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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/julesmGGF

Honest review and thoughts after completing the Finnish tree

Happy to say that I just completed the Finnish tree! It was sorta of spur of the moment, but I'm happy I did so.

https://prnt.sc/t5um9s

I wanted to talk a little bit about this tree and share what I found were its strengths and weaknesses.

Strengths: --Before this course, I had the idea ingrained into my head that Finnish is one of those extremely hard and impossible languages to learn, and that the grammar alone would end up making me cry. I honestly didn't even have a desire to learn the basics. However, I decided to do just a single lesson since the course just came out, but I found that I was enjoying each new skill and everything that the tree presented made perfect sense! I found Finnish easy with this tree, and also want to say the team did an awesome job making it in such a way and filling the notes sections with valuable information. Well done Team Suomi!

--This course teaches a lot of vocabulary. At first glance of the tree, it looked pretty small to me and I worried about how much vocab it actually contained. Fear not! There's a lot more in there than you'd think! :)

--I thoroughly enjoyed the humor found in the sentences! Here is an example below:

https://prnt.sc/t5ggbp

--Every single word has audio! Yes!! Even though it's TTS, the audio is clear and easy to follow.

And I hate to do this part, but I want this review of the tree to be honest, which is why I can't sugarcoat the tree's weaknesses. The good thing is that this tree is brand new, and will most definitely be improved and hopefully have multiple correct solutions added very soon along with grammatical errors corrected (and possibly a significant tree expansion in the future! c:). Please please please, make sure to report when your answer is correct but not accepted so the team knows which alternatives to add!

Weaknesses: Unfortunately, the course has noticeable errors, English grammar mistakes, etc. If you are not a native English speaker and are using this course to learn Finnish, this aspect may be highly confusing for you; please don't doubt yourself, as there are definitely significant English mistakes and correct answers that aren't accepted. I admit, it was extremely frustrating for me as well, but I understand how new this course is, and am not saying any of this for criticism or out of malice; simply to inform both users and Team Suomi of some errors within the course. Here's what I found:

--The present continuous (-ing) is almost always the only present tense verb form accepted. The present active is almost never accepted despite still being correct (and at times more common).

*--This is the big one. Answers have to match the given definition of a word exactly (ie: soda pop. Not soda, not pop. Soda pop exactly, or else it’s wrong; or tv not being acceptable for a translation of television; ‘I’m sorry’ not accepted for ‘my apologies’). This was honestly beyond frustrating at times, because every other (correct) answer I gave was marked incorrect because of it. Answers that are counted as correct are very often the only solution—it’s wrong even if the answer is a more common alternate and also correct.

--A good amount of the given correct English answers are very unnatural or grammatically incorrect in English. I've reported all the ones I came across.

TL;DR: The Finnish course does a phenomenal job introducing beginners to the language in a way that is not overwhelming and easy to understand. It takes the scary notoriety of the language's difficulty level and turns it into a söpö pupu. Vocab and grammar are in abundance. However, the course definitely felt very rushed for beta and English answers were not thoroughly proofread which may pose confusion and frustration, especially to non-native English users, and correct English answers lacked more common alternatives. Still, I am confident that this will be fixed all in time and can't wait for a tree expansion to learn more!

Thank you Team Suomi!

June 24, 2020

58 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zzzzz...

This is good stuff! Thank you very much for taking the time to write it! There is still much to do especially after the final checkpoint, so keep those reports coming. We only have one native English speaker in the team, so she's a bit flooded with fixing my endless adverb position mistakes (I don't know what is it with me and adverbs; we just do not get along). Apart from the skills in the final third of the tree, more than half of the reports we receive are actually about problems that have already been fixed, either just before the launch or after it. It takes a while for the system to integrate them. The final third still needs a lot of work though. I'm going to have to be picky about one of the strengths you listed. The TTS pronounces some of the words very oddly (for ex. jano becomes jaano). We remove audio for any such word or sentence for now, so unfortunately we do not have TTS for every word right now. We have been promised a way to try to fix the problem words though, so keep your fingers crossed! :)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/julesmGGF

Thank you for helping make the course!! And no worries, adverbs in general were always confusing to me too in school at first. Also good to hear there's a solution on the way for some of that audio!--Sorry to hear that some came out strange :o

I also wanted to let you know that only a day later I came across a tv show trailer that someone was showing me and said it was probably in Swedish, and I was immediately like NOPE that's Finnish! Honestly impressed with myself for catching so many words in it after finishing the tree!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zzzzz...

I'm a grown woman with decades of learning English behind me and the adverbs still hate me! :D You are a quick learner! Now I won't be able to sleep tonight, because I'll be thinking about what TV show that was. :P


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/JereMki

Maybe it was the new (and only) finnish HBO series about life during the coronavirus epidemic called "Eristyksissä"


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KevanSF

Hi, I'd like to add my thanks for all the hard work everyone put into bringing this long-awaited course to fruition. Much appreciated.

That said, I was never really interested in learning Finnish (my head is too filled with other languages that I use on a daily basis, plus I'm determined to learn Turkish well enough to read a book or a news article, so taking on Finnish isn't in the cards this year).

Still, when a new language comes out, I like to "sample" it to support the hard work done behind the course, and I enjoy learning at least a few basic words and getting a sense of the sounds and grammar of a language. So I did the first few skills, and I have to say that this course is far superior to most of the other "beta" courses that have come online here in Duoland in recent years. I like the explanations, the mix (variety) of vocabulary offered at the outset, the cultural notes, and even the TTS voice is pleasant and clear.

I'll likely continue on and do a little more of this tree than I usually do when I'm just "sampling" a language out of curiosity. It's really a lovely language!

But what truly prompted me to respond to Zzzzz...'s comment was the line about the adverbs! I started laughing because I can feel your pain. For me, French is basically a reading language, so when I'm asked to form sentences, I often find myself translating from Italian (due to some structural and lexical similarities of the Romance languages), but I almost always put the danged French adverbs in the wrong place! Sadly, French adverbs haven't learned to follow Italian grammar rules! ;-)

Thanks again!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aydin340238

If you are determined to learn Turkish, keep on studying Finnish as well. You will find many similarities in the language structure if you are interested in grammar, and this will help you to learn both languages. PS: You might not notice this on Duolingo


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MandiAbrah

Totally agree, my friend. I spent two happy years living in Konya and couldn't wait to start the Finnish course when it came along. Wish people weren't so scared of grammar. As a former language teacher, my first sessions were often spent explaining the structure of language before heading in.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zzzzz...

The notes stop after row 8, y'know. It's good to know that I'm not the only knight fighting the adverbial windmill. ;)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/anonyneko

I don't know how Duolingo works and whether all courses are TTS, but is it at all possible to gradually crowdsource native speakers for audio?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

At least Esperanto does not use automated speech.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/anonyneko

Esperanto of all languages, with almost no native speakers... Though since there is a Japanese yuri isekai visual novel about studying Esperanto with all of the lines spoken by professional voice actors, nothing will surprise me anymore.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

"How many speakers of Esperanto are there?" is a FAQ. The usual answer is

  • 1000 native or L1-speakers, who all are bi- or multilingual

  • 10 000 people use Esperanto on a regular basis and speak very fluently

  • 100 000 people can speak and write well

  • 1 000 000 people can read

  • 10 000 000 people have some exposure on the basics of the language

Note, that the figures are not exact (there is no registration anywhere), but should give a grasp of order of magnitude.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/MandiAbrah

I sat opposite an elderly gentleman on a train once who was going to an Esperanto conference in Llandudno. He must have been one of the 10,000.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ID-007
  • 2258

FWIW, trees used to use real speakers' voices. For some reason, Duolingo decided to go TTS when possible...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/anonyneko

I guess they wanted to have consistent quality (because people's microphones and recording environments are more often than not really bad), but I feel like there should be a possibility to replace that with actual voices when possible and when the recording quality is decent enough...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ID-007
  • 2258

That's true. Also, I could see some natives complaining of the choice of dialect used to record in...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/dakkus2

Well, in Finnish we have a separate "kirjakieli", which is what youse are learning here. So, no problem with dialects in rhe case of Finnish.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ivitcyex

There are several courses with real voices, including Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Latin and Hawaiian. There is not a TTS available from duo's provider for these languages. Keep in mind that providing full audio recordings is a huge amount of work, and Irish (and maybe Hawaiian?) lacks full audio because of this.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/surzhykKorektor

Oh yeah, I noticed you could clearly hear Hawaiian was recorded by actual people, there's a subtle room echo. Same with Scottish Gaelic, and Ukrainian. However, many courses that used to have native recordings (like Spanish, and possibly Norwegian) got rid of them when the trees were "upgraded", sadly...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_ginzburg

Yes. Besides Esperanto, I think that Ukrainian and Latin are the only languages (as far as I know) that have "real" audio. The "problem" with that is that they have had only the sentences recorded, not the individual words, so when you have this exercise with three pictures where you have to pick up one (that usually introduces a word for the first time, so it is interesting to have it pronounced) or when you hover over a word in order to see the hint, there is no sound for that particular word. Also, if the contributors gradually introduce new sentences, there is always going to be a gap between the moment they introduce a new sentence and the moment this sentence is going to get an audio recording, so there will be some "silent" sentences.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/anonyneko

The idea that I had in mind would be for the TTS to be the backup option for words and sentences that have not been voiced yet by native speakers.

But I guess Duolingo opted for TTS only where possible, so it's unlikely to go this way.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/surzhykKorektor

I wish that it was that way, actually. Native recordings preferred when possible, TTS to fill in the gaps. Duo replacing recordings with TTS doesn't sit well with me, especially in some courses where the robot voice is abysmal (the Russian course in particular sounds like their TTS software was bought "on sale for ten rubles and a bottle of vodka")...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Judit294350

Besides Esperanto, I think that Ukrainian and Latin are the only languages (as far as I know) that have "real" audio.

Add Hungarian to that list.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ID-007
  • 2258

Great job Zzzzz and the rest of the team. Your course just made my week!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Timo-opettelee

Very accurate description of the course.

I think it may have improved already in the last 2 weeks of Beta since you completed it, although it still got very frustrating towards the end. Longer sentences, fewer corrections proposed equals more ways to not get the answer accepted.

--

My main gripe was the abundance of interjections (ooh, ah, wow, yikes etc.) used throughout the course. I felt they were a distraction more than a useful addition, apart from only a few more common Finnish varieties that you might hear in everyday conversation.

In the neutral I would put the variety in vocabulary, such as not sticking firmly to cat/dog but also throwing in parakeets and penguins just to keep things interesting. Neutral, because at times the vocabulary was too far-fetched and probably not something you would use in a million years.

Finally, on the positive I would put bringing the Finnish culture to the forefront. We all hate Mämmi, yet we feel it's important to share the pain associated with this dark, glorified cowpile-of-a-dessert with the rest of the world.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

Minä kyllä tykkään mämmistä :-)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Phx_Tbirds

I agree with you wholeheartedly. I am married to a Finn and trying to learn the language (with absolutely no assistance from her) and I have never heard anyone talk about wizards, shamans, or Vikings in the 6 years I have known her and visited Finland.

I know, some people think it is fun with Viking cats, but I find it unserious. Hairy cats or Norwegian cats accomplish the same linguistic and pedagogic function, while still being somewhat useful.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Ordkan

Thank you for posting your views on the course. I ignore whether you have completed any other beta courses in the past, but the quality of Finnish in terms of length and depth is quite remarkable. Usually, the eventual feedback from users brings about the necessary corrections and improvements (lexical alternatives, morphosyntactic structures, etc.).

I am personally savoring every single lesson. Although I have not completed the whole course, I second the opinion that it is very successful in breaking down the nerve-racking intricacies and mythical evil powers of the Finnish language in a truly enjoyable way. Having studied some Finnish in the past, however, a few basic grammar points seem to have been unfairly neglected in the creation of this introductory course. I am thinking here of the genitive case, which can be found in the first lessons of Suomen mestari 1, for example. Each learner will obviously have an opinion on this.

In general, I don't think anybody in this massive Finnish-loving community will be disappointed, and Finnish will keep expanding its already legendary appeal and popularity through this new course one step at a time. Cheers and kippis to the course!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Frzzl

I agree, but it is still so amazing that the course is finally out. Thank you so much Team Suomi!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Coineanach

Are the present continuous and present active definitely the same in Finnish? (I have no idea - I just know they aren't always the same in every language so I want to double check!)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

I'm not even sure what are you asking about. If you mean

  • I dance

  • I am dancing

then that's an English-specific thing, not present in many languages incl. Finnish. Having said that there is a way to use so called MA-infinitive (there are five infinitive forms in Finnish)

  • Tanssin : I dance

  • Olen tanssimassa : "I am dancing" or "I am in a location where I dance"

but I doubt this course will take up other than the A-infinitive (the basic infinitive), e.g. tanssia.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Zzzzz...

Juha is right. The distinction does not exist in Finnish. Unfortunately, that does not mean that you can use either form to translate any verb, but the English grammar determines how to translate the verb. Minä tanssin can mean both "I dance" (general repetitive action) and "I am dancing" (current continuous action), or even "I will dance/I will be dancing" (future action), because there's nothing in the Finnish sentence to tell us, whether the action is finished or not. The context determines which one is the best option. If you start adding words that change the sentence's purpose, one form often becomes far more likely as a translation. Minä tanssin usein is extremely likely to have the first translation ("I dance often"). Minä tanssin, koska olen onnellinen, on the other hand, would almost certainly be translated with the continuous form ("I am dancing, because I am happy."). Minä tanssin pian, "I will dance soon", is an example of the future tense as the best possible translation.

The form that uses the -mA infinitive and the inessive case (Minä olen tanssimassa), is for combining two verbs to express continuous action that happens at a very precise point in time. You can form this structure with other verbs than olla too and, again, both translations are often possible depending on English conventions and the context, because we do not know whether the action is completed or not (although not when olla is used). Minä istun itkemässä, "I sit and (I) cry/I am sitting and crying", is one example. This structure is particularly useful when you are dealing with a verb that always refers to finished action, like käydä, "to go and come back" (or "to visit").


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

Zzzzz...

Kaksi kysymystä…

  • Does this course teach the -mA infinitive? (I can well imagine that it is left out.)

  • At least on the Esperanto course here at Duolingo they follow a principle, where the Esperanto sentence is always regarded as the original one, regardless how the exercise is done. Does this course follow the same principle?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Coineanach

Thank you very much, this is exactly what I wanted to know


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/_ginzburg

Well, not that specific. It's actually present in most Romance languages, the difference is that usually, we don't consider it a separate tense that you can find on a conjugation chart. I mean, in Spanish we have Yo estoy comiendo, wich is the exact equivalent of "I am eating" but the traditional Spanish grammar don't consider this a "proper" tense, rather a locución (I don't know the English equivalent of that Spanish grammar expression. Maybe "verbal phrase"? "Verbal group"?) We can actually liken that to the use of modal verbs: you don't consider "can sing" a tense of "to sing" but something else; we do kind of the same with our "present continous". But the truth is that the actual use is more or less the same.

The same goes for Italian (io sto mangiando), Portoguese (eu estou a comer -PT-, eu estou comendo -BR-) and Catalan (jo estic menjant). I do not know if Romanian has something like that. French does not have the exact same estructure but they use another "verbal phrase" to express the same idea: "en train de". Je suis en train de manger. I am eating. But this is only used when you really want to underline the fact that you are doing that right now, so it's not used as often as the English present continuous or its Spanish equivalent.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/merilingo0

I think they are called " modos" of a verb. For instance " comido" is participle " modo" for comer, and " comiendo" is the " gerundio" for the same verb. I do not know if you may say " mode" of a verb.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Coineanach

Ah I was just referring to the paragraph where OP says "The present continuous (-ing) is almost always the only present tense verb form accepted. The present active is almost never accepted despite still being correct (and at times more common)."

This implies that "I dance" and "I am dancing" are completely equivalent phrases in Finnish. I know this is true in many languages, particularly languages English speakers are liable learn (like French) but still not every language, so I wanted to check OP wasn't making am assumption that Finnish was like other languages. For example in Gaelic "I dance" in the habitual sense would be expressed using the future tense, whereas "I am dancing" is in the present tense, so even though it doesn't use the English construction - they are still not equivalent. does that make sense?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/annika_a

They're not completely equivalent sentences, but a lot of the sentences here on Duolingo have so little context that both would be correct translations. Out in the real world you would usually have a lot of context, often making only one of the translations correct.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

Yle (short for Yleisradio, the national broadcasting corporation) has a course with pronunciation samples.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/annika_a

Yup, the lack of correct optional answers is normal, that will come. I, too, hope that everyone reports, reports, reports! This is the nature of beta.

The gerund thing tripped me up at first, too, but once I learned to always use that instead of the (as you say often more natural) other form, I blanked it out. Better get back and report those later, actually...


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

Annika, ei se ole gerundi. Englannissa on kolme eri -ing päätettä:  

  • gerund: I like dancing

  • present participle: Are you watching tele?

  • deverbal noun: Loud shouting makes me angry

Opin itsekin tämän tässä hiljan opiskellessani esperantoa mm. Duolingon avulla.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Alf42

Just started the tree, but am loving it. Over the years I've tried several beta trees, almost all of which had some issues with ungrammatical or unnatural-sounding English. Not accepting all possible correct answers seems to be a hallmark of the beta versions, so I wouldn't fault this team on that. I'll be sure to report when there is a problem as well. Finnish is one of the most beautiful languages I've ever heard though. I know that's subjective, but it's my opinion! :^} Kiitos for this course!


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/staparry

One thing I always like are lessons that are dedicated to one case at a time. If I want to review how to form the accusative or ablative, I do not have an easy way in this tree to remember where that was covered.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Timo-opettelee

That is one of the things I noticed as well, going through the tree as a native.

The bigger languages are currently very well structured to teach you one concept at a time, through multiple examples to help the learner understand "what changes" between the different sentences.

I hope this will follow later, as the course matures.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Daniel684949

Another thing - it would be great to add sounds to the vocabulary explanations so we can hear how they sound, because it's not easy to get it from English (for example, what are the "unaspirated" p and t? What is the difference between a p in "sponsor" or "pirate"?)


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Atervanda

Unfortunately, it's not possible for course contributors to add audio to Tips & Notes. That's only something staff can do in Duolingo Tips, which are available for a select few courses at the moment.

As for your example, try saying 'pirate' and 'sponsor' while holding your hand a slight distance from your mouth. You should feel a forceful puff of air against your palm when saying 'pirate', but not when saying 'sponsor'. That's what it means for a sound to be aspirated.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Phx_Tbirds

I'm sorry, the audio is far from clear and easy to follow.

I understand that there are limitation to TTS (text to speech) audio software, but they should recognize punctuation like commas, periods, and question marks and take a longer pause.

If I weren't married to a Finn and visited Finland many times the past 6 years, I would be inclined to believe that they do not breathe in Finland.

The TTS audio is unnatural. Perhaps the moderators have not adjusted the setting correctly. Other Duolingo courses aren't as bad as the Finnish course.

For example in "Mitä saisi olla? Riisiä ja kalaa, kiitos.", there is not a long enough pause between the question and answer to hear that it is a dialogue and not a monologue. Neither is there a pause at the comma before "kiitos".

The AI reads the text as if there were no punctuation. This is not natural, especially in a situation like a dialogue between a waiter and a patron.

It should be spoken "Mitä saisi olla?" pause, pause "Riisiä ja kalaa," pause "kiitos."

Yes, I know there is a slow speed, but again, the slow speed is waaaay toooo slooooow.

Adjust so the AI takes punctuation into consideration and offer three speed. The current speed, the slow speed, and one in between that is natural speed.

I am not a musician, but punctuation is like "rests" in a musical score and an AI should be able so recognize punctuation and adjust. This is why I suspect that the course audio is incorrectly set up.

We are beginners, we need to be able to understand what is being said. Maybe by level 3 it can speed up.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

This is a good observation. I have toyed a little with a text-to-speech system (AFAIK other than used by Duolingo) and adjusting pauses seems to be hard. But that should definitely be done.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/KostamojeN

I'm almost done with the Finnish course here on DL.

Quick question, am I losing my mind or did it recently go from 4 checkpoints down to 2?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aydin340238

The course looks different now.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Judit294350

Same content, different layout.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Judit294350

Despite Finnish’s lack of indefinite and definite articles, the majority of answers were only marked correct for a specific article and not the other

As I read the tips the position of the noun effectively mapped to definite/indefinite.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/julesmGGF

Ahh, must have read over it! I'll edit it in the post! Edit: Just found it in the notes section and yea, definitely didn't absorb it oops! Thank you again for pointing this out to me.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/thalia0712

The Finnish tree seems to have missing a lot of tenses. Are they going to be added later?


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Juha_Metsakallas

I don't know, but if I had to guess, they had to limit the topics somehow and limiting tenses isn't a bad decision in that regard.


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SourishBan4

Hello! If you don't mind, can I ask you how many words are there exactly in the Finnish course? Also what level would you consider yourself at after having finished the course? Thank you!

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