Category Archives: Review

Mondly: Learn Finnish. Speak Finnish

Number 4 is ”Learn Finnish. Speak Finnish” by Ati Studios. (26Mb). Mondly, learn languages

The subtitle is ”Mondly. play your way to a new language” and at the first glance it looks nice. It’s another multilingual app which is translated into several languages so that you can choose your native language and what language you want to learn. It promises 2500 words and phrases, which is less than in the earlier apps, but if it’s core vocabulary (and if the phrases contain more than 1 word), then I guess it’s enough.

After I select my native language, it represents a conversation between two individuals (“hello“, “kiitos“, “thanks” and so on). The lesson continues with images of coffee and tea and my first task is to learn those words. Apparently I need to move some kind of a path to learn the language, so there’s less choice than in the earlier applications.

Mondly login

Mondly map

Build your sentences

The basic concept is ”trial and error”. You are given Finnish words and phrases, and you should try to guess what do they mean in English. Then you have a phrase ”Tässä on äitini.” and English words is + my + This + granddaughter. + mother and you should put the English word in right order.

The images and audio are top quality, but it seems to also eat a lot of resources. The app works quite slowly and when I go to the conversation exercise, tapping the buttons doesn’t seem to work. Apparently the idea is that you listen to the sample and record your own version of it. The interface looks simple, but still doesn’t seem to work.

I installed Romanian for test purposes, and you can take only 1 lesson / day unless you purchase the premium version. Each day it reminds you with an alarm, that you should take your daily lesson. If you skip your lesson, you are not getting an extra lesson next day (unless you buy the premium).

Summary

The full version (premium) costs 9,99€ / month, so it’s more expensive than the other apps. The look and feel are significantly better than in the cheaper applications. The pedagogical approach is also much more ambitious; the lessons are structured so that you can advance from simple constructions to more complex ones. It doesn’t teach you grammar per se, but it gives you samples how to connect words and phrases, not just passively absorb vocabulary.

The trial version is very limited, and it’s necessary to purchase the premium version if you really want to use this application. Since I only tried the free version, it’s difficult to rate this, but I’ll give it 4/5.

EDIT: updated the price May 18. 2017.

Learn Finnish. Speak FinnishReviewed by Joni Kärki on. Rating: 3

Finnish language app by Languagecourses.net

The third reviewed Finnish language application on the list is ”Opi Kielen Suomi Sanastoa” by Languagecourses.net. Like earlier, you must first choose your native language (English again).

At this point, I’m a bit confused how they name these apps, each of them seems to have some proper name, manufacturer’s name and a search engine optimized title in the shop, but it’s difficult to decide how to refer to them in the review. Especially when there’s no shared convention and the programmers don’t know Finnish. When I install this app, the shortcut on my tablet says “Sanastokouluttajaan” (~ “into the vocabulary educator”). I hope my readers will find out what application I mean here.

languagecourses.net logo

This vocabulary trainer application gives you a long list of themes: ”most frequent words” or ”Dating phrases” or ”Business” or ”Travel Phrases”. When I choose ”most frequent words”, it asks my name and why I want to learn ”the language”, and how much time I will spend studying daily. When I choose ”continue”, it suggests me some ”alternative super learning mode” of Spanish (what? why?). Tapping ”continue” a couple of times takes you to the actual exercise.

Or it doesn’t. I get stuck in the load screen limbo, so I go back and choose ”dating phrases”. I learn phrases like ”olet niin seksikäs” (”you are so sexy”) and ”onko sinulla kondomia?” (”do you have a condom?”). The audio quality is significantly lower than in the 2 earlier applications, and when the instructor sounds like my grandpa from the grave, I’m not convinced.

you are so sexy in Finnish

I go back and choose ”business” instead. Some words are more useful than others, but then I get a word ”sidottu” (”bound”) with an image of a handsome man in bondage. What is this?!

After I have learned all 14 words, I get a multiple choice exercise to test what I have learned.

Summary

There are not so many exercises, so this is more like an electronic phrase book than a learning app. But the main problem is, that many translations are not accurate: sometimes nouns are translated by verbs or different forms of nouns. Apparently they have used some Google translator. Some of the audio examples have strange a ”robotic” accent, so maybe it’s some kind of a screen reader.

The best thing about this app is, that it’s free. So if you don’t mind learning couple of wrong words or pronunciations, this is your choice.

My score is 2/5.

Finnish language app by Languagecourses.netReviewed by Joni Kärki on.The third reviewed Finnish language application on the list is ”Opi Kielen Suomi” by Languagecourses.net. Rating: 2

Finnish language app by 50 languages

50 languages

”Suomi 50 kielellä” by 50 languages / Goethe-Verlag is the next on the list of Finnish language apps. The size is remarkably smaller than than the “Fun and easy”, just 16Mb.

Like earlier, it asks me to chose my native language: I lie and choose English. Then there’s a menu with 13 choices, some in Finnish and some in English. Slightly confusing, maybe the app just didn’t believe my white lie, since the default language on my tablet is Finnish. Or maybe that’s the first Finnish lesson to understand the menu.

Lot’s of content

I choose ”lauseita” (”some sentences”) and then “Choose a lesson” (this is in English). It gives me some categories, and I choose ”people”. ”Sanalista” (now in Finnish) gives me a list of words and phrases. If I click ”play” I can hear an audio example, and I have also an option to record my own pronunciation and then compare it to the example. A positive thing compared to the earlier ”fun and easy learn”, is that they give also examples of sentences. Still, it doesn’t explain why ”people” is translated as ”henkilöitä” (plural partitive, strictly speaking ”some people” as opposed to ”henkilöt”~ ”the people”. )

50 languages audio
After you have learned all the word and phrases, there are several type of tests. A writing test, where you fill in the missing letters (identical to ”fun and easy learn”) A multiple choice, where you find the right translation out of 4 (again, identical to the earlier), an exercise, where you put the words in right order and an exercise, where you choose the word in the right context (something ”fun and easy” didn’t have). You also have a ”bubble game”, but I don’t really know how to play it and eventually it crashes the application.

Or maybe too much?

When you go back to the main menu, you can choose other options, such as ”alphabet” or ”numbers”. Option ”sanasto” (”vocabulary”) gives you vocabulary divided into several categories, such as ”feelings”, ”animals”, ”sport” and so on. You have an image, English translation and an audio example and several ways to check what you have learned.

Then you have links to Google’s services such as Google translator and Google maps, a link to Wikipedia and a list of emergency numbers around the world. Probably useful information, if you have never heard of Google or Wikipedia, or for some reason suddenly wake up in Ghana (then you should call 191). Otherwise, I think some if this stuff is unnecessary.

Summary

”Suomi 50 kielellä” has also ads (and they are quite irritating), but the full version costs $2.99. The functionality isn’t that straight forward and the application crashes several times (maybe my fault, cannot say). It feels somehow unfinished compared to ”Fun and easy”, and on the other hand, it has some unnecessary stuff. But I didn’t find any errors and the sentence examples are a good extra. It’s another simple application copied from one language to another, but it’s a good tool in your toolbox when you are learning Finnish. Would I buy the full version? Maybe, it’s not that expensive after all. I’ll give 4/5.

50 languagesReviewed by Joni Kärki on.Suomi 50 kielellä by 50languages / Goethe-Verlag is the next on the list of Finnish language apps. It has lot's of content, maybe too much? Rating: 4

Finnish language app by Fun Easy Learn

The first impression

Fun easy learn logo

The #1 on the list is titled ”Suomi 6000 Sanaa” by Fun Easy Learn. This title doesn’t sound 100% native either, and judging from their website, they seem like generic app developers, not linguistic professionals. I’ll give it a try and install the app. The size is ~42Mb, which is not a huge problem if your phone can install it on the memory card and there’s wi-fi available.

First after installing it asks my mother tongue. The list is very long and includes languages I have never heard of. I fake my background and choose English for test purposes.

Then you choose the level, and apparently you cannot start with the ”advanced” level without collecting some tokens. So ”beginner” it is.

Over 6000 words

On the first menu you can choose what kind of vocabulary you want to learn. You have a cartoonish image (some look good, some are somewhat cheesy stock images like in other language learning programs), then an English translation (which seems more or less accurate) and an audio example by a native speaker. Vocabulary is divided into several categories, or you can choose a ”review”, which mixes vocabulary from different sub-categories.

Bear in Finnish
After learning the words, you can take several kind of tests: they mix the words, audio and images in different ways and you must find the right translation. In the writing exercises there are just few letters missing, so it’s much easier to type in the words (using a mobile phone keyboard it would be a tedious task).

The app has some ads (you can get rid of them with money), but they are not that big of an annoyance.

Summary

As a summary, I’d say that this app by ”Fun Easy Learn” isn’t anything extremely innovative, but it delivers what it promises. It’s a great way to learn the core vocabulary (6000 words takes you quite far). Also on the plus side, I can say that the translations are accurate and the audio is clear and the speaker is a native.

On the other hand, this is just another ”flash card” style application, where you learn to connect a word with the image, nothing more. They give you zero grammar, and even if you might think that ”language is just a collection of words”, you actually need some help learning how to connect the words and how to actually use the language. One might also argue that some words are not actually that useful. For example, I have never used a word ”kvinoa” in my life. I guess it’s somekind of grain, but it’s not common in Finland, so maybe some cultural adaptation or localization should have been used here.

These kinds of applications are easy to create and then copy from one language to another: you have the same scheme for each language and then just translate the words. As mentioned earlier: it’s one way to learn new words, but it’s nothing revolutionary.

Fun and easy? Well, it’s a grey Sunday morning in December and I got a hangover, so I’m easy to impress. I’ll give this 3 stars out of 5.

Update / post scriptum

I also installed their app for learning French and chose Finnish as my native language. I found several mistakes in the translation from French to Finnish, for example ”la femme d’affaires” sounds like a business woman to me (and that’s what was on the image), but it was translated as ”liikemies” (businessman). So I checked it in the Finnish version: they had a drawing of a man with English text ”businessman”, but the Finnish translation said ”liikenainen” (businesswoman). Even if they say that gender is just a social construction, I would say this kind of mistake is a bit embarrassing.

Opi Suomi 6000 SanaaReviewed by Joni Kärki on.Mobile applications are an useful too to help you to learn foreign vocabulary. Check a review for this Finnish language app by Fun Easy Learn. Rating: 3

4 mobile apps to learn Finnish

I’m not a great mobile app user myself, I actually still use my old Nokia mobile phone. I have Samsung’s tablet pad, and I use it mostly to read comics or play chess (that’s maybe one reason why Venla.info is not 100% mobile friendly…). I’d still like to develop a mobile app for Venla some day. But until Venla’s shiny app is ready to be published, I’ll go and check the current supply of Finnish language learning apps in Google play – shop.

My search term ”learn Finnish” returns more than 100 results, some of them not about Finnish language though. Some of them cost couple of euros, but most of them are free. Many of them look interesting from the first glance, but many of them seem like creators don’t know any Finnish and have just used Google translator or something to create their app, for example, the third choice in the list is titled ”Opi Kielen Suomi”, which is total fake Finnish.

I’ll publish my reviews in 4 parts:

There will be probably more reviews in the future, not only about applications, but also about websites, books and other learning materials.

learn finnish application

When searching with my laptop I get a slightly different selection.

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Harjoitus tekee mestarin (Marja-Liisa Saunela)

Harjoitus tekee mestarin gives a good portion of grammar for advanced and higher intermediate students. The series have 4 volumes and covers practically all aspects of Finnish grammar. The books are in Finnish so they are not suitable for beginners. They also concentrate solely on grammar, so it’s necessary to acquire also some material for learning vocabulary. These books are extremely good for those who wish to improve their writing skills and go deep into the grammar and learn all the rules with all the exceptions.

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Pimsleur Finnish

Pimsleur is one of the most effective learning methods available. I started my French by listening to these tapes, and advanced very quickly compared to traditional studying at school. I had tried to study French at a traditional class (provided my university). The main problem was, that I learned grammar and reading, but not much speaking or any practical things. I actually failed the test and thought, that I’m too old to learn any new language. Then I acquired Pimsleur-tapes and tried them, and they really worked for me. I’m that kind of type of a person, who likes to study on my on pace, and self-study materials like this are the best.

Recently Pimsleur has also provided us with Finnish material. Unfortunately it’s only the basic course. This level 1 –material covers some basic things, such as saying hello, asking for or giving information, scheduling a meal or a meeting, asking for or giving basic directions. In my opinion, it’s not enough (French has 3 levels + bonus material), but surely gives you a good start.

Listening and repetition are the cornerstones of Pimsleur method. There’s only the tape, no book (except for a small booklet for reading practice). It’s a bit mechanical, but not mechanical as those “learn in your car”-series and such. Instead of just repeating after the tape, you need to actively participate and put your brain into work. You need to use the words you have learned to produce phrases. I like that, because it really encourages you to talk (if not aloud, then at least inside your head). When I studied French at class, I was able to learn individual words and some conjugations, but I wasn’t able to put them together. Now I’m able to say many things in fluent French.

The main problem with Pimsleur is, that it focuses solely on oral skills. That’s why I recommend you to read some books in the target language in order to improve your reading skills and enlarge your vocabulary. Also, it doesn’t hurt to have a good grammar book (for example Leila White’s grammar book of Finnish), to go alongside the tapes.

Pimsleur method is often compared to Michel Thomas. I think Michel Thomas is slightly better than Pimsleur, but unfortunately, there’s no Michel Thomas Finnish course (yet). The reason is, that Pimsleur is more mechanical, whereas MT explains things more and covers some grammar points more systematically.

I have also got lot’s of influence and new ideas from Pimsleur and Michel Thomas. I hope that in the future my own materials are better and based on creative learning methods.

In the meantime, you can check out Pimsleur’s website . You can order the tapes there (cd or download), or try the free sample lesson in Finnish.

Finnish I, Unit 06-10 By Pimsleur

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Review: Livemocha community, part 1

I have been using the free version of Livemocha for 10 months or so. I haven’t been using it much, but I’ll try to give somekind of short review. This is the first part, I’ll make another soon, because there are lot’s of functionalities, and one post doesn’t cover the whole thing. Also, Livemocha has renewed recently a lot, so I need to cover the new things separetely.

Livemocha is a community for language learning, with some free study material. It has the same look and feel as any other social network, like Facebook, Orkut or Google+. You can have your own profile with a photo and basic information and add friends. Still, there are no communities, and you cannot write statuses.

The main idea of Livemocha community is “to help and get helped”. By helping others you can earn “tokens” which can be used to buy lessons inside Livemocha.

Online study material in Livemocha

Livemocha promises courses in 38 languages. List of languages can be found here. There are basically 2 types of exercises: computer assisted vocabulary drills and user powered assignments. Livemocha started a co-operation with some big publishing companies, such as HarperCollins, who is famous for language learning series, and is also a publisher for Pimsleur (there will be a new article about Pimsleur later), and some other publishing companies as well. This means, that Livemocha has now lot’s of new material, such as videos. The most recent news are, that Livemocha has agreed to merge with Rosetta Stone (I just received the email while writing this review).

Those new materials have been added only to some languages, such as French, English and German. The minor languages, like Finnish, have still the old, partially user generated content. I have been studying Frech with the old material for some time, and since I bought the paid membership recently (“the gold key”), I’ll try out the new material and write a new report about that soon. For now I’ll review only the “old” material, especially Finnish material.

The material gives you the basic vocabulary. It has a phrase in the target language, a picture, a translation in your language and an audio in the target language. After you have gone trough the words and phrases, you’ll have an exercise; audio, pictures and phrases are mixed, and you must try to find out which is which. After that you’ll be asked to write a short text based on the phares you just learned. This will be sent to a native speaker to be corrected. Most of them work on a voluntary basis (and receive “tokens” for that), but there are also some hired professional teachers.The final task is to record a short audio of your speach (no need to be shy!), and this is sent to a native speaker as well.

The computer assisted exercises are quite simple, but useful. I’ll get the basic phrases quite easily and the audio gives you the pronunciation. The problem is, that there are lots of small mistakes: the examples have been translated directly from language to another, and quite often the translations are not interchangeable.

For example, in the Finnish lesson, there’s an example “Minä olen”, which should mean “I am from…” (or “I come from…). Of course, without the ending -sta (“minä olen Suomesta), it doesn’t really mean that. Without the ending you are saying “I am the Finland”. Another mistake is in the audio exercise introduction. It gives you this example “Olen (hyvä/huono/loistava)”. It took me a long time to figure out, what does this actually mean. Because in Finnish, if I say “Olen hyvä…” it means, that I’m good at something, or that I’m a good person. If you want to say “I’m good” in the sense, that you feel good, and you are in a good mood, you say “Minulle kuuluu hyvää” or “Minulla menee hyvin” (just like in Frech you say “Je vais bien”, not “Je suis bien).

The self study material doesn’t really give you any explanations. This is the never ending debate how much grammar you shoud actually study when you are learning a new language. Livemocha doesn’t really give you any, so I recommend to use it along a good grammar book.

On the other had, it gives you good amount of basic vocabulary in 10 units. Each of them contain 5 lessons.

Living community

The essential part of Livemocha is not the material, but the community. I didn’t find how many many members Livemocha has, but it’s Facebook page has over 500 000 followers. The users are very active, and it’s easy to find somebody to chat with. The only problem is, that the search function is quite limited, and it’s not possible to go browse the members like on other sites. The system suggests you some language partners, and you can add them as friends, so you can find them later.

The chat board is somewhat limited, and could be better, but you can always ask other to add you in Skype. Apparently, there are quite few Finnish speakers, or at least fewer than demanded.

You can find me on Livemocha here. You can add me as a friend, if you like, but unfortunately I’m quite busy, so I cannot promise that I will review your submissions very actively.

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