What A Way to Communicate In Finnish! (#54/100)

by Lillie See, TAKK trainee

Well, I have been living in Tampere for 1 ½ years now, no doubt it’s just a short period of time but to me it seems like years.  Looking back on this 1 ½ years, hmmm…I have done a lot, come to think of it. First, I participated in photography exhibition and 2 of my photos were selected for the exhibition, I have learned Finnish language, Finnish culture, Finnish nature and national parks, Finnish lakes, weather….etc.

Recalling when I first arrived in Tampere, I had zero knowledge about Finnish language, besides knowing how to say “kiitos” (thank you), “huomenta”(morning), “hyvää päivää”(good day), “hei”or “moi”(hello or goodbye).  Another challenge for me was when making payment at the supermarket casher, I could only depend on the screen of the cash register as I didn’t understand what was the casher lady trying to tell me, to my ears they sounded like shooting a machine gun.  Until after 2 weeks in the Finnish language course, the machine gun sound had transformed into strings of words, they were actually telling me how much I should pay and wished me good day or happy weekends!

There was a very funny incident happened while I was in the second week of Finnish language course. It was still a cold spring morning at the bus stop, an elderly lady came with her walking cart.  Suddenly she pushed her cart towards me and started talking to me in Finnish.  I was a little panic because I didn’t understand what she said, later she waved her bus card to me.  I said to myself, “Oh no! What should I do with her? No one’s here to help me and I don’t understand a single word she said!  Should I speak English to her?  I will be rude, if I don’t respond to her!”  Finally, I remembered what my Finnish teacher told us to memorise one of the phrases by hard, “Anteeksi, minä puhun vähän suomea.”(Sorry, I speak very little Finnish.) .  When she heard what I said, she replied, “joo…joo.. sinä puhut hyvin………..” (yes… yes… you speak well…), again continued to say something about her bus card.

Well I had to take my initiative to understand what she wanted but I didn’t know how to ask because I hadn’t learned about asking question in Finnish yet.  Suddenly an idea came to my mind, since I only learned very limited short Finnish words, so I had to try to use them.  Then I said, “Rouva (madam), ….bussikortti (bus card)?…(using my hands movements to show as if climbing up the bus) bussi?… (then I took her bus card and put on top of my left hand) kortti (card)? … kone (machine)? … bussi (bus)?”  Happily she said, “Joo…joo…!”

Pheeeeewww……..! Message went through, mission accomplished, both of us understood each other then!

Oh there came the bus, we entered the bus from different doors and I helped her to touch the bus card on the card machine.  Well, I felt happy that I helped an elderly person and learned a creative way to communicate through action with limited usage of words and get result!

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