Sunday, March 13, 2011

Everything you really need to know about Finns & Conversation...

I stumbled across the post by Hank W. below today, and found myself chuckling away as I read it:

I am really tired of all these complaints on the difficulty of learning the Finnish language.

The easiest way - and hardest for most foreigners - to learn the Finnish language is just to sit down and shut up. Over than half of a Finnish conversation is silence. You can practice *that* on a city bus for example. See, only mad people talk to strangers (or themselves). OK, I need to rephrase that - only mad people used to talk to themselves. Coming back in 1996 just after the 'kännykkä' boom and seeing well-dressed people blabbering to themselves freaked me out. Once I got new glasses the little dangling cord from the ear became more evident. Still freaks me out though. Must be hereditary.

The theory is, that silence has etched itself into the Finnish genes. Probably this happened already during right after the Ice Age when the Proto-Finns moved over and found it feasible to keep their mouth shut and use the energy for keeping warm. The blabbermouths then froze on the lake ice when they were icefishing (its quite windy on a lake). The silent men then slid the ones frozen stiff with their mouths gaping under the ice. And their hearts felt warm, and nobody said nothing, because everyone was thinking the same thing, peace at last.

So a couple thousand years later trying to introduce polite small talk instead of the cavemanlike grunts causes native Finnish speakers to seem rude and impolite. Every foreigner in Finland is bound to be asked these two questions let it be he's been here one day or ten years: "Where are you from?" and "What are you doing here?". Now these questions are honest to God attempts of "small talk", which is some unnecessary foreign invention. As we all know, peoples' faces in Finland are solemn, the mouth is a straight line, the edges slightly pointing downwards, just like a mouth should look like. (Only angry dogs and Americans show their teeth when meeting people.) - so a friendly question like that asked with a straight face is really just trying to be friendly. It is not exactly *our fault* the practice is to "cut the crap" and tackle the issue. So then the funny foreigner takes offence and the Finn is even more sure that silence is better and staring into the bottom of the beer glass is quite the thing to do.

Ah, one thing I must add though. The silence is gender-related. Somehow the silence genes are attached to the X and Y chromosomes because in Finnish women there is a wonderful and frightening ability to talk sentences without pausing, inhaling and exhaling the vowels and consonants so that the speech continues as a steady flow of... andreallyIthinkthatyoushouldcleanupafteryoushavethesinkisfullofhairsandthenthemirrorisstainedandyouleftthetoiletseatupagainhowmanytimesdoihavetotellyouaboutthatlikeIhaventtoldyouthatathousandtimesanditisdisgustingreallyyoudonotseemedoingthatnowdoyou...
Now this can also be used to explain the suicide rate of Finnish men, why there are 10:1 ratio of women to men in the 65+ age groups and why Finnish women marrying foreign men are so happy. Well, the first case is self-explanatory, as it relates to the second. The fast way out is far more desirable apparently than the slow lingering "death by nagging". And foreign men are happy as they cannot understand a word - and as Finnish women (due to the vindictive school teachers) dare not say too much in a foreign language as they are so afraid to make a grammar mistake the naggedyness in a foreign tongue is less evident. Divorces only happen if the men learn Finnish too fluently to actually pay attention to what she is saying...

So basically, the Finnish language is the easiest to learn in the world. Learn the silent parts first.

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