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Summary Details


Query:   ESL/Typical Errors Made by Finns/Part 2
Author:  John Hammink
Submitter Email:  click here to access email
Linguistic LingField(s):   Applied Linguistics

Summary:   Continued from Part 1 (Linguist 13.2133)

[Modal Auxiliaries/Politeness Strategies]

Finnish lacks a direct correlate to the English word ''please.'' Also,
in Finnish, one can follow a request with *kiitos*, which is a
multifunctional politeness marker that also means ''thank you.'' That
means that if a Finn translates directly into English from Finnish,
there can be some confusion as to whether to use ''please'' or ''thank
you'' in English.

In English, we have to use a modal to ask a request, which we can put
in the conditional tense to soften it:

''Would you please give me the salt?''

In Finnish, a conditional may be used, but the structure of Finnish is
so that there is no modal (i.e., ''will'' or ''would'' required):

''Antaisitko suolaa?''
Give (2nd person, conditional) the salt
Which translates as ''Would you give me the salt?''


In Finnish it can be entirely appropriate to make a request consisting
of an imperative or a statement (e.g., Otan kahvia, literally 'I take
coffee.')

Even quite good Finnish writers seem to have trouble with English
conditional constructions due to a different use pattern of the
Finnish conditional (-isi) form (and, I suspect, this is not one of
the patterns stressed in Finnish school English). [Eg. ''If I would
have 100 euros, I would lend you 50'' for ''If I had 100 euros, I would
lend you 50''.]

Incidentally, while many Finns went so far as to inform me that
Finnish is a ''rude language'' without all those ''small words,'' I found
that Finns used other strategies that corresponded with the use of
''please'' and modals in English. For example, a higher imposition
request, made of someone a Finn didn't know very well, tended to
contain a verb in the conditional tense, or using the Finnish suffixal
morpheme -han to show ''politeness.''

The -han suffix is very mysterious for nonnative speakers, since its
function is hard to pinpoint in, for example, English. It can function
as an emphasizer, a mitigator, or a bunch of other stuff (there are
actually entire papers written on this one morpheme and its
functions). In one contributor's data, this suffix showed up with
high-imposition requests, iike asking to borrow someone's cell phone:

Olisikohan mahdollista etta'' ma'' voisin lainata sun ka''nnyka''si?

Is+conditional+question marker+''-han'' possible that I can+conditional
borrow(infinitive) your cell phone+possessive marker

'Is there any way it would it be possible to borrow your phone?'

[Tense/aspect]]

There tends to be an over-use (from the English point of view) of
compound past forms at the expense of the simple past because the
compound form occurs more frequently in Finnish. [Eg. ''This book has
been published in 2002'' for ''This book was published in 2002''.]

[Idioms]

To have / a bath, a shower.. To have lunch / dinner / tea... To have
a look / a try / a walk ... To have trouble To have a baby / a fight
/ a talk are all expressed differently in Finnish: ''to shower'', ''to
eat dinner'', ''to drink tea'', ''to look'', ''to get a baby'', ''to
fight''... ''He was born'' is a sentence a Finn can't say at all, if s/he
doesn't know by heart how it is formed in English. In Finnish it would
simply be: ''he *borned*''

[Adverbs]

Adverb placement ''seems often'' to be influenced by Finnish. (I'm told
by teachers of Swedish here in Finland that this is also a problem for
them.)

''Also'' is likely to occur before noun phrases much more frequently
than it would for American or British writers.

[Voice]

Because the construction called ''passive'' in Finnish works differently
than the one called ''passive'' in English, there are occasionally
unacceptable passives such as ''The door was wanted to be opened''.

[Gender]

Regarding the 3.p.sg. personal pronoun he/she finns tend to refer to
both sexes as ''he'', since they have only ''h?n'' for ''he'' and ''she'', or
to simply mix the two

[Contractions]

As for style, Finnish schools seem to be concentrating on a spoken or
fairly informal colloquial. This leads to the use of contractions (eg.
I'll, we've) in styles where (one hopes!) native speakers would use
the full forms.


[Pronunciation]

The Finnish speaker is always saying 'ch' as in ''chart'' -- even in
words such as ''character''

I'm indebted to the following people whose comments comprise this
summary:

Liz Peterson [elpeters@indiana.edu]

Ingvar Froiland [Ingvar.Froiland@F-Secure.com]

Gordon Brown [gordonbr@microsoft.com]

Hanna Outakoski [hanna.outakoski@samiska.umu.se]

Johannes Heinecke [johannes.heinecke@rd.francetelecom.com]

James Haines [jlhaines@sun3.oulu.fi]

Jason Rudd [rudd.j@ghc.org]

Katja Hirvasaho [katja.hirvasaho@rusin.fi]

Marianne Krause [marianne.krause@meigainnovations.com]

Raija Solatie [raija.solatie@kolumbus.fi]

Ronald Sheen [Ronald_Sheen@uqtr.uquebec.ca]

Werner Abraham [werner.abraham@direkt.at]

I will also post a discussion of some of the more interesting points
that people have written in since this summary was posted.

Subject-Language: Finnish; Code: FIN

LL Issue: 13.2172
Date Posted: 25-Aug-2002
Original Query: Read original query


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