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Finland

2nd Blog: About the importance of the dots on the vowels or onko suomi vaikea kieli?

About the importance of the dots on the vowels or onko suomi vaikea kieli? 
 
Before leaving to Finland I heart a lot of myths about the Finnish language. For example, that it is meant to be one of the most difficult languages to learn and understand. I remember how I was listening to some words and sentences from Google Translate with some friends beforehand. It just seemed impossible to us. We thought there was no chance we would ever be able to pronounce these words. 
When reading, Finnish might not seem that complicated for a person with a mother tongue that knows "umlauts". However, once you see the actual amount of Ä, Ö and Y [Ü] they include into their words, you first get an idea of the complexity of this language. Here an example: Hyvää pääsiäistä, which means Happy Eastern! 
My first thought after listening to Finnish for the first time, was how pretty the melody of this language is. It almost seemed like they are following a rhythm while they speak. But, of course, I had no chance to understand anything. Still, I wanted to learn at least some basic words. So I signed up for a Starting Finnish course at the University.
The first weeks in Finland were quite hard. Especially trying to follow the daily life routine. Things like grocery shopping for example become quite a challenge. What do you buy when you have no idea what you are buying? A quick insider tip: if your mother tongue is German or Dutch, try the Swedish or Norwegian translations on the backside of the products! It might help to guess what you are about to buy. Another tip: try Lidl. German supermarkets usually have (some) German products with (at least some) German names on it!
In general, I would say 95% of the Finnish population speaks very good English. The only problem then might be the shyness of the Finns. However, I remember one situation where I really had to communicate with sign language somehow. I was in the city centre with a friend and we wanted to buy something in a very small store for sewing supplies. The owners were an old Finnish couple. We tried to make them understand what we were looking for. They had no clue what we were talking about. They only replied to us in Finnish. It took some seconds till both sides realized that none of us spoke the other´s language. With hands and feet and a lot of smiling we somehow managed to understand each other. Language-wise, I think that was the most challenging situation throughout the whole semester. 
Life became easier when I started my Finnish classes. Basic sentences, a bit of grammar and most important basic food words helped me survive the daily life in Finland. Surprisingly, the pronunciation wasn´t that big of a deal, at least for me as a German native speaker. In contrast, other students in my class from different countries struggled a lot more with the unknown umlauts Ä, Ö and Y [Ü]. It was very nice to see the surprised and happy reactions of Finns when they heart me try to use what I´ve learned in class. What I really appreciated as a foreigner in Finland was that no one was expecting me to learn Finnish. They were rather surprised when a foreigner was interested in their language and wanted to learn it. It almost seemed normal to speak in English to everyone. In general, English is very present in the daily life of Finland. Some products, signs or TV shows are English. Additionally, it wasn´t a problem to just call local administrative offices in English. You could never imagine that in Germany
Now, at the end of my studies abroad, I want to encourage everyone not to be afraid of languages like Finnish. Languages that are thought of to be too complex for foreigners to learn. Just go for it and experience many new things and most important the happy reactions of the native speakers. It
doesn’t matter how much you know about this language. It will always open doors to new conversations. It allows you to receive a more insight view on the local culture and get closer in touch with local people especially with the shy Finns. 
Onnea suomen opiskeluun ja good luck with your Finnish studies!
And in case I didn’t convince you, at least remember to say you don´t speak Finnish: Anteeksi, mä en puhu paljon suomea.