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Lesson Transcript

Tiina: Hi everyone, welcome back to the All About series!
Reeta: Hei kaikille!
Tiina: You’re in for a very useful lesson, because we’re here to give you some tips on how to avoid common mistakes made by learners of Finnish. Now remember, nothing’s wrong with making mistakes.
Reeta: It’s how you learn!
Tiina: In this lesson we’ll just give you a heads up so that you can be aware, and it will make your Finnish language learning experience a lot easier!
Reeta: Let’s get started!
Tiina: Tip #1: Don’t repeat “I” or other subject more than necessary!
Reeta: Remember that Finnish is a high-context language, meaning that you can leave a lot of things out and sound more natural in the process.
Tiina: Yeah, that’s right – you fill in all the “missing” elements from the surrounding context. See? “High-context”. This includes the pronoun “I”, which remember, is…
Tiina: So remember, to say “My name is” you would say…
Reeta: Minun nimeni on… 
Tiina: Minun nimeni on plus whatever your name is. The problem, though, is that there is a great mismatch between Finnish and English in this area. In casual conversation, we’re inclined to talk about ourselves – a lot. I know that that sounds a bit conceited, but we do! And in English, we are required to mention the subject in most of our sentences. So, the combination of those two factors results in your average speaker of English saying “I did this” and “I ate that” – with the “I” pronoun appearing very frequently. Now, consider what happens when you start learning Finnish, a language which happens to be quite different from English. You can just try to remember that as verbs are conjugated in all the six personal forms, in Finnish the verb by itself tells always who is the subject. That way it makes sense to leave out the personal pronoun.
Reeta: So you could just remember to say “minä” once – and then forget about it! Unless you switch topics in the same conversation. But the less you use it, the better.
Tiina: Tip #2: Don’t forget to pronounce the double consonants or vowels!
Reeta: As we mentioned in the pronunciation lesson, double consonants and vowels are very important in Finnish.
Tiina: Yeah – there are so many words that change a meaning if the other double consonant or vowels is left out.
Reeta: There’s always the chance that you will be misunderstood for leaving out something from the word.
Tiina: Ok. And it as well gives the right rhythm for the word.
Reeta: So let’s watch out for those double consonants and vowels.
Reeta: That’s good advice. What’s the next one?
Tiina: Tip #3: Let’s not forget the Äs and the Ös!
Reeta: The two important vowels at the end of the Finnish alphabet, the ä and the ö,
Tiina: Yeah, these are really important for Finnish language. These are not As and Os with some accents on them, but proper vowels.
Reeta: So it’s important to be aware of and hear the difference of those when speaking.
Tiina: And of course to remember to write them as well.
Reeta: Yeah, that is true! You can always as somebody in Finland if something is spelled with an A or with an Ä. People would love to help you out there.
Tiina: Ah, that’s a good idea. So, how should we ask this sort of question?
Reeta: You could just ask if the A has two dots on it or is it just an A. Of course if you can make a good pronunciation of the two, then just ask is it an A or an Ä. What’s the next tip we have?
Tiina: Tip #4: Learn to be comfortable with Your Finnish R!
Tiina: Finnish has many sounds that are a little bit different from English, and one of them is the R.
Reeta: Don’t you have this in English, though? There is an R in English too, right?
Tiina: Yes, we do – but notice that “R” Finnish. in Finnish you have roll your tongue a lot and make it really sound like a strong R sound!
Reeta: Yeah – for example, when saying “food” is ruoka. Ruo-ka. Ruoka.
Tiina: Hear that R in the beginning? It’s not a soft “R” like in English. It has to be strong and actually it is similar to a Spanish R. How about another example?
Reeta: The word for “laugh” is nauraa. Nau-raa. Nauraa.
Tiina: Again, notice the R in the middle of the word. This is the Finnish R.
Reeta: How can listeners improve their enunciation skills with this particular sound?
Tiina: Well, one sure strategy is to imagine a sound of a motor, and try to roll your tong. Usually, this needs a little bit of a practice. Drrrr, drrrr, drrrrr.
Reeta: Alright, “drr”. And then what?
Tiina: At that point, once you start to get your tong rolling, you can start to practice with different words, like robotti, radio, ravintola and so on.
Reeta: That’s a pretty good strategy, Ed!
Tiina: If you keep at this, the rolling R won’t scare you anymore!
Reeta: Okay Ed, what is the last tip we have for everyone?
Tiina: Tip #5: Watch out for similar sounding words!
Tiina: Now this could happen in any language, but Finnish has the particularity of let’s say, words that sound a little similar. The difference being only one syllable, or something like that. And when you’re starting out and still have a small vocabulary, it becomes even easier to mix words up.
Reeta: Right.
Tiina: What are some more infamous examples?
Reeta: One example is “kissa” and “kisa”
Tiina: They sound really similar… so what do they mean?
Reeta: kissa, with two “s”, means cat . Kisa, with a “s”, means a competition.
Tiina: Yeah! You have to be careful with this one. You wouldn’t want to try and call a cat a competition!
Reeta: Yeah, that would be extremely awkward!
Tiina: How about another example?
Reeta: Here’s a triple bonanza! tuli, tulli, and tuli!
Tiina: Wow, what do those mean?
Reeta: The first tuli means “fire”. Tulli means a customs (where to declare your purchases). And the second tuli is the imperfect tense for verb tulla (to come) in 3rd person singular.
Tiina: Yikes! So, let’s be careful with these three words! (Laughter.)
Reeta: Yeah, that’s right!
Tiina: Alright, well there are our Top 5 tips for avoiding common mistakes in Finnish!
Reeta: Don’t say “I” more than necessary!
Tiina: Don’t forget to pronounce the double consonants or vowels!
Reeta: Let’s not forget the Äs and the Ös!
Tiina: Learn to be comfortable with Your Finnish R!
Reeta: And Watch out for similar sounding words!
Tiina: Keep these in mind and your Finnish learning experience will be made a lot easier!
Reeta: You’ll be on the right track!
Tiina: See you next time – bye!