French – German: Usefull words while traveling

After one week break, we had another meeting today.

In the beginning, we were talking a lot about personal stuff, which was related to traveling. Because of that, we then learned some words that can be used in relation to travel or generally in a foreign city, especially in another country.

These included some words like airport, central station, cab, but also distinctive buildings and places like museums, banks, hospitals or schools. We noticed that in French many words are written similarly to English (for example police), which makes it even harder with the pronunciation, because you already have the English pronunciation in your head. And, as we have found out several times, the spelling and pronunciation in French is often very different. Other words, however, were similar to German (for example banque = bank = Bank). Therefore, most of the words will be easy to remember and learn for us.

We also noticed that descriptions at the airport, such as gate or terminal, do not seem to exist in another language but are called the same in every language. Tim had a very good theory about this: Since there are many non-native people at the airport, it would make little sense to translate these words into the local language but so it is easy for everyone to find their way around.

We also talked about the idea that – as soon as Corona allows us to travel again – we want to try to finally see each other in person in France or Germany.

Finnish-Arabic: Meeting #5


This meeting was Arabic’s turn, we agreed to watch a cartoon episode on YouTube. The cartoon is Gingerbread Man or رجل كعكة الزنجبيل.

I have prepared the text beforehand and was able to examine all the technical matters of it. One thing I noticed while preparation is how the language of the cartoon, which is relatively new, is different from what I used to watch when I was a kid. It feels like nowadays the standard Arabic (for children) is moving towards simplicity, compared to the more sophisticated language I was exposed to during my childhood. The line between the standard and the spoken is becoming vaguer and the language is getting more extended over a spectrum. Previously, Arabic dialects were isolated entities. In Finnish, the difference between Kirjakieli and Puhekieli is already positioned over a spectrum, according to my Finnish teacher!

This wasn’t of Ilona’s concern; in fact, we spent our time listening, reading, and comparing what we heard to what we read.

One challenging aspect of reading Arabic texts is the حركات (literally movements). Those are characters that are put on top/beneath letters to express short vowel sounds with consonants (so they move consonants :D). For example, the letter D = د  can be دَ , دُ , دِ  which are equivalent to Da, Du, Di. This is different from the long vowels A, U, I = ا , و , ي which can be written as Daa, Duu, Dii. Unfortunately, the more annoying part (to non-native speakers) is that we don’t write those movements necessarily (except for certain or old texts) and we know how to pronounce the words from memory only. In other words, the way we write doesn’t reflect what we say; any word can be read in very different ways because the movements can be a combination of any.

I spent most of the time trying to deconstruct this issue with the help of examples from the episode. I totally admit that this is challenging; however, there are patterns that can be observed by practice. I tried to explain some of those, bearing in mind to be compassionate and reminding that a somehow similar challenge is faced even in English! In English, the same character is pronounced in very different ways based on the word itself. E.g. letter G in the words: Bridge, Glass, Neighbour, Tough. So, it is really a matter of getting exposed to the language. I know people who have mastered this issue before, and so could Ilona one day!

Link to the episode:

Finnish-Arabic: Meeting #4


In this meeting, Finnish was the target language and Umair didn’t attend.

Illona mentioned in a previous meeting that Muumins, the famous Finnish series, can be considered a heavy, and even philosophical, series that has some difficult and poetic phrases. Hence, since my level in Finnish was better and I was the only attendant, we decided to watch a Muumit episode!

The episode was about Finnish spring titled “Muumilaakson kevät”, which depicted the time when winter was almost over and the characters were waking up from hibernation.  I wasn’t able to fully cover everything in the episode and faced some challenges in interpreting the conversations. Luckily, there was a text in front of me, so I could relate.

Nevertheless, from what we’ve covered I learned more about how Finns have always looked and reflected on seasonal change. As temperature and sunlight get extremely less during winter, it is not strange if it was deemed in Muumins that winter is a period of life pause. Consequently, spring is the time of getting back to life and experiencing joy again.

This may sound a superficial and intuitive thing to say. Of course, no one argues how life in Finnish winter becomes limited; I have experienced this myself. But I wonder how the situation used to be two hundred years ago when there was no machinery or technology at all. Muumins is the resemblance of deeply-rooted Finnish culture, as well as a way to comprehend how different conditions has shaped the collective imagination and mindset of people.

Watching the episode has helped me look at Finland in a much deeper way.

Link to the episode:


#6 Meeting, Finnish- English

Spring is here!

First year that I wasn’t spending Easter with my family (in Kuopio). So i desided to make Easter dinner at my place and invite some of my international friends, and one of them was Christine.  So on the first Easter day, we had a multicultural meal: for maincourse portugal, austrian and finnish dishes and desserts from Finland, Mexico, Portugal and Austria. Talked about many things but one of them was the finnish traditions relating to easter time. Also names of the foods in finnish.

After dinner some tasting of austrian drinks and playing games 🙂 Had a very nice evening!!


#5 Meeting, Finnish-English

Hello again!

On a nice sunny day, we desided to go cycling around the city!! We also took part on an easter egg hunt event, but were not successfull this time. But we had fun, enjoyed some fress air and also I taught Christine some traffic related fraces. While cycling, I used the oppertunity to teach how to say “to right” oikealle “to left” vasemmalle, and “straight ahead” suoraan. I think Christine learned them pretty well because there was so much repeating of the words. Also we talked about how to say in finnish: different kind of roads, vechicles and also some birds that we saw on the way!

We enjoyd the cycling so much that when we got back to my place I was suprised about the lenght of the trip!

At my place we had dinner and wrote down on paper the fraces we had been using outside, to make the learning more efficient.


#4 Meeting, Finnish-English


Over dinner, we talked about traditional finnish holidays, and I taught Christine the names in finnish. Joulu, Pääsiäinen, Juhannus…

Also showed her parts of this finnish tv- serie Karjalan kunnailla. To make an example of one way of celebrating Juhannus (very stereotypical) and how the nature looks like in the summer. Unfortunaltly there was no subtitles for the serie, but I translated some parts.


French- Spanish fifth meeting : History

Today we talked about national history. To present it as a game, we used online quizzes, which has the advantage of not requiring preparation time beforehand and is very easy to share on Zoom.

Here is the link for the Spanish Quiz :

The link for the french Quiz :

We were pairing as teams and the goal was to get as many good answers as possible. It was great for all of us because one never knows too much about his own country’s history and it was an awesome way to make it discover to foreigners.

This was not a particularly funny meeting but very educative and productive. We learned that our countries share some common history and it served the purpose of this class to create international connections

I think it is a great exercise, easy to reproduce, if you are running short of ideas for your meeting !

Multi cultural Easter celebration – Meeting #6 (Finnish – English)

Multi-cultural Easter weekend in Finland

Here in Finland there is a colorful mix of religions: Christians, evangelists and the Orthodox Church. ⛪️ Most Finns, however, belong to Christianity. How the religions differ, so are the customs at Easter, of which, due to Corona, you have only heard very little this year! 🦠

I spent Easter Sunday with my exchange girls Laura (Portugal) Aria (Mexico) and Suvi (Finland) with a wonderful dinner. 😋 Each of us has tried to bring his local customs into the food.

Main course 🍽 cold Austrian platter, mixed salad, roasted vegetables and “bacalhau à brás” from Portugal

Desserts 🍮 typically Finnish at Easter is Mämmi (baked malt pudding) with vanilla sauce and pasha (yoghurt curd cream with fruits), Germstriezel and from Portugal 🇵🇹 “salame de chocolate”

Also an original Finnish @fazersuomi nougat could not be missing, which is hand-filled into a real chicken egg and then peeled like a real egg 🥚. You can watch the video here:

Finally, we dared to try fiery sweets from Mexico 🇲🇽 The four of us discussed the Finnish Easter customs in a cozy atmosphere.



German-Finnish Kässpätzle Abend

After we already met on sunday and had awesome korvapuusti, that btw were gone one day later, we met again on Tuesday for a German evening. We cooked basically the most common southern German vegetarian dish that there is: Kässpätzle. It’s a very special type of pasta with several types of cheese melted into it. After some time Meike and i discussed how the forms of the Spätzle differ between the west and the middle of Germany and that we call the form “Knöpfle”. Sadly we didn’t have the orignal cheese but i think it we managed to get pretty close with Edamer and Cheddar and it was delicios.

During the meal we talked about easter traditions in Germany and Finland. In Germnay there comes the Osterhase and hides treatsand little gifts for the children. Jasmin told us it’s the same in Finland and the easter bunny is Pääsiäispupu. She also told us about a bonfire tradtion in western Finland. We also talked about akku anka and that Meike always gets finnish ads with it. And about a specific german dish type called Brotzeit /Vesper, which is jsut bread and then some sliced cheese or cold sausage mostly with cornicorns or silver onions.

at the end we played 2 rounds of “halt mal kurz” and talked about the rules and so on in german and we agreed to meet after Jasmin and I are back from our Easter trips for a classic finnish salmon soup.

Meeting 6, stereotypes and geography – Italian/Dutch

This blogpost might not be suitable for some people, since we talked about the geography and stereotypes of our home countries. Of course stereotypes are not true, but sometimes there might be some true things.

To start off, there is of course the pizza and pasta. This one is as true as it gets, since it’s their specialty and they are very proud of it. However, never, and they take this very serious, put pineapple on a pizza. If you would do this, you might not make it out.
The second stereotype is how the Italians are a little disoriented from time to time. They are not very reliable if you have to be on time and are not very good at organizing. In some cases this is true (their traffic) but I guess every country has some places or events that are a little disorganized.
Just like their cars, they like everything to be pretty, even though their reliability might not be good at all.

My partner is from Milano, which is located in the North. From the people in the north there are some grudges held against people from the South and the other way around this might be the same. The people from the North think the people from the South don’t work and are lousy.
This is almost the exact same in Belgium, I explained to her how the country is very divided. We have the Flemish part (which I am from) and the French part. The Flemish part also holds some grudges against the French, because they also don’t want to work and are not very respectable.

Italy is a very diverse country, they have mountains, beaches, country sides and many more beautiful places. It is a country where you can see almost everything, also their cities are very pretty with nice monuments and beautiful buildings.
Then I had to explain to her that Belgium is not very beautiful, we also have some diversity in our country and the fun part is, that you can cross the entire country in a couple of hours by car. We have some small hills in the south, an ugly coast and some pretty cities.

It was interesting to hear that some countries have the same internal problems and grudges against their own people. The stereotypes were also fun to talk about since they can either be offended by it or say that they are actually true.