#MicroblogMonday – Told you so

I hope there is a day that someone can say “I told you so” in relation to my son, and probably daughter, speaking English. I just feel so deflated and disheartened when Paxlet doesn’t speak English. I know he could, if he wanted and tried, but he doesn’t want to and only randomly tries, so he doesn’t speak it well. Tadbit seems to be going the same way. She has been wowing us with many new words a week lately, but all in Finnish. In fact, if I tell her/use the English one, she disagrees with me on it! LOL

The kids are in Finnish daycare all day, have a Finnish dad and only me for English. Once they are in school, there are city run programs for multi-lingual families, but we’ve got another 1,5 years (only?! ack!) before he starts preschool/kindergarten (at age 6).

I never thought about languages this way. Nor that it would be so difficult to get my kids to speak my mother tongue.

I don’t really have much to offer or ask for. I’m just mussing and hoping (again) that things will change in the future.

MicroblogMonday For more microposts, go visit Mel’s post at Stirrup Queens.

6 years a Finn

Getting my Finnish citizenship hasn’t really changed my life in any day to day way, but I was happy to get it anyway.

The biggest difference I have found having dual citizenship is that when I travel to the US, I need to have both passports with me. I have been told that having a Finnish/EU passport has the potential to make travel easier to say Russia or Cuba. I’ve never had any issues traveling with my American passport or being an American. I believe being a nice person, no matter your world status, is what matters.

As for matters of Finnish-ness, I’ll never be fully Finnish. For starters, I don’t drink enough alcohol. LOL. And while I am much quieter than I used to be, I’m still “the loud American”. Hey, I speak English and don’t have a problem with letting my voice be heard. Also, this west coast accent of mine, when speaking English, is just too American. My physical features are nothing exceptional, so I can and do pass as a Finn, until I open my mouth. I do speak Finnish and sound decently enough like a Finn* as long as I don’t get into long winded speeches, which reveal my many mistakes. In fact, I think I fooled/tricked someone (unwittingly) into thinking I was a Finn that decided to speak to my kids in English to be cool, or something.

Having dual citizenship just feels a bit nerdy/geeky. It isn’t really needed, but it is cool to have because no one else has it.
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Like my artsy-fartsy representation of the Finnish flag? I had fun capturing it.

*I have tried really hard to pronounce words, letters and sounds as the Finns do and not an American/foreigner speaking the language.

Funny Finnish-ism: sand cakes and “ei paha”

Spring is here, although you wouldn’t know it by the snow and sleet flurries we’ve had the last couple of days. This means that the sandboxes are no longer covered in snow and the muddy-sandy bog that they had become, has dried up enough to be called a sandbox again. It also means the sandboxes can be played in, much to the children’s delight!

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Here in Finland, kids make “sand cakes” (hiekkakakku*) instead of a “sand castles”. (Unless they are specifically making a sand castle, then they might call it a hiekkalinna.)

And when kids have filled up a bucket/container, flipped it over and before they have taken said bucket/container off the creation, they will often say a little rhyme while tapping the top/bottom to ensure that they get a “good cake”.

Älä tule paha kakku, tule hyvä kakku!
Don’t come a bad cake, come a good cake.

I don’t remember anything like this from growing up or since then, in the US. So this was quite new and charming to me when I first moved to Finland. These days, it is  normal and cute.

Even cuter, is when Paxlet was first learning to make sand cakes, he would only say “ei paha” (no/don’t bad) while performing said  and the last syllable would be higher pitched than the rest. Nowadays, he’s becoming a pro at making sand cakes and has no problems saying the rhyme in its entirety.

*As I googled hiekkakakku to make sure I was spelling it correctly and as one word, I got many hits on an actual cake-type with this name. Most seemed to involve some cognac in the recipe.

#MicroblogMonday – Names

In Finnish, there are two names for “uncle”, depending on which side of the family the uncle is from.
Eno = mother’s brother.
Setä = father’s brother.

Aunts on the other hand only have one word: täti.

Setä and täti are also used as a general name for an unknown male or female person when talking about someone to your kid. Such as some man/lady in the store. Paxlet, watch where you are walking so that you don’t bump into that lady/täti.

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Names have been on my mind a lot lately. Tadbit doesn’t have a proper name yet and most likely won’t until a few weeks after she is born, if it goes anything like with Paxlet. I have a few requirements that I require of a name:
1. The name can’t start with a J. The Finnish J sounds like an English Y. Example Jennifer=Yennifer or Jenny=Yenny.
2. I do not want my girl child name Marja. It is a very nice name and I know several ladies with that name, but I would always think “Berry”. Also see #3.
3. No M-names. There are too many M-names in my family already and I mix them up all the time! Even with people whose name doesn’t start with an name.
4. Preferably the name won’t start with an S. Our boy’s name starts with an S and so does our last name. Plus, I have cousins (who are siblings) with names starting with the same letter and I always found that a bit strange… However, there are several girl S-names that I do like.
5. The name needs to be easily said/written in Finnish and English.

So, the question is, what are we going to name our little girl?!

MicroblogMonday For more microposts, go visit Mel’s post at Stirrup Queens.

#MicroblogMonday – When in Rome…?

Only 3 more sleeps until we start making our way towards the US to visit my family. I’m still stressed over this trip more than I am looking forward to it. I know that will change, I hope, once we board our first plane. Until then, I’ve got too much to do. Or at least it feels that way.

Mr Siili speaks only Finnish to Paxlet and I speak only English. I have no clue how it is going to work while we are in the US. My family, obviously, doesn’t speak a word of Finnish. And even if they do remember a word, I do NOT want them saying it to Paxlet as they will mangle it beyond recognition.
Should Mr Siili continue to speak to Paxlet only in Finnish? And then to everyone else in English? This is how I do it here in Finland, although most everyone understands English. However, if there are kids involved in a situation, I generally use Finnish, so that everyone understands what I am saying. Or should Mr Siili use Finnish only when directly talking to Paxlet (for example to impart some instructions or warnings), but English when other people need to know what is going on or being said? Or, or…? Or am I thinking about this too much?

What would you do?

MicroblogMonday For more microposts, go visit Mel’s blog.

Learning Finnish

In response to one of my #MicroblogMonday posts a few weeks ago: Foreign, Language, Melissa from Stirrup Queens asked some good questions, that I thought could make into a fun post. Or at least interesting. Or something.

I moved to Finland just over 15 years ago, but I had “taken a holiday” here the year before, which is the catalyst of my interest in Finland and learning Finnish.
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In the beginning, I bought a book or two to start learning the Finnish language. Mr Siili sent me a dictionary and created some “homework” for me that he either emailed or posted to me. He also wrote some silly stories in Finnish, sentences for me to translate in Finnish and English and made me a crossword puzzle or two, which I still have tucked away to this day.
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This thing went EVERYWHERE with me during the first few years in Finland.
Once Finland was on my mind, I took my books everywhere with me (in my hometown) learning what I could. This led me to bump into other people in my hometown who had ties with Finland. One girl’s family was from Finland and they visited in the summers. Another guy studied Finnish in Washington state and then did an exchange in Finland. He was nice enough to give me copies of all the books he had. I still have them on my shelves.
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Once I moved to Finland, Mr Siili would help me with learning Finnish more, but that didn’t last long as our learning and teaching styles clashed. He wanted to correct my every error and I just wanted to be understood. It is a bit better these days, but elephants Mr Siili’s have a long memory. Unfortunately, this led to Mr Siili and I only speaking English at home, even to this day.

After living in Finland for a couple of months, I got a job at an English speaking daycare: the adults spoke English and the kids didn’t, for the most part. I quickly learned some basics: colors, animals, numbers, thank you, stop, don’t and any other basic phrases you need with kids. I also learned some simple phrases. During this time I also started a basic language course through one of the community colleges. It was a structured way of learning and I am sure I learned something from there. The second year of living in Finland, I worked a different English daycare and continued to learn more Finnish.

By this point, I know I had a decent vocabulary. Especially if it consisted of the above mentioned categories and food. Oh, food was and is important to me. I love cooking and baking, but packages and products were so different here! I remember one time wanting got make a special dish for Mr Siili, but I just couldn’t find all the items I needed. Either because they were packaged differently and I couldn’t find them or because they just didn’t have them (yet) in Finland. That specific trip to the shop had me in tears.

On another occasion, I remember helping another American girl who had just moved to Finland to start working at the same place as me. I thought I was so great in my Finnish skills that I offered to “translate” for her so she could order some make-up the Body Shop. I took the product up to the ladies at the counter and told them that “she (co-worker) wanted to order this, but in a darker color.” (Hän halua tila tämä…) The lady behind the counter just looked at me very strangely. I kept trying and trying and I think I finally got my point across, but sheesh it was hard. Hours later it hit me like a ton of bricks. I had been telling the lady that my co-worker wanted to “space” the product, not order (tilata)!! And now, all these years later, I know how very basic my Finnish was and how I could have worded the sentence even better to sound more like a Finn. (Hän haluasi tehdä tilaus… She would like to make an order…)

The following year (start of my 3rd year in Finland) I was accepted to a polytechnic school. (You can receive a Bachelors degree from here.) Part of my course studies included Finnish. However, in this class, we had students who had almost no Finnish knowledge and then those of us who had a decent amount. At times it was difficult to feel like I was learning anything, but at others I did learn some of what I already knew even better by trying to explain it to the others. Part of our degree included some training/working at a real company. I found a place (NC) that had nothing to do with my schooling, but was willing to let me write my thesis for them (It totally sucked by the way.) and pay me to work for them at the same time. I worked at NC until the end of 2006 (7 years in Finland for me).

Towards the end of working at NC, I decided that I wanted to step up my game and actively work on my Finnish skills again. It had gotten to the point that I could get by in stores, ask for what I needed/wanted, explain basic aches and pains to the nurse/doctor and so on. But when I would be out in public or around a group of people that started speaking Finnish to each other, I would tune out. I went to my own little world and just didn’t pay attention. At first, it was difficult to keep my focus on following a conversation and trying to understand what people were actually saying. I remember many days after a work meeting or coming home from work in the evenings and just being exhausted. It’s hard work actively learning something!

The year 2007 ended up being a year of focusing on Finnish language studies for me. I jumped into the middle of one advanced Finnish language course. It was a very traditional school-learning course. We sat in desks, did lots of writing work, a decent amount of speaking and a month long work experience “job”. I interviewed for 3 different places in which to do my work experience: a well known local do-nut shop, a cafe and a tech/computer place. I chose the last place, in hopes that it would lead to a real job, in an area that interested me and sort of could go with the degree I had earned. The job ended up being quite boring and I mostly just sat at a computer screen translating stuff from Finnish into English as best I could. I didn’t really interact with many people and they didn’t interact with me, which was a pity. Being middle of the summer and lots of people on holiday didn’t help much either.

After that course, I signed up for another couple of courses and tested to see where I placed. I managed to get into a course that focused on work life and other such “adult” things for foreigners living in Finland. But about a week after starting that course, I was accepted to one more language course: Onnenkieli (happy language, Önne is also the name of the owner and founder). I’d heard about this course and it sounds exactly like what I wanted! Plus, it was difficult to get into and I wasn’t really liking the course I was in, yes even after just one week.

Onnenkieli uses suggestopedic principles and methods for learning. That is, we did lots of play acting, dialogues, singing, hand movements (to help remember the different parts of speech), flash cards, relaxation/meditation while the teacher read us dialogs, discussed news & events, local holidays, customs, etc. We also did written work, but it was what we did at home. In class, it was all about group participation and interacting with others. I found this course to be more helpful for me and also tons of fun. The people in the course were great and there is one lady I still keep in touch with (in fact, I helped her figure out what she needed to do to get IVF and her baby boy). This course too required a month long work training, speaking as much Finnish as I could, which I did at my current company.
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While I learned Finnish from many different places and in many different ways. It was the last course that finally got this message through to me: talk, talk, talk! No matter how many mistakes you make, keep talking. The most important thing is that you go for it. People are generally understanding, forgive the mistakes you make in their language because you are using their language, especially Finns.

Fifteen plus years later, I still make mistakes. Lots of mistakes in spoken language (that’s a whole other language unto itself here in Finland) and in writing. But I do speak.

#MicroblogMonday – Foreign, Languages

I don’t consider myself a foreigner here in Finland anymore. I’ve lived here since July 1998 (15 years). I’m used to (most of) the ways of life, living and people in Finland. It just feels right. If anything, I feel more foreign when I am “home” in the US.

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This morning I heard two obvious foreigners speaking Finnish with each other on the bus. It makes me smile and I think it is great to hear foreigners speaking Finnish, at all levels. Especially ones you know are not native to Finland. These two now have common language between the two of them who normally wouldn’t have a common language.

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I am by no means 100% fluent in Finnish, but I do speak and write the language decently well. I get by, to say the least. I have done all of my IVF treatments in Finnish (with an explanation or two in English for further clarification, after it was said in Finnish), I go to doctors’ appointments for myself and Paxlet, the store, talk in Finnish at work in person and phone (although mostly in English). I survive.

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It may have taken me ages to get where I am in my language skills with Finnish, due partly mostly to laziness. Especially as I don’t consider myself to be good at learning languages. But I sure enjoy the little idiosyncrasies of languages.

Piece of cake = helppo nakki (easy hotdog*/wienie/fankfurter)

Okay, okie dokie = selvä pyy  (It’s clear partridge)

Slowly, little by little, bit by bit = pikku hiljaa (little quiet)

Kill two birds with one stone = lyödä kaksi kärpästä yhdellä iskulla (Hit two flies with one hit)

Like two peas in a pod = Kuin kaksi marjaa (Like two berries)

A slip of the tongue = Päästää sammakko suustaan (To let a frog out from oneself’s mouth)

*When someone says “hotdog”. What do you envision? The ‘dogs’ themselves or a ‘hotdog and a bun’?

MicroblogMonday For more microposts, go visit Mel’s blog.