The first time I picked up a Finnish book, I decided I would read the whole first page. It was 2009, I knew about a dozen Finnish words, and the only ones I understood from that page were ‘on’ (is) and ‘yö’ (night). And on it went from there!
It’s easy to get boggled down in the glass half empty mind-set, or in this case, glass almost entirely empty (we all struggle with this). But if you want to progress, you have to focus on your successes. For example, those were two words I understood in a language I knew almost nothing about! That’s a great success, and that feeling, if you allow yourself to experience it fully, is what will push you to learn a third word, and a fourth, and a fifth… so instead of feeling failure, recognize your accomplishments!
Some of you might be grumbling now, how can you possibly consider a conversation a success if you messed up a bunch of grammar, forgot some words and ended up feeling embarrassed?
Think of it this way… mumbles and fumbles happen to us every day, even in our native languages. The first time you went to a restaurant, did you know all about the food they had? Did you understand what every dish contained? Did you ask questions?
Did you feel extremely uneasy and embarrassed that you didn’t know what a Thai dish contained even though you’ve never stepped foot in Thailand? Hopefully not.
The same goes when you’re learning a new language. The first time you go to a grocery store, you might know how to greet, thank and say goodbye to the cashier, but you might be thrown off when they ask you if you have a points card, need a bag or want your receipt. But you’ve never done this before – or you’ve never done it in this language before, so why is that anything to be embarrassed about? You can list your excuses here: …
But ultimately I’m going to tell you that the word for excuse in Finnish is very wise, tekosyy loosely translated as ‘fake reason’. So ditch those reasons and start practicing! Take notice of small successes and celebrate them!
Screwed up your partitive case in front of a group of people?
Had a group of kids laugh and correct your vowel harmonizing?
Put the emphasis on the wrong part of the word and said a swear word instead?
Couldn’t figure out the word you wanted to use, didn’t know how to say ‘nevermind’ so you just made some weird hand motions, smiled and pretended you weren’t talking at all?*
Celebrate and smile! This is what learning is all about.
To your limitless possibilities,
*Those examples I gave, they were personal – and some as recent as yesterday.