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Okay, this is a tough one. You try talking to Finns and to learn something at the same time, but you feel you can't learn anything because nobody corrects your mistakes. Is it because you don't make any mistakes? Are they afraid to hurt your feelings? Are they just lazy? Let me give you a few insights on the matter, as good as I can.

You've probably asked a few Finns whether they could correct what you say. Maybe they corrected you a little in the beginning. When you're at the very beginning of studying Finnish, you will make a lot of mistakes. At that point of your studies, correcting you would not be very useful. The sentence constructions handed to you by the native Finn will often be too hard for you to master right away. You might ask WHY it should be said that way, and then be annoyed when the Finn shrugs his shoulders and appologizes for not knowing. "IThat's just the way it is," they'll say.

First of all, most Finns are not linguists. They have learned in school what a subject and a verb is, but detached from reality. They've learned the grammatical cases by heart in one specific order (ines, ela, illa, ades, abla, alla), but don't need them in real life. They've learned what the partitive is, but they haven't learned the rules you've been dealing with as a student of Finnish. They don't know why you say "ymmärrän sinua" but "luotan sinuun". Finns don't need to know the grammar, because they can apply its principles by intuition. They don't care about the rules, because they don't need them.

Another thing is that you're in a conversation with this Finn you're talking to. You're not in school learning how to use the translative correctly. The point of a conversation is to understand someone and to be understood yourself. As long as you get your point across, a Finn won't bother correcting your mistakes. Finns make mistakes too while talking. They forget words momentarily, which will be lying on the tip of their tongue but still not come out. They start one sentence and then change their mind and say it in a different way or say something else intirely. There's no point correcting everything that comes out of a person's mouth. The point is to keep the conversation going and conveying the meanings one wants to convey. Finns will focus on the content of your message, not the form. My Finnish boyfriend will leave my mistakes uncorrected all the time. When I realize my mistake myself half a second later and correct it myself, he'll say  "oh, right", but the mistake will have gone right past him while we were just talking. Sometimes he'll have an inkling that what I said was not completely native-like, but won't be able to put his finger on it. It's perfectly normal and you shouldn't be angry about that.

While you learn more and more Finnish, you will make less mistakes. That's the point at which you will, again, ask "your" Finn to correct your mistakes. You probably reasoned that - since you make less mistakes now - it's easier to correct them. And it is, sometimes. But while you get better and better at Finnish, you will also make less obvious mistakes. Mistakes that aren't really mistakes per se. You are using sentence constructions that COULD be correct, for all the Finn might know. He (or she) would probably say it in a different way himself, but your way sounds okay too. Don't ask them how THEY would say the same thing, because they'll be stunned and unable to answer that question too. Language is communication, and therefore it's hard for non-linguists to think of how they would say something without the actual NEED to say the thing in any situation. One thing that might help is if you describe a context for your Finn ("You're in the bus station and a stranger comes up to you and says.... How would you reply when you want to convey this meaning or sentiment?"). Inventing situations that your Finn can really imagine is hard though. And this takes time and might annoy him or her.

I have a friend who makes lots of mistakes. She wants me to correct her Finnish. Since I'm more linguistically inclined, I hear her mistakes, notice them all even when a Finn would focus on the meanings. Yet I rarely correct my friend. We're communicating, conveying meanings. It is not a language test. A conversation is not supposed to be filled with constant corrections and interruptions. Sometimes we'll have a ten minute break from the actual conversation, in which I'll correct EVERY mistake she makes. It's really tiring and I'm not sure she really learns anything from it. I think she's learning much by just talking, making mistakes, listening to my replies, and subconsciously absorbing everything she hears so that she'll make less and less mistakes as time goes by. Her writings I DO correct. Those are a lot easier, because I can stop and make a correction and still not interrupt the story that's coming from the pages she wrote.

So if you want corrections, try writing and handing your text to a Finn instead of talking. Tell them not to correct every mistake, but rather to look for mistakes you make often. Correcting every mistake would depress you, because there's bound to be many. A teacher would know which mistakes you made are the kind you can LEARN from at that point of your studies, a regular Finn won't. So the corrections will be more chaotic, harder to understand and - most of all - you won't get an answer to the neverending "why" that you're constantly confronted with. Go easy on your Finn, don't ask the why's but rather try to come up with the answers yourself, through my website maybe, or with a dictionary, or based on a whole group of mistakes that seem similar to each other. Analyze your own writings as well as you can. When you learn from the mistakes you make while writing, you will also learn to avoid them now and then while talking. That's my two cents of advice :)


( 10 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 12th, 2011 10:24 pm (UTC)
Just wanted to say, I love this post. I feel the same way when people ask me to correct their English, and I am a linguist (of sorts). With your native language, it is more just memorized and stuck in your head and you don't necessarily know why things are the way they are. I can tell you more about the "reasons" in German than I can in English :)

I think for me the native speakers are more helpful for hearing/seeing correct English/Finnish/German/etc for reinforcement and learning vocabulary.
Aug. 28th, 2011 07:08 pm (UTC)
Great post...
This is a great post. I also wonder how much of it is related to the rumored Finnish "helping culture," i.e. that they sometimes feel uncomfortable helping because it might be an insult to the one being helped? I know it's a stereotype, but it may have a marginal effect in addition to the reasons you mentioned.

I just started following your blog (after beginning self-study of Finnish about a month ago), and I'm loving it! I'll certainly reference it quite often now that I've begun private lessons as well.

As a fellow linguiphile, I'm excited to read material from someone between the academic linguists and the "I just want to get my point across" language learners.
Adam Silén
Aug. 29th, 2011 05:03 pm (UTC)
Changing the subject
Please excuse me for totally changing the subject, but I just have to say that your blog is AMAZING!

I have been searching for good Finnish language resources for ages and I have not found any good ones until now. I really appreciate all the work you put into this site!

And what I appreciate even more is your site uusikielemme.fi. The vocabulary part really is a gem and that is not mentioning your list of rections!

Keep up the good work!
Terveisiä Ruotsista!
Saku Setl
Jan. 21st, 2012 09:57 pm (UTC)
You got it right
Yeah, I am continuously frustrated by my wife asking "why? why? why?" when I have no slightest idea and just know that it just is the way it is :)
Grace Dm
Jan. 31st, 2012 03:06 pm (UTC)
A new treasure found!!!
Kiitos paljon! Luulen, että tämä website on auttava erityisesti kielioppi sääntöjä ja esimerkkejä. Toivo Grace.
Daniel Kislyuk
Feb. 5th, 2012 03:22 pm (UTC)
It's the best blog on Finnish language I have found. Truly amazing vocabulary and grammar sections.
Jun. 2nd, 2012 01:07 pm (UTC)
Love the blog! I made the jump from Estonian to Finnish last weekend and have started a blog where I compare the two languages while I learn Finnish. Keep up the good work and hope you post again soon!
Andrew Waddington
Nov. 22nd, 2012 07:03 pm (UTC)
Olle sammaa.

Qyllä ! Qyllä ! Ta qiitoqsia .Sanon tässäe on niin aivan varma .Olet en thou siast and you see on hyvä ensimerqqi its e opisqella omin päin no gain jaa qoqeilla oosia tyylejä Sana liiqqi
Jan. 3rd, 2015 09:37 pm (UTC)
Question of Grammar
Not sure if this is the right place to ask this question, but my daughter is leaning Finnish and would like to know the following if someone would be so kind as to answer:

Is this the correct use of the word "hehkua" in Finnish?

If I wanted to use the verb for "to glow" to label "A glowing statue" or "glowing cat eyes" would these be:

"Hehkuva patsas" and "hehkuva kissan silmät"?
Dec. 30th, 2016 11:39 am (UTC)
Correcting someone usually shuts down communication.
Maybe people are interested in hearing what you have to say rather than whether you said it absolutely correctly or not. As in: "Get to the point!" Of course, I am more tolerant of people whose English isn't perfect. I know how hard it is to learn. I have spoken English for ... a long time ... decades, and still am asked (although rarely) where I am from.

A cousin visited here whose high school teachers had given her top marks in English. She fancied herself to be the equivalent of a native speaker. She was shocked (into a depressive state) that people did not understand her, nor she them. I was concerned for her mental health. She stopped talking almost entirely when anyone corrected her. At almost 20, she will likely never be without some hint that English is a second language - accent, inflection, choice of words, leaving out "the" here and there ... To strive for such perfection requires at the very least, total immersion for a long time, a very difficult feat at that age. We all opt for the easiest means of communicating.
( 10 comments — Leave a comment )