All posts by Meri Lehtinen

A goodbye to cake-sushi and this course

On Thursday 1st of November it was time for the 10th and last official meeting for me and Meguru.  In fact we’ve already met more than ten times, but we agreed to have ten official meetings to write about on this blog. Remembering to write the learning diaries has been the hardest part of this course.

We met at restaurant Itsudemo for sushi buffet lunch since both Meguru and I had never been there before and wanted to try it out. There were some types of sushi which Meguru said he’d never seen in Japan, such as corn and kiwi sushi. Not to mention one that had whipped cream, strawberry and banana in it, like a cake. I’d never seen such sushi before either. As for the taste, you’ll know when you try. But I won’t be doing that again…  The lesson: It’s good to appreciate other countries’ culture and even combine with your own, but often things are better left alone if you don’t know what you’re doing. Well, at least the sushi was fun to take photos of.


Is it a slice of a roll cake? Is it sushi?

While eating we talked in Japanese and reviewed the Finnish which I’d taught Meguru during this course. Meguru had been using the app which I recommended in the previous meeting, and I felt so proud when he remembered various words well, such as food items and colors. I’d been worried about not teaching enough grammar, but since Meguru has said that it’s better to focus on vocabulary and culture, I’ve tried to do that.

I was finally able to use properly polite Japanese for most of the time while talking. Before taking this course, I’d mostly just talked in a casual style with people who I’m close enough with to do so, but it may come off as rude to others. I was aware of that, but haven’t had many chances to practice polite style. I’m thankful to Meguru that he was patient with me and often corrected what I said. Because the styles differ in word choices and grammar, it’s not that easy to switch between them, especially as a Finn who’s used to casual Finnish being used even in formal situations. I’ll continue working on this even from now on.

After lunch we walked around the lake shore in Eteläpuisto and continued talking. It’s good to balance enjoying food culture with exercise, and also important to enjoy the rare Autumn days in Finland which aren’t rainy.

All in all, this has been a very fun course. I’ve learned many useful things, not only about Japanese or Japan, but even Finland.

Finnish dogs, Japanese books

On Thursday 25th, we had planned to study at Tampere University’s library Linna, but when we got there it was so full of people that we couldn’t find a place to sit down. We went walking around Sorsapuisto park, there were still some ducks in the pond so we practiced counting in Finnish – yksi sorsa, kaksi sorsaa…

I’ve felt that within the limited time of these meetings it’s difficult to teach vocabulary so that it’s easy to memorize.  That’s why in this meeting I introduced Meguru an app called Memrise which I’ve found useful in my own language studies. I had made a Finnish-Japanese course based on the words I had taught Meguru earlier, and then I showed him how to use the app to practice those words. I also gave him some Finnish-English handouts which I’d received from my friend Jenny.

After talking at the park we went to Sampola library to read Moomin comics in Finnish. Then it was time for me to take my family’s dogs on a walk, and Meguru agreed to come walk the dogs with me. We talked about how common having pets is both in Finland and Japan, and Meguru could practice Finnish with the dogs, such as ”istu” (sit), ”päivää” (”hello”, shake paw). I guess this is a bit different kind of EOTO experience.

Then we went shopping in Prisma Lielahti. Suprisingly, there were books written in Japanese in a free-to-take -cart in front of the library at Lielahtikeskus. One book about ayurveda for women and another about mental training for dance. We took a look at them, but as I’m not interested in the topics and they were a bit difficult to read, I left them there for the next lucky person to find.

Furniture and famous meatballs

This time our plan was to go to Ikea, to learn furniture (家具, huonekalut) vocabulary and try their meatballs (ミートボール, lihapullat) which are famous even in Japan.

We walked around the furniture exhibition, pointed at items around us and asked each other what that item was called in Finnish or Japanese. It was easy to repeat practicing the same words, because there were many rooms which had the same items in them. Also the price tags had the words in Finnish so that was helpful for teaching.

In the photo you can see: matto – マット(matto), lamppu – ランプ (ranpu),  sohva – ソファ (sofa)…

It’s great to be able to ask from a native speaker which words are commonly used, because when I looked up some words in a dictionary, it gave several options which Meguru said he wouldn’t use or hadn’t even heard of before. I could even learn some specific vocabulary related to what I’m studying at Tamk, such as 水道 / 蛇口 (faucet) and 換気扇 (ventilation fan), which are unlikely to show up in a textbook.

On a bus on the way back from Ikea we noticed that we couldn’t remember the words that well anymore, so we went to a library to write them down. We also practiced Japanese pronunciation.

Random bus took us to Tohloppi lake

This time our plan was to meet at a bus stop, take the first bus which comes and see where it would take us. We ended up on bus number 17 which took us to Kalkku. I taught Meguru seasons in Finnish while we were on the bus. We saw Tohloppi lake from the bus window and decided to go there. So once the bus reached it’s final stop at Kalkku we switched to another one in front of it to go back.  The bus drivers were a bit amused at us doing that…

We reviewed nature vocabulary which we had taught each other at the previous meeting and taught some new words. There were signs around the lake which I helped Meguru to translate.  There was one which we both thought was funny: “Making horses swim in the moorings (places for boats) is forbidden”.

After we had walked around the lake, we went to a nearby bakery to eat pulla and practice Finnish. We’ve both noticed that if I tell Meguru what some word is in Finnish and instantly give a Japanese translation, it’s not a very efficient way for memorizing the words. So for a while we talked only in Finnish. I taught new words – kuppi, kello, matto – by pointing at the items around us and talking about them. Then we talked about the items together.

A walk in Kauppi

For the 6th meeting, Meguru and I went walking in the Kauppi forest. Because there’s also a sports park in Kauppi, we saw people playing pesäpallo (Finnish baseball) and compared the differences between Finnish and Japanese baseball. Then we talked about sports classes in Finland and Japan.  Until high school, my class would go to Kauppi several times a year, to play baseball, to ski or to do orienteering in the forest. In Japan it’s not common to go to a forest during PE class, but they’d go mountain climbing once a year.

When we were standing next to a small spruce, I asked Meguru if he remembered what number 6 is in Finnish. He remembered it’s “kuusi”, and I taught him that spruce is also “kuusi” in Finnish.

I taught Meguru other nature related vocabulary, such as koivu (birch), käpy (cone) and aurinko (sun) and Meguru taught me them in Japanese. He remembered names of animals which I’d taught earlier, but unfortunately we couldn’t see any.  We saw some Finnish people picking mushrooms, though. The forest was a refreshing place for language exchange, but it was difficult to write things down for later.

Autumn food and scenery

For this meeting Meguru and I had planned to have Finnish lunch at Kauppahalli (Market Hall), but we ended up doing a lot of other things.

We met at Metso library and started with Finnish study. We tend to talk in Japanese a lot of the time, so we agreed not to use Japanese during this meeting, only Finnish and English. We’ve met quite many times in a short while, so I thought I wouldn’t teach that many new words. Instead, we practiced making sentences and conversation with the vocabulary Meguru already knows. One of us asked a question and the other replied, for example “Missä sinä olet?” (Where are you?) “Olen kirjastossa” (I’m at the library). I also taught how to change the same sentences into past tense.

Then we went to Kauppahalli and walked around looking at different foods and signs. We gave up on not talking in Japanese, since it’s easier to communicate using it. I pointed at different foods and asked Meguru if he has tasted them yet or if he knows the word in Finnish.

The lunch options were pretty expensive for a student budget, so eventually we just bought some Finnish style cakes and had lunch at University of Tampere. After that we went to Ratina shopping centre because Meguru wanted to buy a coat, and finally to Pispala to enjoy autumn scenery.

This time I learned to be more careful about my word choices in Japanese, because Meguru often pointed out when I said something weird. I used some words which are dialect from one region in Japan, and those words sound funny or even rude to people from other regions.

Cute animals, ice hockey and civil war at Vapriikki museum

This time we met up at Vapriikki, which is a huge museum centre. I thought a visit to Vapriikki could be an interesting way to learn about Finland, since there are exhibitions on various topics such as Finnish nature, viking age history of Tampere region, Finnish civil war, video games and ice hockey. Also, you can get a free entrance to the museum with a coupon from students’ ”supervihko” or through student discounts in the Pivo-app.

We visited all of the exhibitions and mainly talked in Japanese. I taught Meguru Finnish words from signs in the exhibitions, mostly in the Natural history museum. Before going to the museum I’d written a list in Japanese of some animals which I remembered were in the exhibition. When we entered the exhibition, I gave Meguru the list and asked him to find out what those animals are called in Finnish.

I believe this was a good way for teaching new words. Meguru also taught me new words in Japanese, such as

キツツキ = woodpecker = tikka
スズラン = lily of the valley = kielo
モモンガ = flying squirrel = liito-orava

In the other exhibitions I wasn’t able to teach Finnish so well, because the vocabulary used in them was quite specific and I hadn’t prepared for them. Especially the exhibition on Finnish civil war was difficult for me to explain in Japanese. I think all of the exhibitons were still useful for learning a bit about Finnish history and culture. We even got to practice ice hockey with a virtual goal keeper.

Sushi and nightmares

On Thursday 20th Meguru and I met at Maruseki, which is the oldest Japanese restaurant in Tampere. It’s my favorite restaurant for sushi in Tampere, and I wanted to hear Meguru’s opinion on how it compares to sushi restaurants in Japan. We ordered sushi and talked in Japanese about how our week was going.

I asked Meguru about the proper way of eating sushi. There are many websites and videos on the internet which claim to teach the correct way, saying for example that using chopsticks is wrong and you should eat with your hands, or that soy sauce should be used in some specific way.  Meguru told me that sushi can be eaten with chopsticks or hands, it depends on the restaurant and the way you prefer to eat. In Japan you’ll be given a hand towel or tissue at restaurants, so eating with hands is completely ok.

Meguru taught me how to count sushi in Japanese (since the language has different counters for different objects). Unfortunately I forgot to write it down and can’t remember anymore…

After eating we went to the nearby library Metso and switched to Finnish study. Meguru had bought Finnish nightmares comic book earlier, so we read it together.  On each page, first Meguru read the text and I corrected his pronunciation, or I read the text and Meguru repeated.

Then I translated the contents into Japanese or English, or Meguru translated and guessed the meaning based on the pictures. Quite many times Meguru was faster than me, because I started thinking of exact translations for the Finnish words instead of the meaning.

It was fun to talk about how we would react in the situations shown in the comics, and how common they are in Finland and Japan. There were quite many Finnish “nightmares” which are shared by Japanese people: touching strangers, public embarrassment and somebody not obeying the traffic lights, for example.

Shopping and making fun of Finnish

Meguru and I met for the second time at Prisma on Saturday 15th. We went there looking for a raincoat for Meguru and talked about the items we saw around us in Japanese. Meguru taught me words I didn’t know before, such as カボチャ (kabocha, pumpkin) and 砂糖税金 (satou zeikin, sugar tax).

I’d expected the price tags at the store to be useful for teaching Finnish, but it wasn’t exactly so. Many of them had brand names, really specific Finnish vocabulary or abbreviations on them.

When we met for the first time, Meguru gave me Japanese miso-soup, so this time I bought him Finnish porridge. Both are instant meals prepared by adding hot water, so they’re an easy way to try foreign cuisine.

After shopping we went to the restaurant Oksa at Prisma to have a cup of coffee. There was a menu in the table so I taught Meguru some food vocabulary from it. The menu was a lot easier to use for teaching compared to the price tags which I had been planning to use. I also taught more numbers and we practiced greetings.

Then Meguru showed a blog post which had funny photos and memes about Finnish people and language, and we talked about them. We agreed that some of them are  accurate, for example the way Finnish people wait for a bus, and some are pretty exaggerated but still fun 😀

Some of the images made fun of how two different words can sound the same in Finnish. The same applies to Japanese: when we were talking and Meguru asked if I know the word “akita”, I was confused why he would talk about Akita-prefecture (a region in Japan), and also remembered Akita Inu -dog breed. Meguru taught me that “akiru” is a verb, and akita means “got tired of, lost interest in”.

First meeting & fluffy doughnuts

We had our first Japanese-Finnish meeting at Pyynikin Munkkikahvila on September 10th. My pair Meguru had heard about fluffy doughnuts sold in Tampere, and I figured out those meant Pyynikki’s.

First I tried to teach Meguru how to order a doughnut in Finnish. By some weird chance the cafe clerk was also Japanese and started talking to us in Japanese. Meguru ordered a doughnut in Finnish anyway and it went well.

Then we talked about our lives and practiced Finnish greetings while munching donuts. I gave Meguru a notebook where I’d already written some phrases and numbers before the meeting – which was a good idea because after eating the doughnuts our hands were full of sugar. We’d agreed to focus more on spoken language and pronunciation in both languages, but I think it’s still useful to have some notes to look at later on.

Learning Finnish pronunciation seems fairly easy for a Japanese speaking person, since the languages have mostly similar sounds, except for Ä and Ö. Some Finnish words even sound like a Japanese word with completely different meaning and vice versa, so it can get quite funny!

Two major differences stood out between life in Japan and Finland during our conversation. One is that politeness is very important in speech in Japan, but not so much in Finland. It’s possible to talk to your teacher in the same way you talk to your friends in Finnish, but definitely not in Japanese.

Another is that there often are disasters (災害, saigai) in Japan, such as typhoons and earthquakes, but in Finland those are rare. To someone like me who has never experienced an earthquake, Meguru’s story of waking up to one at night was scary. In Finland, the worst that can happen is just a power outage (停電, teiden) due to an autumn storm or heavy snow.

To test my Japanese, Meguru pointed at various things in the café and I had to say in Japanese what each item was. I highly recommend this type of exercise to other EOTO students who are on intermediate level, since it reveals your weak points fast. You can also learn words that sound more natural in a specific situation. For example, an old Finnish coffee pot looks more like やかん (yakan, a tea kettle) than コーヒポット (koohiipotto, a coffee pot).

I had a really fun time talking with Meguru at the café, and hopefully we can visit the Pyynikki observation tower when the weather is better! I learned a useful word for explaining why Tampere is full of construction sites when we left the café: 路面電車 (romen densha) = a tram.