Finnish in Duolingo: the Finnish course comes to the app

Finally: Duolingo has added the Finnish course to its language app (if you, like many people, are unsure about the name of the language VS the people we recommend you check out the post “Is it Finn or Finnish?“).

And I, as a regular user of this language learning app, have set out to tell you about it in this post. If you don’t have Duolingo yet, you can start using it/download the app from this link.

Finnish language in the Duolingo app
Duo enjoying a Finnish sauna

Duolingo and languages

Although the best way to learn a language is probably to take a face-to-face course, Duolingo is an app that helps you refresh your knowledge or acquire it little by little.

You can learn many languages from the app, but not always between any two pair of languages. For example, you can learn a dozen languages from Spanish, but not just any. If you are an English speaker you are in luck: you can learn more languages than from any other one.

I recommend learning a language, whenever possible, from your mother tongue and not from a “bridge” language. It is much simpler. Trust me.

Klingon, Latin, Navajo, Alto Valirio… are languages that can be learned from Duolingo. That’s why it was a bit strange that for the longest time there was no Finnish language course in the app! Not only that: Finnish was the only language missing from the ones in the Scandinavian peninsula. If you want to expand your knowledge about what’s the scandinavian peninsula exactly, I recommend the post “Nordic or Scandinavian? What is what“.

But it has finally arrived.

Finnish language in Duolingo

Finnish was the most requested language they ever had in Duolingo. That says a lot.

Learn Finnish with an app
That’s easy.

In the course – you can start it here – you will find different units, more oriented in my opinion to acquire and practice Finnish vocabulary (related: the 12 favourite words of the Finnish poets) than to its very difficult grammar. Each unit has several levels, and to keep you motivated there are many “gamification” tools in the app: leagues to compete against other users, trophies, streaks of days (my current streak in Duolingo is 682) and more.

It won’t be all you need to speak Finnish fluently (in our series of posts about the Finnish language you can find many resources about it), but it’s a good complement and practicing tool.

Finnish in Duolingo
Units of knowledge in Duolingo.

Similarly, Swedish – the other language of Finland – can be learned directly from Spanish or English in the app. This is no small thing, as all Finns have an obligation to know Swedish. In this way you can use this app to learn the two languages of the country.

Have you learned any language through this app? Would you like to try the Finnish course?


Moomin Christmas Episodes to watch during December

The Moomins, those endearing Finnish trolls created by Tove Jansson, had their own TV series long ago. In Finland – and I know outside Finland too – their episodes are classics.

Moomin cartoon
My kind of Moomin. Source (public domain)

So, now that Christmas and winter are next door, there are a few episodes that, because of their theme, are perfect to watch at this time of the year.

We have looked for them in Youtube and we bring them to you today. Of course, they can be found in more languages on Youtube, if you are interested, including Finnish – the language of Finland.

I’ve put them in chronological order. Here they are.

Chapter 21 – Snufkin leaves the valley

Synopsis: A new winter is at hand and Moominpappa and Moomin are collecting wood to keep the house warm during their hibernation. Moomin feels very sad that Snufkin will be leaving on his long annual journey. Moomin tries to get his parents to let him join him, but Snufkin says no. He needs time to himself. Moomin goes to bed sad, but Snorkmaiden cheers him up by showing him something very, very special.

Chapter 22 – Moomin and the Little My’s Adventure

Synopsis: For no particular reason Moomin wakes up in the middle of winter and can’t go back to sleep. This is unheard of. He is unable to wake others, and finally, trembling, he makes his way out into the dark and unknown whiteness. Moomin meets the Little My who has woken up even before him, and Too-ticky who lives in the bath house. He meets the invisible mice, who also stay there during the winter, and almost meets the Lady of the Cold, the most fearsome of all winter’s manifestations.

Chapter 23 – Visitors in Winter

Synopsis: Moomin and Little My have finally settled into their winter existence, living on Too-ticky’s fish soup and Moominmamma’s jelly, of which there is fortunately plenty. One day Mr. Brisk arrives, a very friendly and jovial person, who likes cold baths and igloo baths. He likes Sorry-oo very much, a very shy dog who only dreams of running with the wolves he hears every night howling in the Lonely Mountains. He considers them his brothers, but unfortunately they are not… Mr. Brisk finally leaves, having consumed the last jar of his favorite jam (and Moomin’s).

Chapter 36 – Christmas is coming

Synopsis: The Moomin family has already begun to hibernate when it is awakened by a busy Hemulen who tells them that they can’t go on sleeping when Christmas approaches! The Moomins have no idea what Christmas is (being smart enough to sleep throughout the winter), but they are told all the preparations that need to be made before Christmas arrives. They do what they can, and they wait, and they wait…

Chapter 37 – The Midwinter Bonfires

Synopsis: Waking up in the middle of winter, Moomin decides to show Snorkmaiden what winter is like. On their way out, they discover that most of their firewood is gone. Walking around they find that someone has used their logs to build a huge fire on a cliff. Too-ticky, who is fishing under the ice as usual, tells them that it has been built by invisible winter beings to greet the return of the sun, which will show a small piece of light the day after the bonfire. However, the festivities come to a sudden end when the Groke appears.

Enjoy these Moomin chapters! What is your favorite chapter (or book)?


Reindeer in Helsinki: where to see them?

Those who travel to Lapland have it easy: they are everywhere, but to see reindeer in Helsinki you have to know where to look. And that’s what today’s post is about.

Reindeer in Helsinki
Feeding a reindeer. Source (CC: by-sa)

Reindeer and Finland

The reindeer is the animal of Finland. The Finns even have that unique sign that warns you on the roads that you are entering an area with a high density of reindeer.

The Finnish word for reindeer is “Poro” (pronounced “porro“).

Finnish road sign
Pay attention: “porros” in this area. Source (CC: by-sa)

These animals have a special role in the culture of the Sami, the last indigenous people of Europe who live in the northern part of the Nordic and Scandinavian countries, including Finland. They take advantage of all parts of the reindeer.

And their meat, of course, is a delicacy. I liked it a lot (and Gordon Ramsay too) and I encourage you to try it if you’re on a trip in Finland.

Reindeer in Helsinki: where to see them

Do you remember the photo above, where the reindeer area was marked on the map of Finland? Exactly: reindeer don’t live that far south.

But nevertheless there are two places in the capital of Finland where you can see these animals. Let’s check them out.

Majestic antlers. Source (CC: by)

1.- The Helsinki Zoo – Korkeasaari

The Helsinki zoo sits on its own island in the city.

To get there you have to take a boat from the market square – Kauppatori – which is a nice ride with fantastic views of the capital from the sea. The destination of the boat, when you are looking for it at the port, is Korkeasaari, the name of the island and the zoo.

You can also take the number 16 bus that leaves from the train station. Once there, paying the entrance fee of 14 euros per adult or 8 per child, you can see reindeer as well as other animals. This is their website, if you want to learn more.

2.- Nuuksio National Park

This is the place to see reindeer in Helsinki in a big way.

Nuuksio Nature Park is just outside Helsinki. And it’s Finland’s southernmost national park. In it there is a reindeer park, where you can visit, touch and feed the reindeer.

Petting a reindeer in Helsinki
Reindeer herding in Helsinki. Or next to Helsinki. Source (CC: by-sa)

The entrance fee is 25 euros per adult and 10 euros per child, which includes enough lichen to feed the reindeers, a coffee (or other drink) and a bun by an open fire. And, during Christmas there is also glögi, the traditional Christmas spice wine.

There is also a cafeteria in the reindeer park where you can have a drink – including delicacies such as Lapp cheese, salmon or wild game meat – at a restaurant in a tapee (a traditional Lappish tent) called “White Reindeer”.

Feeding lichen to reindeer. Source (CC: by-sa)
How to get to Nuuksio National Park?

You might wonder this if you want to go see reindeer in Helsinki. The address: Nuuksiontie 83 in Espoo. It’s 30 minutes by car from the center and 1 hour by public transport. You will need a ticket from the ABC area of Helsinki to get there. These are the transports you have to take.

  1. Train from Helsinki to Espoo with U, L and E trains from Helsinki Station to Espoo (8 stops and about 25 minutes)
  2. Take bus 245 from Espoo to Nuuksio. The bus is next to the station.
  3. Get off the bus in Punjonsuo. (after 27 stops or about 25 minutes)
  4. Walk a little and past the zebra crossing, to the right. The sign says Karhunpesä and you see a sign with Reindeer

If you want to visit their website to take a look first, this is it.

Which of these two options do you prefer? Have you ever seen – or eaten – a reindeer?


Metal music soothes anger and depression

I read it in one of the Instagram stories (by the way, these are the best Instagram profiles in Finland) by the Finnish-Dutch psychologist Bjarne Timonen (this is his instagram, if you want to follow him too). According to a study, it’s true that Finland’s favourite music, Heavy Metal, helps with anger and depression.

Finland and the Mind

Finland ranks again #1 in the happiness study. And here’s a list of 10 things that make a Finn happy.

But is everything perfect? Of course not. Long winters tend to make people melancholic and perhaps hit the bottle a tad too much. Nowhere it is perfect.

Finns in their day to day life. Source.

With an extreme climate like Finland’s, and endless winters of darkness and cold (as well as low population density in many parts of the country), it is normal for many people to experience and tend to negative emotions, such as depression and anger.

But it seems that Finns have unknowingly found a natural way to cope with it: heavy metal music.

Finland and Heavy Metal

Knowing the aforementioned fact we understand better why there are more Metal bands per capita in Finland than in any other country. Or why in the University of Helsinki there is a postgraduate course of Heavy Metal. Or why there is a priest who gives his masses with Metal music (of course that helps to keep people engaged).

Metal concert
A Metal band playing in Helsinki. Source (CC: by)

Does metal music help with anger and depression?

Yes. Or at least that’s what transpires from the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience study. Here you can read it in full.

Heavy Metal and associated genres (Death-, Black-, Folk-Metal, or Metalcore), are associated by the tabloids – and even serious means – of provoking aggression or criminal behavior.

But is this true?A group of Australian researchers conducted a study where subjects were made angry and then asked to listen to their favorite (extreme) music or – for the control group – to remain silent. Emotions were then measured both objectively (e.g. by counting beats per minute) and subjectively (interviews and questionnaires).

The results? Extreme music not only does not cause anger, but helps the listeners to process their negative emotions and calm down. It also seems to stimulate feelings of activity and inspiration. The authors concluded that extreme music does not cause anger but rather helps well-disposed listeners to process their negative emotions and calm down. It furthermore seems to stimulate feelings of activity and inspiration.

Fronteers in Human Neuroscience

It seems that the Finns – well, and the musician Justin Currie when he said at his concert at the Triple Door in Seattle that “the further north you go, the more they like rock” – found a natural way to combat the effect of the environment on their psyche. And they turn the problem into a virtue.

What do you think of Finnish Metal? What effect does Metal music have on your life?