HomeStudent VoicesNews & Views Ask Away: 5 Questions for a 5th Grade Student of Finnish

Ask Away: 5 Questions for a 5th Grade Student of Finnish


We’re asking students, teachers, and counselors five questions on how languages play a role in shaping personal and professional success…

Meet Sylvi—a future violinist and author who’s currently learning Spanish and Finnish.

"As Away: 5 Questions" banner with Sylvi portrait

1. When did you first start learning a language—how did you begin?

My dad knows Finnish and spoke it to me as a baby. He stayed home with my sister and I, and we spoke mainly in Finnish. We had a jar, where, if you spoke lots of Finnish with him during the day, you got a marble in the jar, and when the marbles got to a certain point, we got a special prize.

2. What motivates you to learn Finnish? Has your motivation changed over time?

My ancestors are from Finland, and I would like to know the language that they spoke. I also love the sound of it. It is a really beautiful language, and not as common as other languages, which makes it really cool to speak.

Colorful, pastel house facades in Finland

3. You’ve been a summer session student at Salolampi Language Villages, a Finnish language program operated in partnership with Salolampi Foundation and Concordia Language Villages in Bemidji, Minnesota… Have you done any other activities to practice your language skills outside of the classroom or school year? Tell us a little about that!

When I was little, I attended a Finnish school on Saturday mornings, where we spoke in Finnish. I also went to Finland when I was five years old, and I am going again this summer.

4. Why are immersion experiences important for young people?

I think that immersion experiences are important, because it is good to know other languages. It allows you to communicate with people all over the world, and even make friends that you wouldn’t make otherwise, because of the difference in languages.

5. Have you had a memorable or favorite conversation in another language? What made it special to you?

When I went to Finland, I got a chance to meet former president of Finland, Tarja Halonen. I went swimming with her in a lake, and I got to speak to her in Finnish. That was really cool.

BONUS QUESTION: What’s your favorite word or expression in Finnish—why (and what does it mean)?

My favorite word might be koukku. It means “hook” in Finnish, and I love it because I can almost see the hook forming in my mind when I say it. It sounds so much more curved and hook-ish than hook, which sounds straight, like a sword.

Interested in Finnish like Sylvi? Check out our Lead with Nordic Languages page for resources on scholarship opportunities, student testimonials, videos, and more.  And, as always, don’t forget to share your language learning story @LeadWLanguages on social media!