In my time at the Sibelius Academy Global Music department, transcultural collaboration and cultural exchange have been everyday topics of discussion. As someone committed to making meaningful transcultural and interdisciplinary collaborations and conveying stories and emotions through music, these experiences significantly changed my perspective on the music industry and my relationship to personal craft.
"Learning Finnish has been one of the key windows for me into understanding Finnish music, culture, and people on a deeper level."
However, there has been another transcultural aspect to my year in Finland that has been equally enriching and rewarding: learning the Finnish language. I started studying Finnish one and a half years before I moved to Helsinki in August 2021, and continued my studies upon arriving. More than discovering my passion for languages, learning Finnish has been one of the key windows for me into understanding Finnish music, culture, and people on a deeper level. Although English is spoken fluently by most Finns, it brings a new level of meaning to speak the first language of the country. Even basic Finnish phrases can go a long way in connecting with the Finns.
With my knowledge of the Finnish language, I was able to co-teach children in Tampere through a Global Music Department’s Community Engagement project, take an aloittelija 2-row accordion course in the folk department, and simply communicate in Finnish in everyday life situations. More than just language skills, I also gained a rich community of friends. I have now practiced Finnish with immigrants to Finland from Australia, the Basque Country, Germany, Estonia, the UK, and other states in the U.S. Some had Finnish heritage and others did not, but all of us bonded through a passion for the language.
"I would deeply encourage more people to embark on a Finnish language learning journey."
One of the most rewarding gifts I have received as a fruit of my language learning has been the ability to communicate in Finnish with my pikkuserkkuja, my “little cousins” in Finland. This connection has brought me a lot of joy and connection with my own heritage roots. As Finnish is not as widely spoken in Astoria, Oregon, where my great grandparents settled in the early 20th century as it once was, maybe this can inspire other Finnish Americans as well to take up the language again. I would deeply encourage more people to embark on a Finnish language learning journey.