How long have you been teaching at ASI?
I first taught a short summer Finnish course at ASI in 2010, and then started teaching regularly in the fall of 2014. I currently teach both a beginning and intermediate course.
How did you learn Finniish/what is your connection to Finland?
Three of my grandparents were children of Finnish immigrants and spoke Finnish as a first language. My father’s first language was also Finnish, even though he was a third-generation Finnish-American. I grew up hearing a lot of Finnish, but only knowing scattered words and phrases. Spurred on by a visit from Finnish relatives when I was a teenager, I decided to go to Finland as an exchange student during my junior year of high school, where I fully immersed myself in the language and culture. I later studied Finnish at the University of Minnesota and Indiana University, and lived in Finland for a second year as a Fulbright scholar during graduate school. I’ve been fascinated and amazed by the Finnish language since I was a young boy, and that fascination and amazement never cease.
How would you describe your teaching style?
I believe first and foremost in getting students to actually speak the language and to use it to talk about things that are important to them. Speaking is primary—we normally ask people what languages they speak, not which ones they read or write. Reading, writing, and listening are also important, but speaking comes first. I also believe in having students work with the language themselves in the classroom, often working in pairs or groups to complete tasks. I see the teacher as an expert and a coach, who can explain the grammar to the students and encourage and guide them to move forward and feel more confident in their knowledge of the language
What is your favorite Finnish word and why?
My favorite word in Finnish is jäätelötötterö, which means “ice cream cone.” Beyond the obvious positive connotations in terms of summer and tastiness, it also looks pretty cool with all of the ä’s and ö’s. It also remind me of my great-aunt Ina who taught the word to me when I was thirteen years old.