Immersion is the best way to learn Finnish
The best way to learn Finnish is through Immersion. Immersion isn't just studying the language all day every day. It means surrounding yourself with the language to the point that you have to use every day.
Immersion is sort of like the ultimate on the job training (if knowing Finnish was a job). It's the most effective way to learn a language and, assuming you make an effort to be actively immersed, it's the quickest way too.
But just because it's effective and quick does not mean it's easy. In fact it wouldn't be hard to make a case for Immersion being the most difficult way to learn a language.
Immersion isn't always practical, especially if you're learning Finnish. Not everyone can live in Helsinki for a few months to work on their Finnish, and there's not likely a huge Finnish diaspora near your hometown.
So does that mean if you can't live in Finland you're just out of luck?
You can design your own Finnish learning program right at home. It might not be as intense as a true immersion experience, but it can still be super effective (and it costs a lot less too).
Polyglot Benny Lewis shares his thoughts on immersion without traveling. You can check out more about his method for learning languages here.
In this post we'll look at the best way to learn Finnish based on your skill level in the language, your budget, and your schedule. Before we do that though, we're going to need to talk about inputs and outputs.
What you'll learn in this post:
Inputs & Outputs (why they matter)
There are four aspects of language learning: reading, listening, writing, and speaking.
Four Parts of Learning Finnish
Of these four options two are inputs: reading and writing; and two are outputs: writing and speaking. You will need to develop all four skills to become fluent in Finnish.
But you'll need a different amount of practice for each depending on your level in Finnish.
As a beginner you will need to study, read, and listen a lot more than you speak or write. This is simply because at this level you don't know a lot of Finnish yet.
You should still practice speaking and writing, but they shouldn't be your chief focus. Your main goal at this level is to learn as much of the language as you can and get your feet off the ground (sort of speak).
Finnish isn't the most popular foreign language in the world, but there are a few options for beginners. These courses in particular are good for giving you a solid foundation in the language.
Finnish resources for beginners
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Finnishpod101 uses primarily audio lessons in a podcast format. It has flashcards, vocabulary, and word sheets. The podcast is a great way to learn grammar, vocabulary, and work on pronunciation. Finnishpod101 is a great way to develop listening and reading skills (podcast transcripts are available).
30 minutes a day
Pimsleur is probably the second most popular language course behind Rosetta Stone. Pimsleur is entirely audio based and is specifically designed to develop your conversational skills.
They use a unique and effective question/recall/respond technique to get you on your feet in your new foreign language. With Pimsleur You'll learn a limited but functional vocabulary and have a good sense of pronunciation.
After your ability in Finnish has increased you can start including more outputs in your regular practice/study sessions.
Inputs are still vitally important at this phase. You want to increase the difficulty of what you read and listen to gradually over time, so as to help prevent complacency or plateaus.
As an intermediate student you're probably not at a place yet where you can strike up a conversation with any Finnish speaker you meet. Still you'll want to start practicing basic conversations at this point.
The best option for speaking practice is a professional teacher or someone who has experience helping language learners.
They'll know the ins and outs of learning the language, and they'll be able to help you get the practical conversation practice you need.
Finnish resource for intermediate learners
$6+ per hour (varies between teachers)
30 minute or 1 hour lessons
Italki is an online market place that connects language learners with language teachers for one-on-one language classes via video or audio chat.
You can connect with language speakers from around the world and practice your speaking skills. Italki is one of the only sites that provides professional or informal lessons with Finnish teachers.
*with a purchase of $20 or more. After your first purchased lesson a credit of $10 will be added to your account
At the advance level you practice about the same amout of outputs as you do inputs.
This is were things start to get really fun and the language begins to open up. Just remember to keep pushing the boundaries and practice Finnish at the edge of your comfort zone. Try to incorporate difficult sentence structures and/or complex subject matters.
Anytime you use the language it constitutes as practice. It might be ideal to practice with a native speaker who doesn't know as much English, so you can keep the conversation exclusively in Finnish.
It might also be a good idea to meet with a professional Finnish teacher every now and then. They can evaluate your weak spots and give you much needed feedback on your progress. They can also lend a hand in helping you decipher slang, idioms, and other nuanced uses of the language.
Finnish resources for advanced learners
Write posts in Finnish and post them to Lang-8 to get feedback from native speakers. It's one of the best ways to practice your writing, and it's free! This site is simple to use but very effective.
Speaky is a free online language exchange where you can meet and practice with language learners from over 180 countries. Practice with Finnish speakers over video, audio, or text chat. Just remember to help them with their English too!
What resource you use to learn Finnish depends largely on your level and individual needs. Use these resources as a starting point for jump starting your Finnish learning program!