Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Made it to Finland

The journey from Boston, USA to Turku, Finland is relatively simple (and cheap, on a Sunday night at least).  A quick 7-hour flight to Munich and 2.5-hour connection on to Helsinki.  Then comes the fun part of navigating the Finnish signs to find the way to the bus to Turku, a 2.5-hour drive away.  Finnish is a crazy language that is not simple for foreigners to navigate, except apparently Estonians and possibly Hungarians.  Nouns in Finnish come in different cases depending on what you do to them.  For instance, coming from a city has one form (Helsinki --> Helsingista "from Helsinki") while going to it can be different forms depending on whether you go actually inside it or just toward it (Turku --> Turun/Turulle "to/toward Turku").  Except it actually is more complicated than that in ways I have not quite yet fully understood.  Stay tuned as I figure out more about Finnish -- it is truly an interesting and (dare I say it lest I get ridiculed) beautiful language.

Street signs in Finland.  City names are somewhat similar to English (e.g. Helsinki) but other directions can get more confusing -- "keskusta" means "from" the "keskus" or "center" of the city.  When in doubt, most Finnish signs have Swedish below (it is their other national language that all students must spend 3-6 years studying), which is fortunately a Germanic language and therefore much more related to English.
Fortunately, my journey and sign interpretation was helped by partially by the fact that I had been reading this excellent book for the duration of my plane ride, but mostly by the fact that every single person in Finland is completely fluent in English.  Seriously, from bus drivers to baristas, everyone jumps straight into excellent English without skipping a beat when my Finnish flounders, which is currently is quite often since even a good dictionary/phrasebook can only give so much preparation.

Based on all the research on how dualinguality (is that a word?  I guess it is now...) is so beneficial to academic performance, it makes me wonder if the famous Finnish educational superiority is just due to their linguistic capabilities.  The humongous differences between Finnish and English would contribute to the amount of brainpower required to master both languages.  I wonder if anyone has done any research on that...

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