I was seven years old when the first Harry Potter book was released. My older brother had a copy before it was a Big Deal. I remember reading the blurb for the book and for some reason I got it into my head that Harry would be on a railway line and rescued by a giant owl. Yeah, I’m not sure what exactly was going on in my young, apparently addled brain.
From the moment I first read Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone I was hooked. I’ve always loved to read, and even as a young child I would devour books in one sitting, and these were no different. As the series progressed my brother and I would both receive a copy of the book, on release day, and could be found on opposite sofas in the living room, reading intently and desperate to be the one to finish first. From what I remember we both would manage to read the books in their entirety on release day. We usually would finish at approximately the same time – it was a close competition.
I have read all the books repeatedly. I’ve lost count of how many times. I’m not sure which one I would say is my favourite, but The Chamber of Secrets was my least favourite when I was still in primary school and I seem to have a continuing bias against it.
The world of Harry Potter is probably my favourite Fandom, with the Lord of the Rings being a close second. Of course I’ve read all seven of the main books, and I have also read Fantastic Beasts, Quidditch Through the Ages, and Beedle the Bard. I have watched all the films, though in my opinion the books are better. I’ve read an exorbitant amount of fanfiction set in HPverse, and I’ve even written some.
Considering the depth of my interest in the series, it seemed an obvious choice when I was trying to find a book to read in Finnish.
I imagine some people may be asking, why in Finnish? I’ve been living in Finland for a little over four years now. I have been with my Finnish husband for five years. And yet I still struggle with Finnish.
Finnish is not the easiest of language, from a native English speaker’s perspective. Whilst Finnish does have some loan words that are easily understandable – taksi, banaani – the majority of the language seems to have little in common with English, making it a tough task to learn.
I’ve always held the belief that I am not good at languages, and I do not doubt that my belief has been a barrier in the way of my improvement. I do try, though. I attended a couple of beginner courses when I first moved to Finland, and then the majority of my learning was self-initiated through various internet and book resources. One day I might do a post about them, if anyone is interested, and recommend the ones I found particularly useful.
This Autumn I started two new Finnish courses. In-person courses, not online studies. One is every Tuesday, and is less of a course than an opportunity to practice and use Finnish in a group with other learners. Each week we are given a topic – hobbies, environment, etc. – and we talk about it in small groups.
The other course is twice a week and slightly more formal, though there again there is often a lot of discussion. We learn lots of new grammar and words, both in formal kirjakieli (book language) and informal puhekieli (spoken language).
Now that I’m getting plenty of practice in speaking and listening, I want to improve my skills in reading. I want to put my new grammar and vocabulary databases into practice. And what better way than to read a book in Finnish.
Given everything I said above about Harry Potter, I’m sure you can understand why that was my choice of book to read. Though I’ll admit there is something to be said about reading a book by a Finnish author, I really didn’t feel there was any contest. Knowing the Harry Potter books, and world, as well as I do gives me an advantage because I know the context. I know roughly what the words should mean, which makes it much easier when I want to look a word up to check what exactly it is that I am reading.
So far I’m only a page into reading the first book in Finnish. I’m reading with paper, pen and dictionary beside me so that I can make a note of new words and what they mean. I’m learning, and I’m having fun with it.
Have you tried reading a book in a language you are learning? What book did/would you choose and why?