As the sheets of ice covering Finland lift and spring is almost basically here , you realise how much has changed over the winter- there was once a bench under that block of ice? their used to be plants there? there was a road there? i thought it was a river! and the ice skating ring is actually a flooded football pitch? who knew!?Its also a moment when I suddenly looked back on my time since i first arrived here. When I arrived I was a thorough Mediterranean man , Spain was the next place to be , learning Spanish , French and Italian were on the agenda , Germany was cool but wasn’t really a hot topic. Now , I’ve stopped learning all other languages apart from German , and since the Doves return a week ago (wooo) i have spoken about as much German as English . The future feels pretty German , and the plan is to spend the summer in Germany, which i know I’ve thought and talked a lot about abut only now I realise how much my mind has changed since I arrived here. But this is the joy of life- the unexpected. You can find good things and hold onto them for dear life , but sometimes just letting your mind be changed and letting yourself be surprised is the route to finding something really incredible.
English is used throughout Finland as the language of communication between foreigners in Finland , and between Finnish and foreigners, despite it being nobody’s first language, creating some fantastic and bizarre English uses. My favorites are the lunch menus that change daily , written in English with occasional crazy misspellings , bizarre uses of strange archaic or scientific English words , Finnish words and loanwords. My personal favorites include what must be the most unappetizing word for chicken ever ‘broiler’ from a Finnish /German word. ‘Broiler meatballs with basic brown sauce’ was a classic ,along with ‘river fish with yellow lemon sauce’ , ‘french fish with sauce’, and some the food reserved for ‘Vegatarists’, obviously a mixture of vegetarians and terrorists. Finnish cuisine is more based on the avoidance of potentially offensive flavours , and food as a medium of ingesting essential nutrients and calories instead of being a medium of culture taste or presentation. ‘Ground Meat sticks’ , ‘poultry sticks’ , ‘game meat stew’, ‘ground meat stroganoff’ and ‘ground game balls’ were particularly well seasoned and presented, truly worthy of Master Chef UK. Also notable, are ‘turkey pieces gordon bleu’ (a misspelling of the french ‘Cordon bleu’) and the use of ‘Saithe’ , a bizarre word for pollock.
Unfortunately the Finnish language does not seem to have any bizarre metaphors , pretty boring really especially when cake is called ‘coffee-bread’, and another kind of cheese is called ‘bread cheese’, its all pretty straightforward. Unlike french , whose bizarre metaphorical flourishes are often translated directly into English by my fantastic french roommate. My favorites include having a hangover being ‘ to have a wooden face’ , and when somebody is fantastic to you , they ‘sell you a dream’. Classic!
You’ve got to admire the language abilities of the Nords- our lectures held in English are still attended by the Finns- imagining turning up to a geography lecture in England and it was in french! you’d call the police. But without warning or complaining , the Finns make presentations and take lectures in English , but exams and essays can be written , incredibly , in your choice of language from English , Finnish , Swedish and occasionally Norwegian or a selection of the Saami languages! imagine that in England!impossible! In Oulanka some guys car got stuck in a snowdrift and we pulled him free. He talked to the Finns in Finnish , then realized we didn’t speak Finnish and switched in a second to perfect English. And he wasn’t a lecturer , a translator or an academic- he was just some guys taking his kids skiing!! can you imagine a Brit starting a sentence in English then swapping to French , Spanish or German at the drop of a hat to converse with some foreign tourists? I’ve genuinely met about one or two English people in my life that spoke anything other than only English- Sure, a few people take GCSE German or Spanish and pretend to be fluent- you ask them the word for butterfly of margarine and they’ll tell you -‘well, I’m not fluent fluent’. Step up your game Englanders!
What would the world be like before Google Translate? I know it sounds stupid , but imagine if you wanted to translate even a few sentences of a foreign language before the internet. Imagine taking the ingredients list from a can of food to your nearest city or university , desperately looking for someone who spoke the language , and then putting blind faith in their translation being correct- they could have told you any old rubbish and you couldn’t prove them wrong. I wouldn’t mind being a translator one day , if i can just get German to the level of ‘new first language’ , then get my Spanish pretty damn hot too , then i should be good to go. I imagine living every day in a foreign language , when you speak well, to be a pretty enjoyable experience, everywhere you go people would say ‘ that’s a strange accent you’ve got…where are you from?’ , and then I can tell the long rambling story of my travels to Finland and on to Germany.
But interestingly , literal translations in other languages are not the hard and fast rule. We were aghast to learn that the names of all the Pokemon are different in every language- all the french ones sound like fragrances and aperitifs , the German ones sound like awful 70’s pop stars. Seeing a picture of Charmander and the Dove saying ‘ah look….its Chiggy!’. CHIGGY!?! who the bloody hell is chiggy? sounds like chico‘s brother.
Sometimes it leads to potentially great misunderstanding. The film ‘Lock ,Stock and two smoking barrels’ , in french is called simply ‘London’. Because of course , it is a totally accurate portrayal of modern life in London. And every language translates ‘Bilbo Baggins’ into ‘Bilbo *word for bag*ins’ – who knew that the whole ‘bag’ thing was so significantly important? maybe i misread his character totally wrong. Basically all the Harry Potter names are different- some people were playing the game were you stick a note with a character name to someones forehead and they guess who it is , and spent 15 minutes having Professor Snape described to them , but were expected to guess ‘Professor Piton’, the Italian Snape! So theres ‘Professsor Python’ , along with Albus Selente , and Professor McGonnogal is the hilarious ‘Professor McGrannitt’. check it out here if you don’t believe me.
For a non-linguistic insight into life on Erasmus , check out my newly undated photos here.