Easy Finnish, Lesson Five: Getting Home on the Slang Bus

One of the most dismaying things you discover if you study Finnish long enough is that the extremely morphologically complex and otherwise utterly alien-sounding language you have been melting your brains to get a tenuous grip on is, in fact, textbook Finnish, the literary language or standard language (kirjakieli) used in newspapers, magazines, and books, and spoken, as it were, by TV and radio presenters, politicians, schoolteachers and other professionals, and government clerks.

In real life, Finns speak bewildering combinations of conversational Finnish (puhekieli) and regional dialects (murteet). In Helsinki, the local dialect or argo is stadi (the word itself is a Finnish take on the Swedish for “city,” stad), a mind-numbing melange of Swedish, German, Russian, and English loanwords embedded in a Finnish grammatical, syntactical, and morphological matrix.

When I run head on into something that looks like slang or conversational Finnish, I often turn to the website Urbaani Sanakirja (“Urban Dictionary”). One of the things I like about the online dictionary is that it almost always provides down-to-earth examples of usage.

The website also features a Päivän sana (“Word of the day”), helpful for building and reinforcing your Finnish slang vocabulary.

Today’s word of the day is a personal favorite of mine, dösä, “bus.”

dösä

Although Finns also often use the word bussi (“bus”), it is a colloquialism; the word for “bus” in standard textboox Finnish is linja-auto, the very same word Urbaani Sanakirja uses to define dösä.

The example it supplies—Tulin eilen dösällä himaan (“Yesterday I got home by bus”)—contains another slang word, hima.

hima

Hima means koti (“home”) in standard Finnish. “Translated” into book Finnish, then, the entire sentence would read, “Tulin eilen bussilla kotiin.” That is a far cry, lexically, from our original sentence, “Tulin eilen dösällä himaan.”

What does the sample sentence supplied for hima (“Nauran heittereille matkan himast pankkiin”) mean?

“I laugh at the haters all the way from home to the bank.”

That is a slightly obscure sentence (at least, to this non-Finn: is it a peculiar Finnish way of saying, “I’m laughing all the way to the bank”? Who are the “haters”?), so let’s look at the second example provided. It, on the contrary, is a perfectly clear and typical specimen of conversational Finnish with a bit of slang tossed in for good measure.

hima-2

“Mun pitäs varmaa jo lähtee himaa” means “I should probably go home already.” Translated into standard Finnish, it would read, “Minun pitäisi varmaa jo lähteä kotiin.”

If you find this confusing, you’re not alone. In conversations with actual Finns, I rarely venture beyond the bounds of my still quite shaky kirjakieli, although often as not what I hear in return is conversational Finnish or the Karelian dialect of Finnish, spoken in parts of southeast Finland (where I hang out) and once spoken in Finland’s former second city, Viipuri (Vyborg), and the area to the south of it, known in Finnish as the Karjalankannas (Karelian Isthmus), but usually called simply Kannas or “the Isthmus” by Finns.

For obvious reasons, Kannas is a charged word in Finland, but that is a topic for another, less frivolous post.

Finland Asylum Seeker Blues (MigriLeaks)

10 Problems with Migri’s Processes and Decisions

For the past month, Iraqi and Afghan asylum seekers, in particular, have been demonstrating in downtown Helsinki. One of their central demands is that asylum cases in which there have been problems in the handling should be processed again.

The Finnish Immigration Service (Migri) systematically refuses to admit the problematic nature of its processes and decisions, let alone fix them. An excellent example of this was Migri Director General Jaana Vuorio’s op-ed piece, “A Negative Decision Is Not a Wrong Decision,” in the 3 December 2017 issue of Helsingin Sanomat. A negative decision is definitely not a wrong decision, but a flawed decision is a flawed decision.

What, then, are these problems?

1. Migri has been using inexperienced and inappropriate interpreters. For example, an Iraqi asylum seeker’s Arabic language interpreter may have been from North Africa. The Arabic dialects spoken in Iraq and North Africa differ to such an extent that the asylum seeker and the interpreter may not have understood each other seamlessly, whereupon the interpreter has made essential errors in the translation. Yes, the asylum seeker is asked whether s/he understands the interpreter, but this is difficult to verify when the asylum seeker cannot know what the interpreter is translating in reality.

2. Migri has been leaving essential questions unasked or unclarified in the asylum interview, even when the asylum seeker has clearly said s/he has more to say. (See, for example, Ali’s case.)

3. Migri has been ignoring and minimizing the testimony offered by the asylum applicants. For example, not all the written evidence has been translated and, among other things, the value of photographs and doctor’s certificates has been nullified.

4. The asylum process should be unique. That is not the case now, however. Migri, for example, has been copying and pasting the texts of asylum decisions that are not in any way relevant to the asylum seeker’s case. (See Item 1 here.)

5. Migri has been leaving out of negative asylum decisions essential details that have come up in the interviews, details suggesting the asylum seeker is at serious risk. (See, for example, Nouri’s case.)

6. In its negative asylum decisions, Migri ignores the fact that persecution is likely to continue in the future, even when the information and evidence given by the asylum seeker clearly indicates the persecution will continue. This, for example, is the case when the asylum seeker has been asked about at his or her parents’ home in the recent past.

7. It is quite common that the actual target of persecution, such as a family’s father, is being blackmailed by threats or even the kidnapping and torture of other family members. Migri, however, seemingly evaluates these cases more from the perspective of Finnish society than from the perspective of the asylum seeker’s society, and thus does not believe that children could be targetted for persecution in addition to the father, even when a direct threat to a child has been presented in evidence. (See Fatimah’s case.)

8. Migri refuses to believe so-called secondary information, for example, that an asylum seeker’s home has been subjected to bombing. Migri doesn’t consider this information reliable if the asylum  seeker has not witnessed it herself or himself, but has only heard about it from another family member, for example.

9. In its negative asylum decisions, Migri has admitted that the asylum seeker is subject to personal persecution, but the decision has been made, however, in light of the overall security situation in his or her country, not on the basis of the application’s personal criteria.

10. Migri’s country guidelines, on which [its assessments] of the safety of a country or region are rationalized, are based, at least in part, on outdated sources and are not in line with the UNHCR’s present guidelines.

Such are all the faults of this kind, which are not based on Finnish laws, but on Migri’s internal practices. Thus, Migri can also fix them.

Although Migri admits mistakes have occurred, it blames them on individual employees. However, the mistakes in Migri’s processes and decisions have been so widespread that they cannot be a matter of mistakes on the part of individual employees. Rather, the mistakes seem to be standard and deliberate practices at Migri.

Migri also evokes the fact that asylum seekers have the right to appeal decisions to the Administrative Court, which corrects possible mistakes. The Administrative Court’s decisions are mainly based on the documents produced by Migri, so mistakes that have occurred in Migri’s processes are repeated  rather than rectified in the appeals process.

MigriLeaks will return to these problematic points in more detail in future posts.

Source: MigriLeaks

Translated by Living in FIN. Thanks to Comrade AR for the heads-up and Comrade EN for help with the translation. Photo courtesy of Meeri Utti/Aamulehti