The two questions that can stop language learners from actually using a foreign language are ‘What if I will not be understood?’ and ‘What if I don’t understand?’. By volunteering to review Suomipassi, I challenged myself to take my very limited Finnish into the big world and answer these questions.
Suomipassi or 'Finnish language passport' is a new application aimed to help language learners learn and practice their Finnish. It can be used as a phrase book by tourists or as a Finnish course supplement for the students of the University of Turku (UTU). The app is available on Google Play and Apple Store in seven languages.
The content is divided into two broad categories: ‘Basic Phrases’ and ‘Places’. Both categories have different sections, such as ‘Buying and paying’ or ‘In the library’. Each section contains several topic-related words and phrases with audio recordings. It’s also possible to add phrases to the app and mark your progress on a map.
Using the app in the city, I noticed that finding the phrases as well as mimicking them was quite simple. Everyone I addressed, be it in the library or on the market square, seemed to understand me easily. However, making a conversation fluid was challenging as I had to constantly jump from one category to another in search of the needed phrase. To make the conversation as smooth as possible, I would recommend rehearsing what you are going to say in advance.
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On Suomipassi app it's possbible to mark your progress on a map.
Another obstacle was that even if I was understood, it was difficult for me to understand the answers. This, however, turned out to be a positive experience as everyone I talked to was extra-friendly and helpful. For example, a young woman in the café where I used the app to ask where the bathroom was, gave directions in very slow and articulate Finnish and then translated her words into English. This kind of attitude boosted my confidence and by the end of the weekend, I could easily say “Kiitos paljon” and “Hyvää päivää” without the fear of being judged or misunderstood.
Marking my progress on the map turned speaking Finnish into a fun competition with myself, pushing me to use it at as many places as possible. (Note: don’t forget to turn on your GPS, otherwise there will be no mark on the map!)
The quality of the audio recordings in the app is worth mentioning separately. Those who have ever used Duolingo probably remember absurd phrases such as “The moose ate the bear” pronounced in a robotic voice. Well, this is not the case with Suomipassi. The phrases are recorded in clear, genuine Finnish and all of them make sense!
Overall, the app makes learning and practicing Finnish a fun activity. For people who are already studying Finnish it can definitely give a good opportunity to practice the most useful phrases. And, apart from serving as a phrase book for beginners, it can help them to step over the language barrier.
The writer is an Education and Learning major who began their degree studies at the University of Turku in September.
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