This article is on a subject that I’ve been planning to talk about for some time. I was even planning to make a podcast mini-series about it for my Explore Finland podcast, but it hasn’t happened yet.
I’ve set myself a target of applying for Finnish citizenship in 2021 and I thought I’d share my plan with you 😬
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Relocating to Finland
For those that don’t know my background, I have been living in Finland now for 12½ years and I now live in Seinäjoki with my wife, Satu, our collections of teenagers and Boris the Dog. When I moved here, I brought my job with me from the UK and carried on working from home, managing customer accounts across the Nordics. Even when I was made redundant in 2013, I was offered a language course in early-2014 but, by that time, I had already co-founded Xport and had started working for myself.
As a Brit, I had the freedom to move to Finland as an EU citizen. That was until the end of this year, 2020 when the effects of the Brexit referendum will start to have real-life consequences for British citizens. These will range from minor inconveniences when travelling, to major restrictions on the freedom to move and relocate as I did. I am currently facing the uncertainty of having a different passport with stricter travel rights that everyone else in my household; my children, my wife, her children – probably even the dog!
The Challenge to Become a Finn
In summer 2020, I was talking with Paul and Jiuliano, two of my partners in WIISE (the Work Integration for Immigrants Service). We were waiting for someone to join our meeting when Jiuliano said “So Mark, when are you going to apply for Finnish citizenship?” My natural reaction was to respond with all my usual excuses about wanting to apply but not being able to pass the YKI language test. “OK”, Jiuliano replied, “so make a plan how to do it.” Hmm, he had called my bluff, there was nothing else to do but to say “Alright, I will!” And I did.
But first, I should explain an little about this ‘YKI test’
Yleinen kielitutkinto / National certificates of language proficiency (YKI)
The national certificate of language proficiency is a language proficiency test for adults. It is an official way to demonstrate your competence in a language. The test assesses your knowledge of a language in everyday situations; you don’t need to know any specialist jargon, for example.
The YKI system is the official language proficiency test of Finland, and certificates serve a variety of purposes. You can use them, for example,
- to demonstrate your language skills to apply for a job or a place to study
- to demonstrate your level of language proficiency to acquire the Finnish citizenship (Finnish and Swedish tests)
The Plan to Pass the YKI Test
I wanted something that would be manageable but would give me regular practice at all four components of the YKI test; speaking, writing, listening comprehension, and reading comprehension. My listening and speaking skills are not amazing but they’re not bad. I can read Finnish but if the text is too technical I struggle. Writing, though, is going to be my weakest discipline so my study plan would need to work on this from the start. Here is the plan I devised for myself:
- Use the Duolingo app (now available in Finnish-English)
- Listen to the YLE Uutiset Selkösuomeksi podcast (also on YLE TV)
- Speak more Finnish at home with my stepsons
- Finnish-English Tandem conversation with my wife’s friend – thanks Riikka. Approx. 50 mins when we can both practice in a ‘safe space’.
- Read Epari. At least one article every day, write a short summary to show understanding. I must confess to having not started this yet!
- From October, evening classes, Suomi 2 course – twice a week at kansalaisopisto (community college)
Then, in early 2021, I will do the Suomea verkossa course to prepare for the YKI test.
I have English Conversation customers, with whom I meet weekly or monthly to practice their English, so I understand the benefit of using the language regularly. I was surprised, though, that my confidence increased after just one session with Riikka. Immediately, I found that Finnish came to my tongue in public more instinctively than before. I have had phone calls in Finnish, arranging a sales meeting (that led to an order!) I have spoken Finnish in front of a group of about 40 Finns and non-Finns. I have also held a customer meeting 90% in Finnish.
The Duolingo app is useful, too, for practising using the language, especially paying attention to ‘the dots’ on certain letters (Ä and Ö) while listening and writing! I’m not sure I could learn the whole language like this, but it certainly helps and I feel I’m loosened up and ready to start school at the end of September.
I’m sharing this to make a public record of my commitment to pass this test and to keep me honest in my working towards that. If you meet me in person, feel free to test my progress – unless you are one of my English Conversation customers. And if you want to improve your spoken English, use the button below to let me know. Once you hear my Finnish, you won’t be so worried about using your English!
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