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Who Created this Wiki?
The Finnish Language Learning Wiki was created by Tom Broderick.
A brief bio
Born in England in 1955 he first started to learn Finnish in the early 1980s after a short work assignment there led to a fascination with the language. After returning to the UK and getting married (to an English girl, not a Finn!) his interest in learning the language did not wane, but a busy family life (wife, two kids, holidays, home building, interesting career in IT) did tend to get in the way and learning the language became a distant objective.
In 2003 a number of circumstances came together to make it possible to consider actually moving to Finland to start a new career. He sold his home in the UK and moved to Turku in June 2004.
In August 2004 he started a course in Finnish at the University of Turku centre for extension studies. The course was sponsored by the Finnish Employment Service (Työvoimatoimisto in Finnish, or Job Centre in UK parlance). The työvoimatoimisto in their wisdom (!) had placed him on a course where almost all the students had been living in Finland for more than 2 years, and the vast majority had been living in Finland for more than 4 years, and some as long as 10 years. The language of instruction was in Finnish and therefore geared to the average level of ability of the class and way beyond the ability of someone living in Finland for just a few months and with only a smattering of Finnish recalled from 20 years ago. Not surprisingly, the course was extremely difficult!
The course ended in March 2005 and in Apríl 2005 he started a new course at Raisio. The college specialises in the instruction of Finnish to Foreigners and was much better suited to his needs.
Why was this wiki created?
Tom Broderick's experiences of learning a second language as an adult, even in the "immersion" method of being in the country was still very difficult and there were problems with the way instruction was (or perhaps was not) working.
In his business career he had spent may hours listening to the problems of people in the business world and finding solutions to those problems. People usually turned to him for advice because they thought there was a software solution to the problem. Often they were right, but sometimes the solution can be had by a radical re-think of what is happening. Business Process Re-Engineering sometimes suggested completely new ways to solve problems by rethinking what you are doing and why you are doing it. Software sometimes has its part to play in this, but the solution can be radically different from what the original problem was thought to be.
So, beginning in the Autumn of 2004 he began thinking about the problem of language learning and what was needed to address these problems.
And He therefore began to consider ways in which technology can assist in the learning process.
Some of the problems of learning Finnish, even in Finland!
1. Listening skills
Teachers usually speak clearly and at a pace that (hopefully) everyone can follow. But that is not always the case with everyone else! When people speak fast you hear lots of sounds and amongst those sounds some familar words and many that you know you should know (because you have heard the word before but cannot recall its meaning!) and the rest is just "sound".... that is to say you hear words in a foreign tongue and understand none of them. In some social situations he would often find that he could understand perhaps just 10 percent of what is said. What he would hear was something like....
... ... me ... ......suomessa ......? .... ... englannista? .... ... ..vaikea.
........we ....... in Finland.... ? ...... ... from England ..... difficult.
So something about the content is known, and he could make guesses about what has been said, but they would be just guesses because the language represented by ... ... .... is just sound, not words. And the impossible thing is to explain to someone in Finnish what you did not understand. One cannot repeat the sounds represented by .... ..... .... because we have no way of remembering seemingly meaningless sounds to be able to repeat them. Sometimes he would discover that words had been used in these sentences that he SHOULD have recognised and recalled. But for reasons not too clear the words were not actually recognised. So listening recognition is a skill that needs to be developed.
(Actually I suspect that this is a difference between adult learners and learning language as a child. As children we did remember sounds and developed a way of recalling and repeating sounds which we then "babble" .Only later do we develop an understanding of these sounds as words and our memory then changes... we remember the word (as a unit of meaning as well as its sound and how to generate it). When we develop this word level undertstanding and our sound recognition becomes an automatic map to words. The person coming new to the language does not develop this skill level until much later.
Listening skills need to be developed. How can we develop listening recognition? The best way is to listen over and over again and get an understanding of what is being said. Ordinary material heard in the street or at school is transitory.. you hear it once and it has gone. If the material is available in audio for playback and the text is available, and ideally a translation, then listening skills can be developed. This is exactly how many expensive courses work... you get the material and can play it back over and over again until it is totally familar. But for this method to work properly a lot of material needs to be found. Commercially available material is often of limited duration (perhaps 2 or 3 hours) and sometimes completely irrelevant to the needs of the language learner.
2. Reading skills