I met up with Mutsumi at TAMK for our first private lesson at monday evening. We had agreed that she will teach me very basics of Japanese and I’ll help her understand the Finnish pronunciation.
We started by her teaching me Hiragana-alphabets and some basic grammar. Learning the rules how to use the Hiragana didn’t appear to be that hard. The hardest part will be memorizing the entire alphabet because of two reasons. First being the obvious one, it is entirely alien to me and secondly I’m not good at memorizing raw data without any logic involved in it. Luckily (and fortunately for me) the two rules of grammar we went through were extremely easy to remember. If you want to turn a sentence into a question you simply add “ka” at the end of the sentence. Another rule she taught me was how to say someone’s nationality. That simply involves adding “jin” suffix to the name of the country the person is from. For example, Finland in Japanese is Finlando, so a Finn is Finlando-jin.
For the first Finnish lesson with Mutsumi I had decided to focus on one of two hardest parts of Finnish language foreigners have problems with: pronunciation. I noticed, during the street food fiesta meeting, when I was writing couple of Japanese sentences down in Roman alphabet, or Romaji in Japanese, that Mutsumi corrected me when I made mistakes despite the fact I was writing them down the way they sounded like in Finnish. It gave me an idea that if she isn’t able to pronounce Finnish the correct way, then maybe Japanese will help her speak it easier.
I started by giving her short and simple words to pronounce just to see how she would pronounce Finnish in different situations, such as the cases of double letters. Pronunciation proved to be off, as I suspected, and the simple word “tee” (which is “tea” in English) finalized the pattern she was using; she was reading them as if they were English. As we discussed this for short while, Mutsumi mentioned that she was feeling abandoning her attempts trying to speak Finnish. She was so revitalized after she learned she should not try to say the words with English pronunciation, but instead in Japanese. With this new realization, her Finnish was at par with the native Finns! Both of us were extremely happy about the situation. Only letters she had problems with are U, Ä and Ö, but with practice she managed to pronounce them the correct way. Now she only needs to keep up practicing so those sounds come out naturally.
I’d say it was lesson well spent for both of us!