Tutoring in the Finnish as a second language course

by Sanna-Kaisa Lamminpää, degree student in Media

At the start of the course ”Finnish language and communication skills” I was told that it’s

Three students at a table playing a game

Rolands, Chrystal and Urara both thinking hard and feeling successful round a verb board game

possible for us Finns to take part in the Finnish for foreigners course as a tutor student. Every tutor participant was promised some extra credits for the tutoring work, which of course sounded really tempting to me. I didn’t want to participate just for the credits, though: As someone who speaks Finnish as her first language, I was really interested in seeing how the language is taught for people who don’t speak a word of it. I also liked the idea of being involved in the learning process as a tutor student. – Plus I thought that it could be a valuable learning experience for me as well!

Two students at a table round a board game looking at a camera. Left side a female one, right side a male one, who is casting a dice.

Anastasia and Phu: “How many steps will I take?”

The one thing that I will probably always remember is how ridiculous Finnish grammar looks to me. The thing is, when you’re fluent in a language you don’t think about the grammar at all when you’re using it. – You just ”know” when something sounds right or wrong. Sometimes that proved to be a hard thing to explain when I was asked question regarding the grammar. I could easily tell if one of the students had made a mistake but when I was asked ”why?” I often had no choice but to say ”I don’t know, that’s just how it works.” After listening to the lectures about the grammar rules I honestly felt like I didn’t know Finnish at all! A few times I got so confused that even I started making mistakes when I was concentrating too hard on the grammar instead of following my ”gut knowledge” of the language.

Despite my poor teaching skills, being a tutor in the course was a lot of fun for the most part! I

Two students - left side a female one and right side a male one - at a table playing a board game.

” ‘To repair’ in Finnish is ‘korjata’!” Kimberly and Mark solving verb problems.

love being around people and helping the foreign students with Finnish turned out to be an altogether awesome experience. Even outside the classroom I still get questions about pronounciation or grammar from the students! I also try to slip some simple Finnish into our conversations every once in a while and, to be honest, sometimes I’m amazed how well some of the students understand what I’m saying. Even when I say something in a very colloquail way, a lot of times I get a reply back in very good Finnish. – and let me tell you, that never gets old!

I’m looking forward to seeing how well the foreign students are going to learn Finnish during these years of studying in TAMK. Who knows, maybe we will be able to have conversations completely in Finnish by the end of our four year journey!