My first English lesson

by arjamatkalla

I grew up in a small industrial city in the Eastern part of Finland. When I started school in 1975 I was 7 years old. At the 70s your first lessons on a foreign language at school started when on the 3rd grade, ie. as a 9-year-old student.

(The language you chose at that time was English, almost without exception; now in 2013, in theory, you can choose other languages as well, although the poor financial situation of the communal school system have led to the situation where the selection of languages that can be chosen is narrowed again, – which is a great pity I think, since we have such an excellent history of language education in Finland.)

I have always enjoyed learning foreign languages. Knowledge of them have brought me so much joy and comprehension of different cultures in the course of my life that I would never give any of those lessons away.

At school we were told to pick up an English language name, and from then on I was Jane when in the English lesson, not Arja. It was a good way to adopt a new identity and pronunciation. One of the first songs I learned in English was London Bridge is falling down. Well, it still hasn’t. But fun did we have. I also started writing in English with some children abroad of my own age. It made me put my skills in practice. The letters were hand-written and sent by normal post of course; no internet at that time. I still have occasional contact with Jenny, my dear pen friend from Wales. From her I learned how to begin my letters with the word Dear and end my letters with the phrase Best wishes. I learned many other things as well. Some day we will meet in person, Jenny!

Since then I have learned a lot: among other things how little I do know. And even if I do know, I tend to forget, for instance, how important it is to use the little word please every time you ask for something. We Finns lack the politeness of speech in some way since we are so goal-oriented. So the journey of learning has never ended but is still going on. This blog is part of it as well.

The first language course on the Finnish television started in 1974. It was black and white and called Hello, Hello, Hello: two native speakers acting as policemen Stan and Dud looking for the cat. The dialogue was pretty simple:

Dud: Stan! Where’s the cat?
Stan: The cat is in the moon!

At least my fellow citizens living in Finland can have a nostalgic moment watching this clip in the Living Archives of YLE (The Finnish Broadcasting Company) from that show. (I hope it is available also abroad but I’m not sure, for the copyright reasons, if that is possible. Didn’t find the information, sorry!) Enjoy it, if you can.

Next time I will be writing to you from London. Until then, so long! And please, stay tuned for the next blog entry! (See, I used the word please…)