International students from our university shared us their tips on how to tackle our tricky language.


Follow Yle and read children’s books

Martin, nanoscience, 1 year in Finland

”I started to learn Finnish with Terttu Leney’s Teach Yourself Finnish, but I found it really boring and hard to follow. What really worked for me in the end was a combination of Fred Karlsson’s book on Finnish grammar, Wiktionary, a Sanoma Pro dictionary, YLE, and children’s books.

I spent a lot of time learning grammar. When I first started it, all the rules and strange sounding new words were overwhelming.

Once all the rules for vowel and consonant gradation and for example the verb types started to clear up, it really simplified things for me.”


Watch films and listen to music

Houra, Music, Mind and Technology, 2 years in Finland

”This summer I was an intern, and at the job everybody was speaking Finnish. Though it’s not considered very nice to stare at people, I looked at my colleagues’ mouths while they were speaking. I did that to see how they pronounced the words. Every now and then I also asked them what is this and that in Finnish. I was able to learn some slang words and spoken expressions.After the internship, I asked my Finnish friends to talk to me only in Finnish.

I’ve also started to read children’s books. Since they are written in simple Finnish, they are easier to understand, and also the pictures help me in understanding. While googling online, I found some free fairy tales in pdf such as Pupujussi pulassa and Tumpilla on tosi tylsää.

Watching television is a good way to learn, too, because the movies and TV-series have subtitles.

Recently, I also started to listen at least one Finnish song a week to learn from the lyrics.”


Have friends and find work

Lara, Education, 7 years in Finland

”My tips are: study hard, have a friend for conversations in Finnish, be brave and use Finnish outside classes as much as possible. And the better you learn the language, you notice that even many Finns make mistakes!

Right from the beginning I had a friend who decided to speak only Finnish with me. It helped me to get more courage to use Finnish in shops and in other everyday situations.

I have also always worked in addition to studying here. I have done babysitting and worked as a personal assistant. In those jobs, I had to speak Finnish. I actually feel like I get along with people here much easier when I speak Finnish.”


Try courses outside the university

Federica, Nuclear and Particle Physics, 1 month in Finland

”My husband has been working for a Finnish company for four years now, and still he can’t speak Finnish. We decided to take a course outside the university together, also because the courses offered by the university don’t fit my schedule.

The course is called Finnish as a second language, and it will be at Jyväskylän Aikuislukio. There are in fact six sub-courses for the main course. It will start in October and last until the end of May.”


Cook in Finnish and plant stickers

Han Yu, Biology of Physical Activity, 1 year and 3 months in Finland

”I have learned Finnish with the help of cook books – and in clothing stores. Because I’m very interested in fashion and food, for me it’s easy to learn words related to them.

Every month, I read the free magazine of K-Market, where there are lots of recipes. I’ve learned the names of the ingredients and other new words while testing the recipes. My friend also gave me a cook book from the Finnish elementary school. After a while, I got used to the words commonly used in recipes. Once I learned the food vocabulary, it was also easy for me to read the Finnish menu in the student cafeteria.

Watching Finnish movies has also been helpful. I’ve watched movies such as Rare Exports and Mieletön elokuu. I didn’t understand much at first, so I had to ask my friend to translate for me. In the end I had learned especially several slang expressions – and some not-so-nice words too – through movies.

In the beginning, I also used to place stickers with the Finnish word on different things in my house to memorize the words.”