Saturday, 29 October 2011

Finnish Mnemonics

It's a tautology to say that you can't speak a language if you don't know the words. That is my biggest problem with Finnish.

I have documented on many occasions before my struggle with Finnish vocabulary. The trouble for me is that most Finnish words are not related to their equivalent in the Latin or Germanic languages that I know. This is compounded by me having a goldfish-like memory.

But in some cases, help is at hand.

   A device, such as a formula or rhyme, used as an aid in remembering.
   [from Greek mnēmonikos, from mnēmōn mindful, from mnasthai to remember]

Yes, for some Finnish words, I have developed super-clever devices to remember them by.  When I say super-clever, well... ish.

Anyhow, here are some of them:

Finnish WordMeaningOlli Miekka MnemonicTM
MustaBlackPicture a man with a black mousta-che
KorvaEarPicture the curve of the ear
SormiFingerPicture holding up your finger because it's hurting and saying: “sore me
RakentaTo buildPicture building a rocket (tenuous link, I know, but it works for me)
TunnelmaAtmospherePicture a party with a great atmostphere taking place in a tunnel
KuumaHotPicture a nice Indian chicken korma dish, which for some reason is hot and spicy
HappiOxygenPicture taking a great breath of oxygen, and feeling elated and happy
TakkiJacketPicture someone wearing a garish and tacky jacket
AjajaDriverPicture a French driver's face as his/her car is careering towards an obstacle – “aïe aïe aïe
IntohimoPassionPicture a woman, passionately in love with some guy called Olli – “Into him, O.

Other examples of Finnish mnemonics can be found here.

Do you have any clever devices to help you remember Fnnish words? Please do share! I need all the help I can get!


  1. Hey, these are good! Thanks for sharing. I'm going to try them.

    My biggest problem with Finnish is remembering vocabulary, too. I'm usually not very clever at coming up with mnemonic connections between English and Finnish words, but I do try to form associations between particular words and the circumstances under which I learned them. For example, I learned the word aurinko on a particularly wet and rainy day (obviously they're not always that neat and tidy!) That doesn't always work very well when I'm cramming my brain full of words in one session. When that's the case, I try to remember words in blocks, even if they're not related in any way other than that I learned them at the same time. I associate these words, and when I think of one, I remember the others.

  2. These are fantastic Olli! I particularly like Ajaja. I'm going to pass these onto my family who have similar problems with my mother tongue.

    Helena xx

  3. Mnemonics are a nice trick, but I'd go with the deconstruction and links whenever possible, because that will also help one gain the understanding of the language. You know:
    tunnelma - tunne, tuntea
    intohimo - into, himo
    ajaja - ajaa, ajuri
    intohimo - into, himo
    rakentaa - rakennus

  4. Wow, I guess passion is my passion. I had no idea.

  5. Mnemonics for vocabulary strikes me as much too clunky. Drilling vocabulary may be tedious and boring, but there's just no time to sit around remembering your mnemonics mid-conversation.