Answering YKI TEST Questions: KatChats Finnish
Kat is a bilingual Finnish/English speaker and she makes videos about Finnish vocabulary & grammar, videos where she speaks Finnish with dual Finnish/English subtitles and videos explaining Finnish slang/sayings/phrases.
Lidiia and Tareque were invited to Kat’s YouTube channel to discuss the YKI related questions that Kat’s followers had.
I’m a foreigner living in Finland. Even though I have a Finnish name and many think I’m a Finn, I am not. I just got lucky to marry one! I moved to Finland about 6 years ago from Moscow, Russia. Professionally I’m a marketer and because the journey of being a foreigner in Finland has not been as easy as I wish it would have been, now I have a mission to help highly educated professionals in Finland succeed here.
There are three main struggles that foreigners face in Finland.
One is language learning. Finnish is not an easy language to learn. Second one is finding a job. And the third one is loneliness, so finding friends. I am here to help solve all 3 challenges. That’s me in a nutshell!
My name is Tareque Mahmud and I’ve lived in Finland little longer than Lidiia. 15 years almost. I moved from Bangladesh to here when I was 19 to do my bachelor degree. Now I have dual citizenship in Bangladesh and Finland.
I’ve been to Finnish Army for a year. Professionally I’m a videographer. I used to work as a freelancer, but now I’m establishing a company.
I’m passionate about talking about Finnish language and entrepreneurship and currently I live in Espoo with my wife.
Kat: Could you guys share a bit first what the YKI Test is all about?
In Finnish it means “yleinen kielitutkinto” which is in English: language testing system in Finland. People can take part in many different languages in YKI test, but in most cases when people are applying for Finnish citizenship they need to take this language test either in Finnish or in Swedish and in the intermediate level. Which is the mid-level. That’s why we need the YKI exam.
Kat: What has been your Finnish language journey so far?
When I moved to Finland, I applied for the integration courses. It’s a program where they teach you Finnish and the thing that’s called “työelämä” (= working life. Basically how the working life and system functions in Finland). I was super lucky to get involved with that program and now when I talk to a foreigner who comes to Finland and who has a chance to go through this program, I’m always saying: please take this chance! I know it is one year. It’s almost one year, but trust me. If you’re planning to live in Finland this is the best time invested in learning Finnish.
At first it was very difficult from this point of view that you invest a lot of energy in learning the language. 5-7 hours a day. Monday to Friday. I felt like everything is boiling inside. My brains are boiling.
But then something happened. It was almost like a day change. I think the neurons worked in a funny way, that I started understanding what people are talking about around me and I didn’t feel dumb anymore after that. I knew it’s paying off and learning Finnish became much more inspiring after that. So I’ve studied for a year first at Edupoli then Galimatias in Helsinki. And after one year I passed the YKI test.
The reason for me to pass it back then was not the citizenship. Like many use this test to apply for citizenship. Back then I was quite fresh in Finland and I didn’t think about that at all. It was to test how well I learned the language.
Tareque’s language learning journey
It was a bit different for me since I came as a student. I came to Finland to study at a University of Applied Science. The first four years when I was in school all my friends spoke really good English. That’s why I didn’t learn any Finnish. Except thank you.
But after school when I was looking for work, I understood it’s so important to learn Finnish because every job asks you to speak Finnish fluently. After four years I started to learn Finnish. But I had that kind of an idea, that I could apply for Finnish citizenship. That’s why I took the YKI test straight away. It was a little intense for me. I studied for maybe three months before I took that test.
I went to an evening class and I studied a lot at home. I passed the YKI test in the first attempt. After that I continuously love the Finnish language. It was an achievement for me, that now I have to learn more and more. And I feel like learning a new language is a big achievement and it’s fun.
After learning the language I feel like this is my home. I mean Finland is my home now.
Kat: What insights have you gotten from your own experiences that have led to the creation of this ebook that you have recently released?
The book that you mentioned is actually an ebook. A step-by-step guide to passing the YKI test. It’s available to everyone to download for free!
Just to be clear it’s not a grammar book. It’s a guide that is taking you step by step to the results you want to achieve.
There were many reasons for us to write this ebook.
I have intensely studied Finnish and even though I did all of that, when the test started I was not quite prepared mentally. I can give you an example. During the speaking part of the test when you’re expected to talk in Finnish, everyone sits in the same room. Between me and my neighbors there were only this small “kartonki” (= cardboard) thing. And you can imagine, everyone listens to the same piece of audio and you need to speak after that. And everyone speaks at the same time. If you are not mentally prepared for that, then you cannot say anything. It’s so distracting that I’m sure that I would have passed this part much better if I would have known that it’s going to be like that.
So from my side I can say we wanted to share the experience of others so people would be prepared. In my case I read one line from this book called “Steal like an artist” and it says: ”Write a book that you want to read”.
When I took this exam back in 2014 there was actually no guide book like we have now. That takes you on this journey from where you should start: how to collect this motivation, how to register for the exam and what to study and what I’m expecting to come in the exam.
So I had no guideline for that. In fact I knew about what is coming in my YKI exam just two weeks before I took the exam. I had this mock test. It was arranged by “Vantaan Kaupunki”. So when I took it then I realized oh yeah I have to sit next to other people in the speaking test. Luckily I knew that I have to do it even two weeks before, but the point is that we wrote this book so that those people who are looking for motivation who are maybe a little bit overwhelmed with all the information. If they read this book they will be a little bit stress-free.
There was one more factor many can relate to that as well. We have friends who have been living in in Finland for 8-9-10 years and they have been trying to learn Finnish over these years of course. They still felt it’s way too stressful and difficult to go to the YKI test. With this guide we wanted to reassure them as well. Like don’t worry, it is just a language test. If you have some level of Finnish and then you practice it in the correct way you will get it.
Kat: How long did you guys prepare for the exam? How much time would you recommend someone to realistically spend on specifically preparing for the exam before they take it?
As I’ve mentioned in my case it was one year and then the test. But I don’t want others to take this as a role model, because we are all so different.
I would say there is one theme that you can use for yourself to understand where you are now. If you learn the language to the level of A2. For some people it can take half a year, for some people it can be one year or two years. So it really depends on the person. After that the best thing that you could do is to find a YKI specific course and just take it.
And get to the B1 level like that and then there is a huge chance that you will actually pass the test.
I also agree with Lidiia that it’s actually a journey. It depends on the person. Even though I mentioned that I prepared for YKI for three months, I think it’s not exactly true because I lived in Finland four years before. And even thoughI could only say “kiitos” but I think that was because I was just scared to speak more. Obviously during my university life I took I think 12 credits of Finnish language. So I had the basics actually ready that I was even not aware of it.
When I jump onto the YKI, it helped me. Like I mentioned that I took it very intensively. In fact, the last one month I took holiday from my work so that I can just only study before the exam.
So my journey was totally different and I would say the same for other people. I have an example that a lot of my friends’ spouses came to Finland and after this “kotoutumiskoulutus” (integration training) and after one year of this training they immediately pass the test. But also some people it might take a little bit longer. So it totally depends on the person.
Kat: Would you be able to share some practical tips for someone aiming to pass the exam and what specifically helped you?
I’m excited to share one specific tip which I found really important which is registering for the YKI test. I feel like it’s not a very straightforward process how (to do it).
Let’s say I want to take it right now. I’ve been thinking to take this “ylintaso” or the advanced level Finnish language test. If I decide today that I will take the test, it’s not like I will go to the internet immediately and book my test. The process is a bit longer.
I have to go to the website, check when is the next available registration date and interestingly actually a lot of people are waiting for the same date, to the same location. So I need to be little bit faster when this registration opens up.
It normally opens up at 10:00am in the morning. And then you immediately have to register for the exam and lot of people don’t know it. In case you miss the next registration date, that means you have to wait another couple of months! Maybe six month the whole process will take. This I found very challenging.
And you need to maybe set an alarm in your phone that okay today is the registration date and I need to book it today.- So it’s like buying concert tickets almost 😂
For example, one advice that I really loved is about the speaking part of the test. And why do I keep talking about speaking? I will tell you why. Because out of four parts of the YKI test, actually almost everyone passes the reading part. It’s not difficult for people. But two parts are the most confusing ones or challenging ones: writing and speaking.
I will give you two tips how to overcome challenges during these parts. For the speaking part, we interviewed so many people who passed the YKI test and one mentioned that she would sit with her partner almost face to face and with a timer practice speaking Finnish. And the goal was not to not make mistakes, but to be understood by the person. This is a very good skill you can practice as well at home. Just put a timer and try to speak speak speak speak as much as you can.
And for the writing part, a trick that you can use for any language exam like IELTS/TOEFL. Any writing consists of a specific structure: “Introduction – Points/Opinions – Conclusion”.
Imagine you have learned all the feeling phrases: at the beginning/in my opinion/in my country/in comparison to Finland … You know them, you remember them. Plus you have learned some writings from the practice tasks.
When you get your test in front of you using all this information that you memorized you can already write about 50% of the text, whatever subject there is. The sentences might be used again and again. So this is my biggest advice for the writing part.
Kat: You mentioned the timer. So could you elaborate a bit more what the timer is used for or what the purpose is?
In the speaking part of the test there are different tasks and for example one type of task is that there is a recording of a person talking to you and then you need to answer.
Of course beforehand you will have a textbook in front of you and you will have some idea of what the structure of the conversation is. For example, a friend is coming to your place and you haven’t met in a long time.
He says: “Moi Kat XXXX” & “mitä kuuluu XXXX?”And then there is space and you need to answer something.
This is how the conversation is built and for every window there is a time slot that is given to you to answer to that part particular prompt. It can be ~ 15 seconds long.
If you don’t practice answering quickly,then you will just lose the points there. So that’s what I meant by practice with a timer.
Kat: what are the key challenges that test takers commonly face when they’re preparing?
What I have seen commonly in my other friends is this lack of motivation and support. When you think okay I have to take a test which is entirely in Finnish, the question will be in Finnish and I have to answer in Finnish … it feels a little bit overwhelming and then if you don’t have a supportive friend who can tell you: no just go ahead and just take it. Don’t be scared. If you can’t make it in the first try, maybe the second try you will pass.
And then I know that a lot of my friends don’t go to take the test just because they don’t have this support. That’s why I think our book is also like we mentioned that this is like a supportive friend to you. We have used in the book very supportive tone/language.
During the test day there are so many nuances that you can think of in advance. For example, some of the testing centers can be chaotic. So if you could pick a test center wisely, that’s what I would also consider. For example, there is no time to go and eat a warm lunch during the breaks.
You will need to bring something with you and considering that Finland is in general a cold country, it can be that it is chilly inside. Even if you dress up and there is no hot meal. Try to think about it in advance and many more things are mentioned in one of the chapters of the ebook.
Kat: If someone is planning on moving to Finland and they’re already mentally preparing for the move, at what point would you recommend someone take the exam after their move? And also a lot of people asked is the beginner level tests worth taking?
Imagine that you live in Germany and you have been learning the language for two years. You had a Finnish language tutor for example, because you know you’re going to move to Finland apparently. Then you can immediately go and try to pass the test and the chances are high that you will pass it.
At the same time it is very individual and I would maybe even start with a different question: why do you want to pass it at all? There are many different reasons for that. As I said if you are planning to build your life in Finland, to build a family in Finland and you’re not going to move anywhere. So you will
apply for citizenship. Then of course you can start preparing for the YKI test, but there is a requirement of how many years you have lived in Finland. So I would say don’t rush it! Better to invest more time into learning the language, because you will need it if you want to live in Finland anyways.
There is this one branch that is for studies. I know that some institutions require some level of Finnish to study. For example”lähihoitaja” = practical nurse. If you already know that you want to study in Finnish and you need that certificate for that and then the level is depending basic or middle level, then you can already think when to start preparing. Depending on the test you take.
And then there is one more branch that is called: I need a job in Finland. There are not so many cases where they will ask you to bring a certificate. Most likely they will just talk to you and they will know immediately what is your Finnish language level.
And the fourth reason why someone would like to take the YKI test is that you just want to check that you’ve put so much effort into learning the language, did it pay off? And then you go to the test and you see how you are doing.
But in that case I would also say: no rush. Take it easy if you’re doing it for pleasure.
I can add a little bit to the second part of the question. Is it worth taking the beginner level exam?
From my experience I haven’t encountered any situation where actually that certificate or that level required. But if there is something someone asks that okay we want the beginner level … it can be some school or some course training ..
But from my personal experience I feel like it’s not so much needed unless you have a valid reason for it. And of course if somebody wants to do it voluntarily and it costs some money. You are welcome.
Kat: Does taking the YKI test realistically help you with finding a job in Finland?
There are maybe two different job markets in Finland. One where you can work in English If you speak English well, there are jobs in this area and you don’t need to even speak Finnish to get a job in this field. Though I need to say it’s super competitive. There are so many professionals and so little jobs that even knowing Finnish can be your advantage. In that case you don’t need the YKI test. You can just show that you can have a conversation in Finnish.
At the same time, there are so many jobs that require you to speak Finnish. For example, as a cashier or anyone who is facing customers in a restaurant … you are expected to know Finnish and here it depends on a particular job. In most cases I feel like they will not ask for the YKI test, they will just talk to you in Finnish and see if you can handle the daily work situations in Finnish.
There are also jobs where you need education in Finnish. As the one we mentioned: “lähihoitaja” = practical nurse, licensed areas. So there you will need to study in Finnish and again it depends on a particular study place.
Some might require you to show the certificate. Some might only interview you in Finnish to see if you will be able to keep up with studies.
I just want to add one general thing. That when we apply for job and let’s say for one job 10 people are applying and 2 people say that they have at least completed the intermediate level of Finnish and 8 say that they don’t know anything about Finnish. So of course it puts you ahead of your competition.
Even though these 10 people have similar backgrounds, similar studies, similar experience in life. It also shows your motivation, that you are a person who knows how to take challenges. It’s a general answer, but it is important in that case.