Archive | November, 2012

In Leaps and Bounds

5 Nov

I have written little about my experience with the Finnish language, which is a shame because I’ve enjoyed it for the most part. Everybody says that Finnish is hard – I say that it is just different. Every language is hard when you first begin to speak it.

I have days when I think that I can’t speak it at all and that my vocabulary is so small (which it is, and I can never find the word that I need), but on others I am happy with my level of Finnish and feel as though I could speak Finnish to anybody (probably not true, actually).

But anyway, today I impressed myself today by automatically and effortlessly asking at the shop: ‘Onko tämä viisikymmentä senttiä?’ – Is this 50 cents? I was baffled that such a cute little Minnie Mouse purse could be so cheap and wanted to double check. It was, and I bought it =) Perfect for carrying my makeup to Helsinki and Tallin this weekend.

I also met with my Tandem partner again today – we meet every week or so and chat in a mixture of Finnish and English. It usually takes me an hour or so to prepare what I’ll say, but increasingly I’m using phrases and words that I know, rather than just reading from the script which I have written. Today I was talking about a mix up with classes and I even made a funny story in Finnish. I have also noticed a definite improvement in my listening skills; when I first started I understood perhaps one words in five sentences, now I am beginning to understand five words in one sentence. Next comes the part where I can understand the full meaning of the sentence ^^.

So, if you plan on moving to Finland and people ask: ‘Why do you want to go there? Isn’t Finnish really hard? How will you communicate?’ Just tell them that yes, it’s difficult to learn a new language, but once you get the hang of it it feels much, much easier.


It’s November Already?

4 Nov

Just short of November, on October 30th, I reached a milestone, hit a goal post that I had been aiming for since before my arrival in Oulu. The snow was still around, but only just and beginning to melt, and I figured I would head to the gym at 6.30am and see whether it would be around when I was out again. Through sleet and bone-chilling winds I half-walked, half-slipped to the gym, wondering why on earth I was out and what I was trying to prove.

At 8.30am, after a slightly lazy and unproductive workout, but workout none-the-less, it had started to snow properly and I detoured back to the city centre, walking through a snow-filled park on the river’s edge, lifting my face to the fat snowflakes that had started to fall. The only other person that I encountered was a man walking his dog, the dog’s barking echoing across the empty park and the near frozen water.

Snow fills me with a kind of elation that nothing else does. I will walk for hours if given half the chance, going nowhere in particular, just smiling and plodding on. Even if it’s freezing I don’t care; I will be cold if I can be happy.

I wandered along the front by the old tar houses and through the market square. It was slippery where the ice had begun to melt and the slush had frozen. The snow that was falling was struggling to settle because the ground was still wet. There’s a coffee shop across from the bus stop, ‘Strada Coffee’ which I always eye up and have wished to sit in for a long time. It has a long front window so that one can look out at the passing cars and people, and it looks warm and mellow inside. I decided to go in and order a cup of coffee and catch up on my diary writing, which I’d been meaning to do for a while.

I went in, removed my many layers, and ordered a cup of coffee in Finnish, without pause and without hesitation  taking it to the window to get settled. It might not sound like a lot, but it’s a big deal to me to have achieved this goal; to feel comfortable enough to use Finnish, in the city centre and with native Finns, and enjoy a cup of coffee on my own.

When I first arrived in Oulu I remember being afraid of everything. It’s my first time in a country that doesn’t speak English, and I was terrified of making mistakes or being misunderstood. It took me weeks to go to the city centre of my own, and I didn’t dare to stop and get coffee or food, I was content to do my shopping and run back home like a spooked cat. I’m a nervous person by nature and it takes baby-steps for my to progress. All my baby-steps have paid off and I was able to go and enjoy my own company (and good coffee) in this different, sometimes overwhelming place. It has done wonders for my confidence though.

In the last week I joined a dance class and went and danced with strangers, another form of proof to myself that I can be who I want to be, if I just stop being so afraid and just go ahead and jump on in.

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