Cue six years latter and I move to
Local news channel YLE has written a short article about how difficult it is to learn Finnish.
I didn't need to learn Finnish to live in
Consider the longest word in Finnish: lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas. Which means technical warrant officer trainee specialized in aircraft jet engines, and is supposedly actually used by the Finnish Air Force. It consists of sixty-one letters! Now try saying that word while drunk. It's a skill even few Finns can master. On the other hand Finnish is very easy to pronounce or spell once you get the hang of it because the words are pronounced exactly the way they are written. There are no silent letters or endings like in French. Finnish people have a hard time learning French for this reason. There are no same sounding words with different spellings like, meat and meet. Is it any wonder J.R.R. Tolkien was fascinated by the language and used it as his inspiration for Elvish? Though my Finnish has vastly improved over the last five years, I would still not consider myself fluent in the language. I come across new words I don't know on a daily basis and I make grammatical mistakes. On a bad day when I am tired or my brain stops working I have a hard time stringing two words together in Finnish. So nowadays I can shop, order, watch TV, listen to the news or radio, read simple news articles, have conversations with friends and write e-mails and simple notes in Finnish. Because most Finnish people realize theirs is a complicated language they are usually pleasantly surprised and happy when a foreigner can speak their language. Knowing that their language is only used by Finns in Finland and is therefore not a particularly useful language to learn they are happy that you even bothered to try. I am praised all the time for my faulty Finnish skills because there are many English speakers who never bothered to learn Finnish even though they have lived in Finland many years. My parents-in-law on the other hand are of the opposite opinion and always criticize me for not speaking better Finnish after living here for almost eleven years. But it is really hard to improve when it is so easy to be lazy and speak English and when everyone usually switches to Finnish if they notice you are having trouble. Many times people answer me in English even when I have started the conversation in Finnish!
I have made colourful gaffs like saying pakolainen (refugee) when I meant pakollinen (mandatory), or lihavia (obese) instead of lihaksia (muscles). It's a complicated language which I doubt I will ever truly master, but after my near failing grades in French in school