Welcome to my blog. I write about fitting in, sticking out, and missing the motherland as a serial foreigner.

Finnish is a magical religious order

Ready for an inapt analogy? Today in Finnish class I realized that learning Finnish is like joining a religious cult or something. We learned things in the earlier chapters of our textbook that now, in the later chapters, they're telling us was not quite the whole truth. But it's too late to back out! We already live here!

Month and months ago, they said we could say "tämä on leipä," (this is bread) with everything in the basic form, but we learned this week that actually, you can't (or you can, but it sounds weird or means something different). You should say "tämä on leipää," with the noun in partitive form.

When we learned partitive form a few weeks ago, it was in the context as objects of verbs. My brain filed it away under "Finnish equivalent of accusative case" and proceeded as normal. But now, I have to unlearn that, because partitive is so much more than accusative case, and is in fact not accusative case at all.

And now I know why two months ago, when we were at a friend's house for dinner and I noticed that their brand of milk was called "hyvää suomalaista maitoa" ("good Finnish milk" in partitive form) instead of "hyvä suomalainen maito" ("good Finnish milk" in basic form), and I asked them to explain why, they couldn't. Or rather, they didn't. Because I wasn't ready for that level of knowledge. That is higher order stuff.

When I flip back to the earlier chapters of my textbook now, I get all wistful about how simple things seemed then. How partitive was partitive and it was for objects of verbs. How I felt like I could actually say a few things in Finnish in basic form without having to worry about word endings. How my Finnish friends seemed to understand the things I said. Now I realize that those looks of encouragement they were giving me were a little wistful, too, like they also think fondly of those heady first days of membership in the Finnish language.

Now this language is cranking up the stakes and I hope I can continue to hold on!

The view from teaching

Downton Abbey, THE END