Learn New Words FAST with this Lesson’s Vocab Review List

Get this lesson’s key vocab, their translations and pronunciations. Sign up for your Free Lifetime Account Now and get 7 Days of Premium Access including this feature.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Notes

Unlock In-Depth Explanations & Exclusive Takeaways with Printable Lesson Notes

Unlock Lesson Notes and Transcripts for every single lesson. Sign Up for a Free Lifetime Account and Get 7 Days of Premium Access.

Or sign up using Facebook
Already a Member?

Lesson Transcript

Gina: Hi everyone, I’m Gina! Welcome back to FinnishPod101.com. This is Absolute Beginner Season 1, Lesson 3 - What is That Finnish Thing?
Paula: Hei! I'm Paula.
Gina: In this lesson, you’ll learn to ask simple questions.
Paula: This conversation takes place at home. Helen seems to be setting the table with Liisa. They will be speaking in standard Finnish.
Gina: Okay. Let's listen to the conversation.
Helen: Mikä tämä on?
Liisa: Se on lautanen.
Helen: Mikä tuo on?
Liisa: Se on lasi.
Helen: Kuka tuo on?
Liisa: Se on presidentti Niinistö.
Gina: Let's hear the conversation one time slowly.
Helen: Mikä tämä on?
Liisa: Se on lautanen.
Helen: Mikä tuo on?
Liisa: Se on lasi.
Helen: Kuka tuo on?
Liisa: Se on presidentti Niinistö.
Gina: Now let's hear it with the English translation.
Helen: Mikä tämä on?
Gina: What's this?
Liisa: Se on lautanen.
Gina: It's a plate.
Helen: Mikä tuo on?
Gina: What's that?
Liisa: Se on lasi.
Gina: It's a glass.
Helen: Kuka tuo on?
Gina: Who's that?
Liisa: Se on presidentti Niinistö.
Gina: So, Helen is asking a lot of questions.
Paula: That’s right. She seems to be quite eager to learn new things.
Gina: But how come she suddenly asked about President Niinistö? Do Finns have a picture of the President at the dinner table?
Paula: (laughs) No, she probably just saw a newspaper with his picture. By the way, do you know how many Presidents there have been in Finland?
Gina: Hmm... Twenty?
Paula: Twelve.
Gina: Really? But Finland’s been independent for almost a hundred years!
Paula: That’s true. We had one president, Urho Kekkonen, who ruled for 25 years, from 1956 all the way to 1981.
Gina: Wow, that’s a long reign. He must have been really popular.
Paula: He was. Many believed he was the only politician capable of maintaining good relationships with the Soviet Union, while retaining Finland’s independence. He was also quite good at making things go his way. He even dissolved the Parliament if it wouldn’t make the decisions he wanted.
Gina: Well, that’s quite something. Are Finnish Presidents still like that?
Paula: (laughs) Certainly not. The President’s powers have been reduced since his reign. Also, these days they can only serve two six-year terms at most. But they still tend to be popular. Even after Kekkonen, presidents who have run for a second term have been re-elected.
Gina: I see.
Gina: Well, let's take a look at the vocabulary for this lesson. The first word we shall see is:
Paula: Mikä [natural native speed]
Gina: Which, what
Paula: Mikä [slowly - broken down by syllable]. Mikä [natural native speed]
Gina: Next:
Paula: Tämä [natural native speed]
Gina: This
Paula: Tämä [slowly - broken down by syllable]. Tämä [natural native speed]
Gina: Next:
Paula: Se [natural native speed]
Gina: It
Paula: Se [slowly - broken down by syllable]. Se [natural native speed]
Gina: Next:
Paula: Lautanen [natural native speed]
Gina: Plate
Paula: Lautanen [slowly - broken down by syllable]. Lautanen [natural native speed]
Gina: Next:
Paula: Tuo [natural native speed]
Gina: That
Paula: Tuo [slowly - broken down by syllable]. Tuo [natural native speed]
Gina: Next:
Paula: Lasi [natural native speed]
Gina: Glass
Paula: Lasi [slowly - broken down by syllable]. Lasi [natural native speed]
Gina: Next:
Paula: Kuka [natural native speed]
Gina: Who
Paula: Kuka [slowly - broken down by syllable]. Kuka [natural native speed]
Gina: And last.
Paula: Presidentti [natural native speed]
Gina: President
Paula: Presidentti [slowly - broken down by syllable]. Presidentti [natural native speed]
Gina: Let's have a closer look at the usage of some of the words from this lesson.
Paula: We have a number of pronouns in this lesson. We’ll now have a look at ‘tämä’, ‘tuo’, and ‘se’. They correspond to “this”, “that”, and “it” in English.
Gina: And they are used in the same way as in English?
Paula: Pretty much, yes. ‘Tämä’ is something that is close to the speaker, while ‘tuo’ is something that is not close to the speaker. It may or may not be close to the listener, but it must be visible. ‘Se’ is usually also something that isn’t close to the speaker, but it doesn’t need to be visible.
Gina: And ‘se’ refers to animals and things like in English?
Paula: In standard Finnish, yes. In casual spoken Finnish, however, it can also be used for people.
Gina: Ah yes. We’re not supposed to teach spoken Finnish yet, but we’ll give you a sneak peak here. This is something you’ll run into if you hear any casual Finnish. It’s not rude to call a person ‘se’, it’s just a feature of spoken Finnish. Let’s move on to our next word.
Paula: That’s the word ‘presidentti.’
Gina: What’s special about it?
Paula: Well, it’s very much like the English word “president”, but you can’t use it in all the contexts where you’d use “president” in English. It’s just used for the head of a state.
Gina: Oh, so you wouldn’t use it for the president of a company or another organization in Finnish?
Paula: No, we have different words for those.
Gina: I see. Okay, now let’s go to the grammar.
Gina: In this lesson, you’re going to learn how to ask what something is. Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn new vocabulary and other things.
Paula: True. It’s also quite simple in Finnish. Let’s take the basic sentence pattern A on B, which translates into English as “A is B”.
Gina: In this pattern, A is whatever you’re talking about, and Paula is whatever you’re saying about A. So, how do you turn it into a question?
Paula: Well, all you need to do really is add a question word at the beginning and remove B.
Gina: It makes sense to remove B, because that’s actually what you’re trying to find out with your question.
Paula: Exactly.
Gina: OK. If you have a plate in your hand, how would you say “This is a plate” in Finnish?
Paula: Tämä on lautanen.
Gina: But if you didn’t know what it was, how would you ask “What is this?”
Paula: I’d just start with ‘mikä’ and follow with ‘tämä on’ - ‘Mikä tämä on?’
Gina: OK. And there’s no change of word order or anything? I mean, in English you have to change “this is” into “is this”.
Paula: No, the word order stays the same, except for the addition of the question word at the beginning.
Gina: Great. We had two question words in the dialogue. What’s the difference between them?
Paula: ‘Kuka’ is used when you want to find out who someone is, that is, the identity of a person. As the answer, you expect a name or some other specifying information, such as “my father” or “the first Finnish female president”. ‘Mikä’ is basically used in all other situations.
Gina: OK. Listeners, now it’s your turn. I’ll say a question in English, and your job is to say it in Finnish. Paula will give the correct answer after a few seconds. The first question is “Who are you?”
Paula: In case you don’t remember, “you” is ‘sinä’ and “are” is ‘olet’.
Paula: Kuka sinä olet?
Gina: The next question is “Who is he?”.
Paula: Kuka hän on?
Gina: One more. “What is it?”
Paula: Mikä se on?
Gina: Good! Now you can go and start pestering any Finns you meet with questions about anything you see!
Paula: (laughs) Please do!


Gina: Okay, that’s it for this lesson.
Paula: Don’t forget to check the lesson notes for more examples. Hei hei!
Gina: Thanks for listening. See you next time!