Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Finns are different

One explanation why we Finns are so odd must be the language.

It's been cited as the second hardest language to learn after Cantonese. Having never tried to learn Cantonese, I'm not sure this is correct. Besides, how do you measure the grade of difficulty? I suppose the 13 cases, and endings rather than prepositions make a difference. There must be a number of linguists who are at this very point shouting at their screens reading this, but not being one myself, it seems strange to me that you can be so specific about a human brain. (I must interject here that whenever I say the word linguist I always think of a particular James Bond movie. If you know the joke you know what I mean.)

That aside, Finnish is my mother tongue, and as those of you who have been reading my tale 'How I came to be in England' know, I learned Swedish when living there as a child. So really the only language I had to consciously learn was English.

But I find now, after hmm, 25 odd years here in the UK (how time flies), my Finnish is deteriorating. Sometimes I forget words and have to look them up. It's on these occasions when I feel almost a foreigner in my own language. Take for instance the word sinusitis. I could not remember what it was in Finnish. Husband suggested 'sinukkisia'. He has this theory that he can turn any word into Finnish by adding a number of k's and 'ia' at the end of it. Sometimes it works but on this occasion the proper word turned out to be, wait for it....

Poskiontelontulehdus

In Finnish the word sounds as painful as it is, but I know it's not onomatopoeic. It actually means inflammation of the cheek cavities. So now I feel really unwell.

PS. Antibiotics are on their way so normal service of the blog will be resumed within 24-48 hours.

19 comments:

North West London Girl said...

A very cunning joke that (I know the one you mean).. Poor you having 'poskiontelontulehdus' it is something I had suffered with for many years until Homeopathy (another story and how would you say Homeopathy in Finnish if it isn't the same as in English) made it all better. I know how painful it is so I wish you a speedy recovery xx

little birds fly said...

feel better soon...you've probably heard this a million times over but, a netti pot (to flush the sinuses with warm salty water, works wonders

and thank you for making me laugh so early in the morning...good way to start the day ;)

Wildernesschic said...

My husband adds "O's" to Spanish :)
Hope you get better soon.
xxxx

Wildernesschic said...

Ps My sons are learning Cantonese and love it !! Proud mum here.. x

Heather said...

as someone struggling to learn Finnish i can say it is a difficult language - not sure about it being the 2nd hardest though...

outsidewrecker said...

Finnish is not a language .... it is a code

Margit said...

Very "un-nice" to have sinusitis, even in Finnish... and weren't you going away soon? But apart from that I find this whole business of being bi-lingual (or in your case tri-lingual) fascinating and could discuss it 'til the cows come home... so I'll stop here, and hope that the antibiotics will do their job quickly! x

Helena Halme said...

Thanks everybody for your kind wishes. I'm sure my head will come out of the fog soon. xx

Make Do Style said...

Poor you and I managed to read it but properly didn't pronounce correctly.
I'm the same with Welsh, I've forgotten so much vocab and then you get stuck.

Miss Welcome said...

When I learned Mandarin (informally while living in Taiwan), what made it hard, besides memorizing the thousands of characters as opposed to a limited alphabet (which I never did), was the tones. There are four. And Cantonese has nine, I think. That means if you say "shuey-jiao" in a sing-song way (your voice going up, only to swoop down and go back up again) it meant boiled dumplings. But if you said "shuey-jiao" in sharp tones, your voice going down hard on each syllable, it meant "sleep." Someone who learned Mandarin correctly would explain it better.

And when in Somaliland learning Somali (but only briefly), there were lots of letters like Finnish, but if I remember correctly the subjects were all very long, the verbs were conjugated differently according to negative and tenses and many other things. I remember thinking it was way harder than learning Chinese. A Somali can correct me here - I'm no linguist.

French, you know, you have the masculine and feminine and extra tenses, but as a romance language it's at least predictable. And English, ah simple English, ha ha ...

Anyway, I hope you feel better soon and can get some "shuey-jiao" in sharp tones, your voice going down hard on each syllable.

Melissa said...

Hope you feel better! I never got around to learning another language, but maybe someday.

ThatGirl39 said...

Ow.... that P word things sounds nasty... hope you're feeling better soon. And yes I remember the James Bond line. Can't beat a bit of Oo Er Missus humour! x

mettebassett said...

Hi Helena, I hope the antibiotics have kicked in and you feel a bit better.

My lovely mother-in-law is Finnish and I remember struggling quite a bit when visiting the non-english-speaking part of her family in Joensuu.

Two words did stick though: kippis and kirpis :-) xx Mette

Midlife Jobhunter said...

Hope you feel better soon. I've been enamored of those who can learn other languages. As I struggled through high school French, I found I didn't have the ability - or the study skills - to adapt easily. I can pick up words here and there and use my vocabulary skills to recognize some words in certain languages. But, hopelessly, an American and one language. Puts me in a box, I know.

JulieB said...

As someone who was born in Finland, to a Finnish mother and an English father, I often wish we had not moved away when I was a year old, or wish my mother had chosen to speak to me in Finnish as a child. It would have saved many miserable years subsequently attempting to learn Finnish. I had to learn it as a foreigner, rather than a native speaker, which eventually proved pretty fruitless, although at least I can just about manage the pronunciation!

Patty said...

Wow I don't think I'm going to even TRY to pronounce that, hope you feel better soon!

swissmiss said...

hi
i am an american woman dating a finn who has lived in the states
for 20 years..
can you give me any pointers on best way to handle him?
he seems very sweet but not all that emotional which i have read
is normal for a fin..
please any advice would be welcome.
sincerely, lesa

Helena Halme said...

Dear Swissmiss,

I'm sorry I haven't seen your comment before, but if you'd like to email me (link on the left), I'll give you as many pointers as I can. Bearing in mind I've been living in the UK with a Brit for 25 years...briefly what I can say is that show of emotion is a complete no-no to a Finnish man.

Cindy said...

Lighthearted post-makes my day.