YKIä Kohti: a new book for YKI preparation


We interviewed Mari Nikonen from Ask a Finnish Teacher to talk about a new book she has co-written. “YKIä Kohti” covers all aspects of studying for YKI, including listening comprehension, reading comprehension, speaking, and writing. The name of the book, translated into English, is "Towards YKI." More about the book writing journey below.

Mari’s Finnish Teaching Journey

I started teaching in 2008 in integration training for adults. This is a course that many attend when they're unemployed and want or need to learn Finnish. It’s a full-time program. Around 2010, I also started teaching YKI.

When I say that I'm a teacher, people often ask me, "Oh, what age group do you teach?" And I reply, "I don't actually teach children at all." I've always known that I want to work in adult education. I want to help adults learn languages. Early on, I realized that I specifically wanted to teach Finnish. I've always been interested in helping adults learn languages because it’s quite different from learning a language as a child. Learning a language as an adult has its own unique challenges, for sure.

What inspired you to write the “YKIä Kohti” book?

Since teaching in integration training, I've taught at different schools, and in 2017, I founded my own small language teaching business. I started with private lessons and then began offering courses. I noticed that there was a significant demand for YKI courses, as many people preparing for the exam needed extra support from a specific YKI course. So, I wanted to find a way to help as many people as possible prepare for YKI. Obviously, there's a limit to how many people I can help through organizing language courses. Therefore, I wanted to find something that could reach more people.

Image of Mari’s business logo which is called “Ask a Finnish Teacher”

Picture: Mari’s business is called “Ask a Finnish Teacher”, source: Ask a Finnish teacher website

I actually never thought of a book. Well, I did consider writing my own ebook, like you did with YKI Pass, which I think is absolutely awesome. But what happened was the publisher Finn Lectura approached me and asked if I would be interested in this project. Of course, I jumped at the chance. It's really nice to have a proper traditional publisher behind me to help with all the distribution and not having to do it alone. We have a team of four teachers who created the book, and it was great to have this collaborative project for once.


Aren't there already some books available for YKI preparation in Finland?

There are indeed good books available on the market, but this one is different. It offers a much more comprehensive approach than what’s currently available. Our book covers listening comprehension, speaking, reading comprehension, and writing, as well as test strategies and learning strategies.

I don't think there is a Finnish language test textbook that helps you learn a language effectively, manage your time, and reach your goals as efficiently as possible. We've included these tips and strategies for you to practice with the book. Our aim was to create a YKI-focused book that can support and guide the learner.


What level of Finnish knowledge is required to use this YKI preparation book effectively?

Everything is in Finnish, so to use the book, you need to have some knowledge of the language. When studying, you can use translations to understand instructions and tips. The instructions in the book are in easy Finnish, and those should be easy enough to understand at the late stages of A2.2. Some of the reading comprehension exercises themselves are quite complex, just like in YKI itself.

The book has nine chapters, each representing one YKI theme. YKI has nine themes altogether. The first is 'Me and My Background,' then 'Koti ja Asuminen' (Home and Living). Each chapter is divided into five subsections: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.

Image of the table of contents of “YKIä Kohti” book

 Picture: The contents of the book “YKIä Kohti”, source: Finn Lectura website

There's always a small section called 'While Getting Ready for the Test' with tips for studying. Towards the end of the book, more tips are given for the test day itself. These are just practical things, not as comprehensive as YKI Pass, but some important ones are included. The book also outlines the test structure. Listening and reading comprehension are straightforward; warm-up exercises help with vocabulary. There are lots of reading and answering questions, with answers provided. Exercise answers are at the back, so you can check your work.


How does the book help learners develop writing skills for the YKI test?

For writing, we focus on the necessary strategies. For example, we explain that "tekstin suunnittelu on tärkeä osa kirjoittamista" (planning your text is an important part of writing), and we go through how to plan your writing. If you're a good writer, it may seem obvious that you need to plan your writing, but it's not necessarily so. We usually write on a computer, and the whole process is very different. In the YKI test, we write with a pencil on paper, so we need to plan first; we can't go back or copy-paste and add like we can on a computer. So, we learn traditional text writing strategies. These are useful skills for anyone in real life as well.

 Image of an example of the tips the book “YKIä Kohti” provides.

Picture: example of the tips the book “YKIä Kohti” provides, source: Finn Lectura website

For example, we have a warm-up exercise where you practice making the first draft of your writing. Then there's an exercise to do in pairs with a friend, where you're instructed to read what you just wrote, discuss it, and give each other feedback. If you're a teacher, you can use it in your courses. As a teacher, I’d say this is efficient. However, we've definitely considered the person who isn't attending any courses and can't rely on a teacher for help.

For writing, we have an exercise where you learn the style of a formal message, and then practice with step-by-step instructions. You read a formal message, and then write your own using that as a model with the instructions. There are also lots of YKI-style topics for you to practice with before taking the test.


Could you explain how the listening comprehension practice tasks are arranged in the book?

For listening comprehension, it's similar to reading, but with audio material you listen to. I recommend that students download the app Otso. Finn Lectura, the publisher, uses Otso to share audio material, all available in the app. You use your camera to scan the page, and it plays the audio for that page.

Image of the interface of the Otso app

Picture: Interface of the Otso app, source: Google Play Store

 For listening comprehension, we cover topics similar to writing and reading. We include YKI-style exercises where you listen and answer multiple-choice or true/false questions, along with open-ended questions. Answers are at the back of the book. Warm-up exercises include important vocabulary, phrases, and strategies. In exercise two, for instance, we familiarize ourselves with tasks like true/false exercises. You learn to recognize keywords, what to focus on during the test, and how it's structured. This helps you get the most from what you're listening to while learning important vocabulary.


How does the book assist learners in preparing for the speaking part of the test? 

For speaking, we also have warm-up exercises. Like with listening, the audio for the speaking part is super important as well. For example, you'll be hearing some opinion phrases, and your task is to write them down, check your answers, and then practice pronouncing them. 

There's also a warm-up exercise, a little discussion to be had with a friend. We build it up step by step; in some exercises, there are sample answers that you can use, while in others, it's more about strategy and how to structure your answer. 

Additionally, there are tips, such as 'Apukysymykset.' For example, consider the theme 'Finnish music: weird or awesome?' You have a bunch of questions, and we discuss how to use them as effectively as possible and what you need to demonstrate your best language skills in the test situation.

We've tested all the tasks, I'm proud of what we've done. These are the free sample pages on the Finn Lectura website. You can download them before you purchase the book and try the exercises. You don't have to commit if you're interested in buying the book or getting it out of the library. You also have the option of looking at sample pages beforehand. 


Where can I buy or lend the book?

You can find the book in online bookshops like Suomalainen Kirjakauppa and in local libraries. If you want to buy it online, the publisher's website is a good option. The price is €40, including VAT. The price without VAT is €36. This tax-free option might be useful for companies. But if you're buying it in Finland, it's €40 with all taxes included. It seems to be slightly cheaper on the publisher's website than elsewhere.

Image of YKIä Kohti book cover showing in the laptop screen.

Picture: YKIä Kohti book cover, source: Finn Lectura website


Could you share more about other authors of the book? 

Jepa Viinanen is one of the other authors, and she currently works at Aalto University, where I also teach. I teach at Aalto Open University as well as in my own company, Ask a Finnish Teacher. Jepa is specialized in teaching writing; she's an expert in efficiently writing and helping people get words on the page, especially in a test setting.

Image of the four writes of the YKIä Kohti book

Picture: authors of the YKIä Kohti book, source: Finn Lectura website

Then we have Maiju Ollilainen, who, like me, has her own small teaching business called Ihana Suomi. May currently teaches Finnish courses at companies. She excels in making everything clear and as simple as possible. Without her, our book would be much messier overall. 

Larisa Heikkinen, who is also teaching at the moment, has learned Finnish herself; it's her second language. She is from Russia and brings a learner's perspective, having achieved a strong C2 level in Finnish. She is excellent at finding interesting content for the listening and reading comprehension exercises. Most of what's in the book is authentic, thanks to Larisa's efforts in finding actual news articles or podcast interviews. We believe this authenticity is important to keep things engaging. 

We've tried to make the book as interesting and joyful as possible. Of course, we all have experience in teaching YKI from different parts of our careers. When we started working on the book, Larisa and I were actively teaching YKI at that time, but Jepa and Maju also have significant YKI experience behind them.


How did you divide your work?

Of course, any team effort is always full of compromises. But if I had written the book alone, it wouldn't be half as good; it wouldn't have all this expertise. We decided on areas of responsibility. I'm more specialized in listening comprehension and speaking, so I was mainly in charge of those chapters. Jepa was in charge of the writing chapters. Maju and Larisa were mainly focused on reading comprehension. However, we all did everything, so everything we've done is approved by the whole team. For example, a lot of what you listen to in the listening comprehension section was found by Larisa, even though I was the one in charge of it. It doesn't mean that I did the whole thing on my own; it was more like who is in charge of what.


How long did it take to write the book?

It took two years and three months in total from beginning to the end of the project. Of course, we weren't working on the book full-time; we all have our day jobs. I tried not to dedicate too much of my free time to it. I aimed to combine it with my teaching work as much as possible. However, it was still on top of our daily responsibilities. We were able to put in a varying number of hours a week. It's not like we were only working on this for two years and three months, but that's how long the process took with our other responsibilities.


Is there something that was the biggest learning for you?

Writing a textbook turned out to be harder than I thought it would be. There were stages where I thought, "Why did I agree to this?" If only I had known. Of course, now I know a lot more about writing a textbook than I did before. 

I have to say, I regret that in the past, I may have been pretty rough on some of my colleagues who have also written textbooks. I didn't realize what a vulnerable and big process it is. That's one thing that I've definitely learned. I've learned a lot from my colleagues. I've learned a lot about the different aspects of language teaching. It's been a great learning experience for me personally in that way.


Have you received any feedback already?

I have found the feedback overwhelmingly positive so far, which I'm very happy about. Of course, always being a bit of a pessimist, I'm like, maybe they're only telling me the good parts. But so far, it looks like the book is doing what we had hoped it would do: make it easier to prepare for YKI in the future so that you're not completely lost. 

I think, together with your book, YKI Pass, it's a pretty good pairing. YKI Pass provides explanations in English, and then we have a textbook like this in Finnish. I think it can help students feel a lot more confident going in and hopefully get that pass much more efficiently and quickly. 


Why did you decide to write it in Finnish?

Because not everybody speaks English, we have a lot of students who primarily speak Finnish. At the moment, I primarily teach students who speak English as either their first or second language, and we use English as a platform language. However, there are many Finnish speakers who don't speak English, so we wanted to make a book that's as accessible as possible for everyone. Therefore, we opted for easy Finnish.



Back to blog