Conversational Finnish

By Aili R. Bell and H. David Argoff

A 1987 work of the FSI School of Language Studies Finnish teaching staff, Conversational Finnish has been transformed from a 700 page text with accompanying 15 cassette audio tapes into an easy-to-navigate digital version in searchable-PDF file format for use on a personal computer.

This course is supplemented by Conversational Finnish Workbook, which expands on the grammatical elements presented in each unit through numerous exercises and drills, and by Finnish Graded Reader, the third and final part of the Foreign Service Institute's Finnish Course series.

Though Conversational Finnish was developed for use as part of a very intensive instructor-led language program, the material is well-adapted to self-study. Following a Pronunciation section, each of the 14 units contains a glossary or “word block” for the unit, two or more dialogs, comprehension exercises, function practices, structural notes on grammar and, in many units, reading exercises. The structural notes for each unit develop the grammar presented in the unit. The abundance of audio in this course insures that the student will be provided with a good foundation in understanding the spoken language, both formal and colloquial.

The audio pertaining to each lesson or exercise is easily accessible via a clickable-link located on the lesson page, making coordination between text and audio, navigation, course browsing, and overall use much easier than the original text/tape format.   Each entry in the Table of Contents is linked directly to the appropriate unit, making access to any part of this large publication easy.  In addition, each unit is fully bookmarked and all cross-references in the original publication to other units and to the glossary are linked and easily accessible with a click of the mouse.

 The contents of the original publication, both text and audio, has been reproduced digitally exactly as published.  Copyrighted sketches and drawings in the original Conversational Finnish have been removed and replaced. 
If you like paper, you'll be happy to hear that any lesson - or the entire publication - can be printed by your inkjet or laser printer.  By reproducing individual lessons this way, one can study them at any time - on the bus, during coffee break, while traveling, etc.
Furthermore, the audio portion of the lessons, being in mp3 format, can be copied to an mp3 player for listening while away from the computer.

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Download the entire Unit 1 with audio and user manual (approx. 28 mB) here.  Unzip this anywhere you like, preserving the directory structure, then use Adobe Reader to open the Unit 1 pdf file.  Note: cross-reference links outside of Unit 1 will not function in this sample unit.

Download the SLP user manual for Conversational Finnish.   Right-click here (pdf, 790kB)

View and listen to the complete, Unit 1 of 14, on-line, here (pdf, 1.2mB)   (or right-click to download the pdf). Requires Adobe Reader.   Use the right and left arrow keys to page forward and back.  Again: cross-reference links outside of Unit 1 will not function in this sample unit.

Listen to the mp3 audio recording of Hearing It 1, on page 4, here (mp3, 468kB).

screenshot of Conversational Finnish text

(note: bitrate for these samples has been reduced from 128kbps to 32kbps for faster downloads.  Quality of the audio has therefore been slightly degraded from the quality of the audio on the CD).

The dialogs consist of a collection of independent sequences, representing dialog between people in scenes typical of everyday situations, and presented in standard Finnish, colloquial Finnish, and English translation. You will begin the units by listening to the audio. First try to understand as much as you can. Then listen again and get used to the stress, rhythm, and intonation of Finnish and learn to associate the sound with the spelling. Through listening and repetition, you will become familiar with and will assimilate common forms of expression. Following each dialog section are expansions which amplify the original dialogs through substitutions and variations. These offer practice at various stylistic levels utilizing the basic expressions of the model dialogs.

The word block provides vocabulary for each unit and presents nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, and other forms. Each word is cross-referenced to a table in the appendix indicating the inflectional type (for nouns) or the conjugational type (for verbs).

In the Comprehension exercises, you will find additional listening material in each unit which includes real life information (telephone service, weather reports, travel advisory reports, etc.) and overheard conversations in different situations with accompanying tasks for students. You are expected to utilize both your knowledge of Finnish and any other “real world” knowledge to get the gist of what the situation is and what is being said. Some exercises involve recalling and explaining in your words what the overheard conversation was about.

Structural notes are presented at the end of each unit. They are meant to be studied within that unit together with the corresponding exercises in the workbook. The structural points are inevitably introduced in a somewhat arbitrary order because the texts represent language in its fullest from the very beginning. Cross-references are provided, however, so that structural points can be explained in any order depending on individual needs and desires. They are marked with unit numbers I-XIV and letters A-Z for the order that they appear in each unit.

Exercises. Each unit of text has a corresponding unit in the Workbook. Therefore, there are no cross-references. You will find the exercises for a structural point explained in a certain unit of text in the unit of same number in the workbook. Also, special exercises have been devised for practicing consonant gradation (see the Workbook).

The Glossary includes all the words in the texts except those introduced in the comprehension exercises. The words are listed in their inflected forms as they occur in the text. In addition to providing help with the vocabulary, this type of glossary familiarizes you with the structure of Finnish and helps you to find the dictionary forms of words, which are not always easily determined from the inflected form. Graded area-related reading with its own glossary is found in the Workbook. There are many ways of working with this material, including skimming, scanning, translating, summarizing, grammar and vocabulary building, etc.

Conversational Finnish: Suomea keskustellen (Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State, 1987), 720 pages

By Aili Rytkönen-Bell and H. David Argoff

Contents of Conversational Finnish: Suomea keskustellen



Notes on pronunciation
Glottal stop
Vowel harmony
Syllable division
Consonant gradation
Personal forms of some verbs with regular consonant gradation

Unit I. Getting to know you
Hearing it I
Hearing it II
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Personal pronouns
B. Present tense affirmative
C. Case endings
D. Personal pronouns in allative
E. How to express "to have"
F. Possessive pronouns
G. Possessive suffixes
H. Present tense negative
I. Present tense of olla, "to be"
J. -ko/-kö questions
K. How to answer -ko/-kö (yes and no) questions
L. How to form questions
M. Word order
N. Emphatic suffix -han/hän

Unit II. Getting to know the place
Hearing it I
Hearing it II
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Demonstrative pronouns in the singular
B. Interrogative pronouns in the singular
C. How to express the definite "the" and indefinite "a, an," "there is," "there is not"
D. Nominative singular -- basic form
E. Nominative plural
F. Genitive (possessive) singular -n
G. Cases indicating location
H. Inessive -ssa/ssä, "in"
I. Elative -sta/stä, "out of, from"
J. Illative -(h)Vn, "into"
K. Adessive -lla/llä, "on"
L. Ablative -lta/ltä, "from on"
M. Allative -lle, "onto"
N. Some common, extended, and sometimes unpredictable uses of locatives
O. Which case to use and when
P. Stem with possessive suffix
Q. Adverbs of place
R. Numerals
S. Imperative of second person plural and polite form

Unit III. What would you like?
Hearing it I
Hearing it II
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Partitive singular -a/-ä, -ta/tä, "some, part of"
B. Predicate noun and adjective in the singular -- after on
C. Predicate noun and adjective in the singular -- after ei ole
D. Accusative
E. Direct object
F. Mikä and singular demonstrative pronouns
G. First infinitive (basic form) of verbs
H. How to find the stem of a verb in order to conjugate it
I. Adjectives with nouns
J. Nominals ending in -i
K. Nominals ending in -si
L. Nominals ending in -e'

Unit IV. Small talk
Hearing it I
Hearing it II
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Nominals ending in -nen
B. Past tense affirmative
C. Changes in the stem before the past tense marker -i
D. Past tense negative
E. Past active participle
F. Present perfect tense
G. Past perfect tense -- "have done something"
H. Imperative of second person singular -- sinä
I. Negative imperative of second person
J. Third infinitive
K. Time expressions answering the question milloin/koska, "when"

Unit V. Scenes 1-4
At the hotel
Making a telephone call
At the restaurant
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Täytyy/pitää/tulee, "must, have, to"
B. Time expressions -- how to express "for"
C. Words ending in -as/-äs, -is
D. Nouns ending in -in
E. Nouns ending in -us/-ys, -uus/-yys, -os/-ös
F. Present active conditional
G. Adverbs
H. Indefinite pronouns joku, jokin, "some, somebody, something"
I. Mikään, ei mikään, "anything, nothing"
Kukaan, ei kukaan, "anybody, nobody"
Koskaan, ei koskaan, "ever, never"
J. Particles -kin, -kaan/-kään, "also, even," "not either, not even"

Unit VI. Scenes 5-8
A beauty salon and a barbershop
Ordering a taxi
At Stockmann's department store
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Present passive voice
B. Plural of nominals
C. Genitive plural
D. Predicate noun and adjective in the plural
E. Translative -ksi/-kse-
F. Some additional pronouns
G. How to express "there are"
H. Some derivational notes

Unit VII. Scenes 9-12
In the bus
At the market
At the gas station
At the post office
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Plural forms of demonstrative pronouns tämä, tuo, se, "this, that, it"
B. Plural forms of interrogative pronouns kuka, mikä, "who, what, which"
C. Plural forms of longer words
D. Essive -na/-nä, "as, in the capacity of, in the state of being X"
E. Abessive -tta/-ttä, "without"
F. Kukin, "each"
G. Past passive tense
H. How to form the past passive participle
I. Some additional interrogative and indefinite pronouns

Unit VIII. Scenes 13-16 gggAt the bank
Sending a telegram
On a trip to the countryside
In the sauna
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Past active conditional -- "would have"
B. Tenses and conditional forms of täytyy/pitää/tulee, "must, have to, would have to"
C. Comparative of adjectives
D. Yhtä...kuin, ""
E. Comparative of adverbs
F. Some idioms

Unit IX. Scenes 17-19
Renting an apartment
Evening out, date
At the travel agency
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Present passive perfect tense
B. Past passive perfect tense
C. Superlative of adjectives
D. Superlative of adverbs
E. Prepositions
F. Postpositions
G. Adjectives ending in -ton/-tön, -maton/-mätön, "-less, un-/in-"

Unit X. Scenes 20-22
Physical fitness
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Fourth infinitive
B. Present passive conditional, "would be done"
C. How to form the passive stem
D. Past passive conditional, "would have been done"
E. Relative pronoun joka, "who/that/which"

Unit XI. Weather
Weather in summer
Weather in winter
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Ordinal numbers
B. Participles as adjectives
C. Present active participle as an adjective
D. Past active participle
E. Past passive participle as an adjective

Unit XII. Geography
City picture
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Lauseenvastikkeet, "embedded sentences"
B. Agenttipartisiippi (embedded sentence)
C. Present passive participle
D. Että-clause as an object in the active voice (embedded sentence)
E. Että-clause as a subject (embedded sentence)
F. Instructive -(i)n, "by, with," etc.

Unit XIII. Holidays and church
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. First infinitive -ske- (longer form), "in order to"
B. Second infinitive inessive -e-ssa/-ssä
C. Second infinitive instructive -e-n, "by doing something"
D. "While"-clause (embedded sentence)
E. "After"-clause (embedded sentence)

Unit XIV. Finnish society
Law and justice
Social security
National anthem
Comprehension exercises
Function practices

Structural notes
A. Present active potential
B. Present passive potential
C. Past active potential
D. Past passive potential
E. Review of passive tenses
F. Comitative -ne, "with"
G. Imperative, first person plural -- "Let's"
H. Imperative, third person singular -- "let him/her do X, may he/she do X"
I. Imperative, third person plural -- "let them do X, may they do X"
J. Imperative passive -- "let X be done, may X be done"

Appendix I. Formation of words
How Finnish forms words
Nouns formed through derivation
Adjectives formed through derivation
Verbs formed through derivation
Adverbial derivatives

Appendix II. Infinitives & participles
Short review of infinitives and participles
When to use infinitives
When to use participles
Embedded sentences
Appendix III
Declension & conjugation
Chart of nominal declensions
Conjugational types of verbs
When to use the various cases
Nominal declensions (sample)
Appendix IV
Which stem to use with nominals
Which stem to use with verbs
Appendix V
Appendix VI
Texts for the taped comprehension exercises

Appendix VII. Index of structural notes


The original FSI audio tapes vary in quality, Superior Language Products has re-mastered the original audio to provide the best quality possible.

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