä haluat sanoo?!” (“What do you want to say?”) we had to give up on his helping me. We tried not looking at the messed up GTed text and me explaining my ideas in simple language which he then translated. This was also very slow and frustrating because, even though M’s English is very good, he didn’t understand my ideas about mental borders, memories, postmemory etc as I expressed them in English and, frankly, I think he thought my whole research idea and theoretical basis was nonsense! With M we managed to correct maybe 2/6 pages.

Alone the next day I went back to basics and just wrote in Finnish in my own words, ie not trying to translate from the English version of my RP at all. This worked better but I was aware I was now using very simple sentences and probably losing the nuances of my argument and reasoning.

Today, I was saved. I went to see my supervisor Kimmo who is very familiar with my research and who re-wrote and corrected my 6 page text and was nice enough not to say what a mess or how ‘dumbed down’ it was. I have now sent my application and am happy to have a decent Finnish version of my RP for future applications.

Lesson learnt: Academic Finnish is a whole new ball game compared with the (relative) simplicity of everyday Finnish!


Uusi koti, uusi elämä, uusi kieli – vieraskirjailija Anna / New home, new life, new language – by guest blogger Anna

My name is Anna. I come from the warm South, a place where the first heatwave already made its appearance, only to make people more excited about going to the cool sea, Greece.

Coming to Finland was one of the easiest, most natural decisions I have ever made in my life. I knew I wanted to move and explore this beautiful country from the first month that I set my foot on it. There was something in the air, in the nature, in its melancholic atmosphere during a rainy morning, which attracted me like a strong magnet.

My experience as an exchange student in Joensuu, my meetings with wonderful people, who, luckily are still my friends, and love’s calling is what made me say “I’ll be back”, you know, just like Arnold. Quickly after my return to Athens I finished my practice and thesis and graduated a few months later, only to take a 2-month summer break before packing my most important belongings in a couple of suitcases and get ready to set my life in this new place.

The first thing you need to realize as you move somewhere is that you are no longer a student. Which means that a)social interactions are different, and perhaps more difficult to establish, b)if you don’t have a relationship or a really strong friendship you don’t have the support needed for the first months, c) you haven’t gotten past the several cultural shocks, which you thought you had already gone through during your first stay in the country, d) you need to adapt in the society, meaning that you need to support yourself financially, and learn the most vital factor to survive in a longterm stay: the native language.

For the sake of this blog’s theme, I will focus on the last part (d). While an Erasmus student, I was of course in a beginners’ language class, offered by the Karelia AMK. To tell the truth, it was fun at first, but due to (more) exciting meets (and eventually, dates), and of course workshifts, I eventually dropped it and stopped going to the courses. I can’t say it would have been that important even if I had been there in the first place. At least, I think so.

While in Greece, my Finn boyfriend tried to teach me the language with the help of a book and his own creative exercises. Since he had no prior experience of teaching, and due to the distance and lack of time to learn via Word docs and Skype, I had many gaps and false ideas about how basic grammar works.

The result was that I hadn’t learnt anything all these months, until I actually had to search for a normal course. I tried “Refreshing my finnish” at the Kansalaisopisto and once again realized that I was even worse than a beginner. Luckily, only one month after my move, I got accepted in a finnish language and culture educational program, called “Kielitiellä eteenpäin”, held by the North Karelian Profession School, in cooperation with the TE-toimisto. It was a chance given by the office, as a last resort, because I was in the age limit to attend that course, while it was still August.

I remember attending one of the first classes, which was about speaking. Both student groups that had just started and those who were already 1 year at the school, were together as an experiment in this class. The teacher talked vividly in finnish, making gestures, laughing, making more and more questions at people, and giving instructions on how to answer.

I doubt I understood more than 5 words that she said through the whole time. When it was my time to answer a question, I panicked, not knowing how to say anything. English was almost forbidden to use in any class. Only one teacher would use it at the start as a supportive language for our vocabulary, but everything was written and instructed in finnish.

The first months were torturing. I came home crying or being furious at myself and at everyone else, because of my lack of knowledge or confidence to continue. I struggled a lot and had to study even more at home every day in order to get even a tiny step further with the language.

First I developed the reading skill better than the others. My pronunciation was already good, so I didn´t have trouble with that. Then, I started writing better. I experimented a lot with the use of grammar, since things like the partitive and genitive were (and still are, sometimes) very confusing in use. Listening and speaking were the hardest parts of learning, and the truth is that if you don´t eventually get out of the school environment, you will never learn how to listen and how to speak.

Like a baby, I started listening to others, copying and many times guessing how to use their words as my own. When winter passed, I had already seen quite an improvement in myself. However, I was still escaping to using english when I would find difficulties in my expressions. That was over once all students were arranged to have practices at a workplace for 4 weeks. This was the greatest opportunity to meet the finnish culture and communication outside of the safe bubble you learned in. It was really hard, but you had to cope with it, ask over and over again, and get out of your shell once and for all.

The greatest thing happened in spring, just after the end of my practice, and before our graduation.

I realized that I spoke much more, also easier, with more confidence, faster even, without fear and stress. I knew the mistakes I made, recognized them immediately, but would not stop for anything.

Something locked in my brain, after all the knowledge I received, which instantly improved everything in my communication. I even wrote a small speech for our graduation ceremony.

Of course, I know that the effort must continue. I have to study harder in order to get further, and chase any opportunity which can get me closer to my interest for a job, and to my dreams. There are people willing to help the immigrants, like the JoMoni multicultural association, by holding free language courses, or even students, like the Finnish Language Cafe, with so many participants every semester. The Kansalaisopisto might also be a decent choice, even though I strongly recommend chasing the educational programs from the TE-toimisto, in case you really need to work on your finnish, since those are everyday lessons, and not only 3 hours a week.

My advice is to not have fear for something new. There is always a reason why we should try, even if we do not achieve something great right away, even if it seems hard and exhausting sometimes. If you really like Finland, then it is worth to try to be a part of it through its language and culture, and along the way you will find the support you need, and you will impress, and even inspire, those around you.

And my final advice, is to enjoy the finnish summer. It is rather short, I hear, but wonderful.

Hyvää kesää.

Anna Adamopoulou (Anna Adams)

Annan bloggi / Anna’s blog

Läpäisinkö? / Have I passed?


Puheen ymmärtäminen 4

Puhuminen 4

Tekstin Ymmärtäminen 4

Kirjoittaminen 3

Joensuun seudun kansalaisopisto, 11.4.2015.

Olen niin iloinen!! 😀

Also a bit surprised! On test day I thought the writing and speaking parts went best  and that the listening was quite awful. I had done lots of practice for the writing but hey, a 3 is good enough!

So there you have it folks, the end to my YKI testi journey. I hope you found this blog useful. I’m going to add a list of online resources for learning Finnish and a recommendation for a private teacher here. I’m also going to post about the visitors to this blog and their comments and feedback so it’s not quite ‘the end’ for this blog.

YKI testi 11.04.2015 / The YKI Test 11.04.2015

EDIT: looking for a more up to date test day experience? My friend, Alexandra, took the test in 2017. Here is her account: YKI Keskitaso 08.04.2017

Yesterday (11.04.2015), along with around 50 others, I took the YKI testi, keskitaso level, in Joensuu.

We began with the tekstin ymmärtäminen paper which lasted 1 hour. There were 24 questions which were either true/false or A/B/C and 3 texts where you had to write sentences in answer to the questions (about 3 questions/text). All the texts were under 1 page and some were only about 10 lines. We had a small news item about an escaped lisko, an advert from a bike repair shop, a text giving advice about pipes freezing (!) and some others. I think there were 6 texts in all. (Amazing how much I’ve forgotten about the texts since yesterday! Must have been the stress!). I found the time very generous, easily enough time to read all the texts and questions and copy the T/F and A/B/C answers onto the answer sheet.

Next, after a 10 min break, came the kirjoittaminen paper which lasted 55 minutes. The time went fast and I was a little worried that I wouldn’t have enough time but in the end It was ok. The tasks were as follows:

  • 1 letter to an yhdistys (organisation) saying that you’d like to volunteer with them
  • 1 email to your building committee’s puheenjohtaja (chairperson) about an upcoming kokous (meeting)
  • 1 opinion piece for an internet forum, choice of 2 topics: I chose oma asunto vai vuokra-asunto?

Both the first two tasks had very clear instructions and bullets points about what to include so it was easy to structure the letter and email and to employ the ‘trick’ of using the words in the instruction bullet points in my writing. Both had the reminder muista aloitus ja lopetus. The mielipideaihe however did not give detailed instructions what to include ie it did not, as in our practice papers, say how many justifications (perusteita) we had to give for our opinion only that we should perustella sinun mielipideesi hyvin. So, for me, it was hard to structure my answer as I wasn’t sure how much to write!

After an unnecessarily long break of 1/2 hour my group went into the kielistudio to do the puheen ymmärtäminen and puhuminen parts of the test. For me the puheen ymmärtäminen was quite challenging. Unlike the practice exercises I had done in class and online the people I was listening to spoke extremely quickly using slang terms. Also, unlike in practice, there were no adverts or simple announcements (bar one informal announcement given by a coach driver during a coach trip) in the test – we were just listening to people talking! The questions again took the form of true/false, A/B/C (20 questions) and written answers. We often had to write 2 things in answer to one question. The time given for reading the questions and choosing the answers after listening was, for me, sufficient. This part seemed to be over very quickly.

Whenever I have practiced for the puhuminen part of the test (Hanna will attest to this!) I normally have trouble filling the allotted time to speak and trail off into silence. I was dreading having to talk for 2 minutes during the mielipide monologues part of the test but, perhaps it was the stress, the time flew by and I talked non stop, occasionally getting cut off! I hope this is/was a good thing…Although what I was saying might well have been mostly nonsense! The puhuminen test included:

  • A phone call to the police to report your bike stolen
  • a phone call to sort out an unpaid phone bill
  • 4/5 25 second tilanteita including asking your neighbour for help moving some furniture, telling a department store you’d left something behind there (in both cases you had to keksi itse mitä)
  • a monologue about men and women’s work and roles at home (there was a choice of two topics for this part)
  • a monologue about visiting people and people visiting you (who visits? How often? What do you offer them to eat and drink? etc) (no choice you had to speak about this!)

So. it’s over. I feel quite flat and deflated today and it’s weird not to feel compelled to spend every bit of spare time practicing for the test! I should get the results in about 2 months’ time and of course I’ll post about them! But, for now, it’s Näkemiin!” from me.

Koe on huomenna! / The exam is tomorrow!

Right now I’m wondering how I got to this point, and wishing I had more time to prepare! I originally signed up for Joensuun Kansaliasopisto’s YKI prep course because it seemed to fit my level of Finnish and not because I wanted /needed to take the YKI exam. The lessons suited my level and seemed to go well so I thought I would sign up to do the exam whilst the prep course was still fresh in my mind. Now I’m regretting that decision as I have had so little free time to try to improve my level and practice / train before the exam! You can check what I’ve been doing to prepare for tomorrow’s exam in the 2 weeks since the course ended here. today is my day off work so I’m planning to do lots of revision and last minute prep using Random Finnish Lesson’s ‘Last Minute YKI tips’ page.

I’ll blog on Sunday about how the exam went! Wish me luck!

Kieliopista: Objekti / About Grammar: the object

I find studying the nitty-gritty of Finnish grammar a nightmare. Reading about grammar rules is just not how I learn a language but without a grasp of Finnish grammar I can’t expect to do well in either the kirjoittaminen or puhuminen parts of the YKI test.

I know I make a LOT of grammatical mistakes when writing and speaking and, with 5 days until the test, it’s probably too late to change my ingrained bad habits…But I’m going to try by looking at objekti, the object, and when and why it takes the partitiivi, akkusatiivi and nominaatiivi / perus muoto (partitive, accusative, nominative or basic) form, something we covered briefly in our prep classes.

The Finnish Teacher blog has a very good and simple explanation (as ever) of objekti here which I have used for my self-teaching/revision along with a 2 page explanation in Finnish provided by Ope.

First you need to know which word in the sentence is the objekti. As the Finnish Teacher (FT) says it “is that which is having something DONE TO IT.” FT’s example sentence is Mies lukee kirjaa. Here kirja (the book) is the objekti as it is being read by mies (the man).

Then you need to decide whether the objekti needs to be in partitiivi, akkusatiivi or nominaatiivi form (it is only ever in these 3 cases).

For example, it’s the kirjoittaminen part of the exam and I want to write in Finnish that “I play guitar.” I know (thanks to FT) that ‘guitar’ is the objekti as it is being played by me. Now I have to decide whether the word ‘guitar’ should be in partitiivi, nominaatiivi or akkusatiivi form. To do this I need to know when each case should be used. Here are the rules for each case:

The objekti is in partitiivi when:

  1. The sentence is negative eg “I haven’t watered the flowers” -> En ole kastellut kukkia
  2. The objekti is an abstract noun, a mass or uncountable noun eg “I drink coffee (uncountable)” -> Minä juon kahvia
  3. The sentence describes an ongoing process / the verb is a process verb which normally needs a partitive object in Finnish eg “I love you” -> Minä rakastan sinua
  4. it comes after a number eg “I waited 3 hours” -> Minä odotin kolme tuntia
  5. When the sentence is talking about a part or some of something eg “I ate a little bit of pizza” -> Söin vähän pizzaa

The objekti is in nominatiivi when:

  1. the sentence is an order, imperative eg “Do the YKI test!” -> Tee YKI testi!
  2. the sentences talks about having to do something eg “I always have to clean” Aina minun pitää sivota
  3. The sentence’s verb is passive eg “One can buy eggs from the market” -> Torilta ostetaan munat (literally from the market can be bought eggs)
  4. the objekti needs to be plural eg “I the read the books” -> Minä luin kirjat

And finally the objekti is in akkusitiivi when:

  1. The sentence is talking about a completed process eg “Dad took care of the boy” -> Isä hoiti poikan 
  2. The object is the whole or all of something eg “I ate the whole cake” -> Minä söin koko kakun

Short version (and aide memoires):

Negative sentence, Ongoing process, Number, object is Uncountable, Partitive verb, part or Some of something (using words vähän or osa) = partitiivi

NON UPS = partitiivi

sentence is about Having to do something, object is Plural, sentence gives an Order, sentence’s verb is Passive.

H POP = nomanaatiivi / perusmuoto

Completed process, objekti is whole or All of something = akkusatiivi

CA = akkusatiivi

FT has a really good series of questions  in Finnish at the bottom of his blog post which you could use as a kind of keilioppikone (grammar machine) where you put your sentence through a series of questions to see which case the objekti should take. I’ll use this on my sentence to decide which case kitara should take:

So, should my sentence be: Minä soitan kitara (nominaatiivi) or Minä soitan kitaran (akkusatiivi) or Minä soitan kitaraa (partitiivi)?

Is ‘soittaa’ is a process verb / is ‘to play’ is an ongoing process? YES! so I need partitiiviMinä soitan kitaraa! Phew!

PS If in doubt, go for partitiivi as there are the most ‘reasons’ for an objekti to take this form. As FT puts it partitiivi voitaa! (Partitiivi wins!) over the other cases.

You can test yourself on choosing the correct case by using FT’s fill in the blanks exercise at the bottom of his post.

I have ‘complete the sentences’ exercises from Ope – titled partitiivi vai akkusatiivi objekti? (although some sentences need nominaatiivi!)- which I will do… Scores:  7/11 or 63%, 10/16 or 62.5%, 9/14 or 64%

So, I still have a way to go to get this right! I think I am still going on instinct rather than these rules! Sometimes I can’t see how the rules apply. Sometimes I correctly think it’s partitiivi but I can’t form the partitive correctly (something else to revise!) I think /hope these rules will be more useful for creating Finnish text ie the kirjoittaminen part of the exam.

Takaisin suomessa ja alle viikko ennen YKI testia! / Back in Finland and less that a week until the YKI test

I just got back home to Joensuu a couple of hours ago and from now until Saturday I hope to be in serious YKI test preparation mode. I have to work Tues, Weds, Thurs but I’m hoping to do some training in the evenings and to use Friday for last minute prep! I also have a Skype lesson booked with Hanna on Wednesday evening to practice for the speaking part of the test. I got some puhuminen practice as soon as I got back to Joensuu as my suitcase didn’t arrive with me. It’s still in Helsinki. So I got to describe the suitcase and give my address and phone number in Finnish to Finnair. If this tilanne comes up in the puhuminen part of the test that’d be great as I’ve now practiced it! 😉 Just before I left for England I got the paper work about the test through from Kansalaisopisto. The test is scheduled to last just under 4 hrs with only on short break (!) There will be two groups. Both start by taking the tekstin ymmärtäminen part of the test then one group does the puheen ymmärtäminen ja puhuminen part whilst the other does  the kirjoittaminen part and vice versa. I don’t mind which group I’m in as for me the tekstin ymmärtäminen is probably gong to be the hardest bit and there’s no choice about doing that later on in the day when I’m ‘warmed up.’ Being in England has meant I haven’t been doing that much prep or practice (see my treenaaminen page for what I’ve beendoing) but I did try to speak a bit of Finnish with M whilst he was with me and with my sister and even teach my parents a few words! As soon as I got on the Finnair plane I switched to Finnish and the on board announcements were a nice test of my puheen ymmärtäminen skills! 😀