Monthly Archives: January 2021

Finnish – Vietnamese, part VI: Intonation

I don’t even know anymore which day this topic was. There’s always rush after the meeting and this happens. We dived into the subtle intonations and tone marks in Vietnamese words and I found them the most confusing thing by now. There are so tiny variations that I don’t hear them right away.

Ngang is completely flat semi high tone. I find it like singing a note. Even though it’s flat there’s no equivalent in Finnish. Finnish is not as monotonic as some may think. Every word dives a little and in speech there’s some free arpeggios in music terms.

Nặng sounds like every Finnish short word independently spoken. Huyền sounds like really heavy word. Hỏi is like diving and returning pitch. Sắc sounds like question in English (really?). Ngã sounds like question as well but with a little break in between.
Every word I’ve seen have only one syllable. Guess the tonation gives so many possibilities, that there’s no need for longer words. There’s a diagram of these tones. I think y-axis measures the percents of average vocal range.

I thought that it’s better to focus more on Finnish because Suong is already living in Finland and my trips and potential moving to Vietnam are still far in the future.

Finnish – Vietnamese, part V: Äkkiä

Friday November 13th and we gotta rush. We gotta finish “äkkiä”. “Äkkiä” was again a funny word to me. I got really confused about that word which means “in hurry” or precipitately. I guess it’s not that rare that you find your native language somewhat odd. We use “äkkiä” when something goes fast, when we have to rush, when things happen quickly. We also go “lujaa”, which is hard or fast.

Yet again, we are sticking to one word and we discuss it a bit deeper 😀 We find some differences in concepts we have in our languages and it widens our view in a strange way. It’s like we find new senses or something. It happens quite “äkkiä” and after the meeting I wonder if Suong gets some useful information out of our intuitive session. Is this something you won’t get from ordinary language classes? There was so little we managed to go through this one hour meeting. One word and something about it.

German-Russian / 10TH MEETING


2 hours

Today our leading theme was literature. First of all, I asked Chris if he knew who Pushkin is, and he said it was vodka. I was very surprised, because I didn’t even know that thing like that existed! The reason I asked Chris in the first place is that Pushkin is a really, really famous Russian poet. He’s constantly being called “the sunshine of Russian poetry”, which probably is correct, but you get kinda annoyed after hearing that for 13849320th time. And Russians, especially pupils and students, do get that a lot. He was great, his poetry was great, but in the beginning of literally every school year literature teachers would spend like a quarter or two (till winter, if you are lucky, or till the New Year),  telling you his biography over and over again, with more details every year, and then you’ll have to learn his poems by heart. Classic scenario. So of course you expect this person to be worldwide known after that, but when I asked my Finnish stepdad about him, he only shrugged. And well, Chris couldn’t tell what a person Pushkin was too xD So basically he was cool and all, but nobody outside Russia (well, maybe also Ukraine and Belarus) knows him.

We also spoke about other Russian poets and writers, like Esenin, Lermontov, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and we noticed that a lot of them were either alcoholics or abusers or something like that. If not, most likely they were shot on the duel before they got a chance to turn 40 (or even 30 in Lermontov’s case). Also suicide was a common thing among Russian writers, take a look at the same Esenin, or, for example, Mayakovsky.

Then we switched to talking about German worldwide famous writers, like Goethe and  Schiller, but I don’t know much about them and only read the Goethe’s Faust so far. But there were a couple of German writers that I, and probably most of the other people around the globe, did know. They were the Grimm brothers. As we talked about them, we realized how their fairytales were really cruel and scary. Of course, back in their time or earlier it was needed, because parents had to set the right rules in child’s mind, and the psychology methods that are used for it today were not discovered yet. However, some of those fairytales came to us with little to almost no changes, and we read them when we were children, too. For example, I told Chris about Russian folklore characters: Baba Yaga, an old witch who kidnaps children and sometimes eats them, and Koshey Bessmertniy, who’s not that evil, more like Hades from Greek mythology. He just kidnaps princesses from time to time and looks a bit spooky.

It is truly fascinating how even though we read really creepy stories in our childhood, most of the creepiness was forgotten and didn’t cause any trauma or anything like that.

So today was our last meeting for the EOTO course. I don’t know if we’ll keep those “meetings” like they were, but I know one thing for sure: the course helped me gain a lot of cultural exchange experience, I’ve learned a lot about Germany, the Germans and their lives. And, most importantly, it got me a good friend! First I was very nervous to volunteer when Chris said he needed a partner for this course, but I wanted to dive into German culture and language so badly that I did it nontheless.  When we just started our meetings we were barely familiar with each others, and now we got comfortable in communicating, and we chat a lot. I hope someday in 2021 I can finally meet Chris and other friends of ours in real life. But for now I’m certainly grateful for the experience that I got, thanks to EOTO! 🙂

German-Russian / 9TH MEETING


2 hours

Today we dived deep into music. We talked about some music that is considered “classic” (not like the old composers “classic”, but rather “Never Gonna Give You Up”, you know?), and I showed Alla Borisovna Pugacheva to Chris. She was the Queen of Russian’s music stage like 30 years ago, so even now everyone knows at least the most famous songs of hers, and even now some young people attend her concerts, though most of her audience is, of course, people slightly younger than her or just about her age (which is now 71). So we listened to one of her absolute hits – “Million scarlet roses”. It was funny to watch Chris trying to guess the translation of the lyrics, mostly because he thought about stalking somebody as there is a phrase “near the window” xD Actually the song is about a painter who was very poor and the only thing he had was his old house. He fell in love with an actress, but she didn’t pay attention to him. Then he sold his house and bought 1 000 000 of scarlet roses, which he placed on the square under her window. And then only she noticed him, of course.

Then we discussed some modern music. For example, Chris showed me a song by Capital Bra, which had mixed lyrics – both German and Russian, and then we explained “our” parts to each other. The message was simple – the singer (or his character) was blaming a girl for being not good enough for him. Plus drugs and alcohol, of course. And as the chorus was pretty repetitive, it remind me of a famous Russian song by RASA, which is hilarious and very repetitive, too, but has over 300K views on YT and is considered a hit. The whole song is basically “you’re the bee, I’m the beekeeper, we love honey, we’ll be lucky and carried away in dance”. However, Chris managed to highlight some useful vocabulary for himself. Well, I guess that’s the only thing songs like that are good for. 😀

After our meeting I’ve made a playlist with good Russian music, and after Chris listened to it for the whole day, he told me that he liked найтивыход (which is pretty depressing for me) and Мельница (one of my favorite bands, they sing in folk genre). Then he, in return, made a playlist with German music for me. Of course, he had to include Rasputin, as it is sung by German singer. I have to be hones here – I love that song and how it represents Russians. xD

German-Russian / 8TH MEETING


1.5 hours

Today we spoke a lot about level of English teaching and speaking in Russia, Germany and Finland. I guess Finland is leading, since everybody here seems to understand English and speak it properly. Like in Finland, in Germany not many movies are being dubbed into another language, mostly it’s English with finnish/german subtitles. In Russia every single movie is dubbed. And that tells a lot about how those countries treat learning English. I pretty much think that although it is an initial skill nowadays, Russian educational system is not so concerned about it. Of course there are language lessons and stuff like that in schools, but you can’t learn English with them only. I mean, I’ve studied in a special language school and even there, while we had like 6 hours of English per week, a lot of my classmates barely reached A2-B1 level. And only 5-7 people had B2 or above. Out of 32.

Then we switched to talk about Saint Petersburg sights and places to visit. I don’t remember how this topic started, but I think I managed to get Chris interested in coming to SPb one day. 😀 I told him about Hermitage, the Winter Palace of Russian Tsars and currently a museum with a lot of cool intercultural stuff. That is my favorite one, though it might be a mainstream, but I really love this place and I’ve attended excursions there since I was like 5 or 6 maybe.

Then I asked Chris to give me some German YouTubers recommendations, because I needed some listening practice and because my YT search engine is different I can’t find any. And even if I could, I never know whether the person is speaking “proper” German. So Chris showed me “Kurzgesagt” – a channel with a lot of interesting videos about… well, popular science mostly. I found it extremely interesting, plus the animations were on point and the speaker speaks that “proper” language that I was looking for!

German-Russian / 7TH MEETING


2,5 hours

As Christmas is approaching, and me and Chris were both in kind of a holiday-ish mood, we had a conversation about Christmas traditions in our countries.  In Germany, and, I think, pretty much in every European country, Christmas is a family holiday that lasts from 24 to 26 of December. It is accompanied by country’s legends and fairytales being told. In Germany they have St Nikolaus and Krampus instead of Santa.

But as for Russia, we don’t celebrate Christmas on 25th of December at all. Our orthodox church celebrates Christmas at January 7th and that is rather a religious holiday than a family gathering with traditional meals. A lot of (religious) people go to church, children and teens sing Christian carols to get something from their parents (most likely some small amount of money, but if they go caroling to their neighbors, they can get some sweets or something like that). Tradition of Christmas caroling is not that popular in the biggest cities of Russia as far as I know (because I’ve never done that and don’t know anyone in St Petersburg who had), but when I was in Tambov my girlfriend (21 y.o.) did it with her parents and grandparents. Plus when I’ve stayed at an apartment there with my grandmom, some boys (approx. 20+ y.o.) came caroling too, and my grandmom gave them some sweets and a couple of fruits.

However, we do greatly celebrate the New Year’s Eve. For most of the people this is that family holiday with the table full of traditional meals. The only difference from Catholic Christmas I think is that we start celebrating in evening, and the major celebration starts after midnight, as the New Year comes. Of course, some people don’t celebrate it with their parents, but rather with their friends or partner, but still gathering together with people (or at least a person) who is important to you is a must.

We then slipped into discussing other national holidays, and Chris told me about  Schützenfest from Schützenvereine – a shooting fest, which happens on an annual basis in summer, when people shoot from air rifles and crossbows. Every city has it’s own dates for this fest, so it’s possible to travel through Germany the whole summer and continuously attend those fests in different cities.

I, in return, told Chris a thing about Day of Victory on May 9th in Russia. It is a celebration of defeating Nazis back in 1945, and, as Chris well noticed in his blogpost about this, it is controversial among Russians (especially younger ones) whether the way it’s celebrated is adequate or not. Since it’s highly militarized, and everyone dresses their children as soldiers or combat nurses, and government makes a huge parade on the Red Square every year, people tend to judge it for praising war and strong army force.

However, there is a chance of meeting up in January! Since I’m passing my Finnish exam at 10th of December, I will need to come to Tampere, so there’s a high chance of me getting to hang out with Chris and other classmates of ours! I’m really looking forward to it!

German-Russian / 6TH MEETING


1.5 hours

So today we went back to actual language learning! Chris taught me some German possessive pronouns and how it is conjugated. I’m still struggling with understanding that there are 3 sies (sie – she, sie – they,  Sie – you…) and the ihrs (ihr – her, ihr – their, ihr – yours… omg why).  Plus all those are conjugated by gender and case. God help me…

We also learned some question words and then I tried forming the questions myself. Chris said it was impressive, but I think it wasn’t that good. 😀

Then we moved to Russian and also learned some possessive pronouns. And I think they are quite confusing, too, especially considering all the 6 cases (which we haven’t gone through). But! At least we don’t have the same words for all the pronouns!!! xD

I also tried to show Chris how all the months and seasons are called and then formulated a rule for speaking about age. I couldn’t find it anywhere so I had to make it up myself by analyzing. Turned out there are 3 different forms of “…years old” depending on how much years old exactly someone is. 😀 Well, I guess Russian is really difficult too…

German-Russian / 5TH MEETING



2 hours

So it’s been a while since we met last time. I was quite busy with my studies and then the autumn break happened. I went to Russia to visit my friends and family, and Chris was on a trip over Finland. I also had some serious troubles crossing the border when I tried to get back to Finland, but fortunately it ended up okay and I’m currently in Hamina again.

Today we talked about cinema industry in Russia and German. Chris seemed quite surprised with the fact that in Russia Hollywood blockbusters get postponed to promote Russian movies about WW2 sometimes. Well it usually gets the viewers furious, but it still happens. As for the production itself, it turned out that both in Germany and in Russia the quality of the national cinematography is quite… meh. We both have lower budgets for that than USA, of course. But there are also a lot of talented people who just can’t find their way into the industry. And while in Hollywood that happens because all the best places are already taken, in our case there are a lot of plain and boring actors & directors who rule the stage.

Chris also told me that Germans do not really show their flags anywhere (Russians pretty much do) because they are afraid of being judged because of country’s history. That’s a shame and I don’t quite understand it, since even the flag is different than it was back then.

I also learned that as Germans are pretty pedantic, there is a trend of taking care of gardens that are located somewhere in the city. And people (especially older ones) actually spend hours there! What a lovely and crazy hobby.b

German-Russian / 4TH MEETING


1,5 hours

Today we wanted to go through some other language learning stuff, but actually ended up talking about politics and war conventions. I never thought I knew a thing about politics, but turns out I do know enough to discuss it internationally.

Chris told me that in Germany right-winged politicians getting more and more attention and approvement from people. But he also said that in his country there are a lot of elections and democracy, and every little thing gets voted for before changing.

I responded with talking about Russian situation, where there is no such thing as democracy. It is on the papers, but not in real life. I told him how our election results are always fake, and that we don’t really decide anything.  We also talked about poisoning of Navalny and how that was ordered by the government, and the oppression of minorities (especially LGBTQ+) in society which is being encouraged and worsen by the government.

We just couldn’t stop discussing it all, but unfortunately Chris had to leave. I hope we will have more conversations like this in future!

German-Russian / 3D MEETING


2 hours

Today Chris taught me some exceptional verbs that conjugate differently than the regular ones. It turned out there is actually a lot of them, but they are not very confusing for me. At least yet. 😀 We also learned some common and useful phrases like How can I find a supermarket, Hello, How are you, etc. – both in German and Russian. As Chris noticed “How can I find…” becomes just “Где” (Where) in Russian. That is because we don’t use the verb “to be” the same way Europeans do. We don’t say “I am a doctor”, for example, but rather just “I doctor”, so if you see a confused Russian who misses the “to be” in their sentences, that is just because our grammar structure is different in that sense.

We also studied some weekdays in Russia and even tried to look a bit at the etymology. For example, “среда” (“Wednesday”) is based on середина (“middle”), and “воскресенье” (“Sunday”) basically means “resurrection”.

Meanwhile, Chris is strongly progressing with his reading in Russian. He still has some difficulties with stressing the right parts of the words, so I began stressing the right syllable. I hope that helps. But he is already very good!