A Language-Learning Journal

Finnish is a difficult language to learn. I am also a person of a certain age, and even though there is no data to back up the notion that learning a language gets harder as you get older… Finnish is a difficult language to learn. I have made several runs at it, taking classes, doing online courses, using workbooks, and none of them has stuck. Knowing myself, and how I learn things, I decided to put together my own methodology. That’s when I started a language-learning journal.

At the front of the book is the standard bullet-journal style index. Following that are pages and spreads devoted to specific topics and contexts. All of these are based on survival phrases, tailored to my needs. I am not a tourist, I live here. There are spreads with names of foods. There are spreads with questions I might need to ask while shopping. I have spreads devoted to Katie’s educational research, my work as a writer and indie publisher, and chatting with the neighbors in the hallway. These are the words and phrases that I practice the most.


While I have a very basic grasp of Finnish grammar, I don’t worry about that. I concern myself with nouns and verbs. The important thing is to be able to communicate at all, not to speak perfectly out of the gate. If I sound like Tonto, Tarzan, or Frankenstein I really don’t care, as long as the other person understands what I’m trying to say. If I get my tenses wrong, I can fix that later.

Starting at the back of the book and moving forward, I have alphabetical spreads. This is the English alphabet, so I can look things up. There are not only words but phrases sorted by keyword, usually the most relevant noun or verb. Essentially I’m creating my own English-Finnish dictionary, adding words that don’t necessarily fall into a specific topic. When I get corrected, I write it down here under the English-equivalent keyword.

This might be a weird way to go about things, but it’s working for me. It’s practical. Most importantly, it’s helped me to develop a comfort level. If I’ve developed some bad habits, at least now I’m gaining the context to understand why I’m wrong, or at least a little bit off. It’s increased my reading comprehension, and given me a foundation to formally learn the language properly.

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