I learned that nominative forms are not "default" forms. (This detail was mentioned by Henkkles in the Finnisch mit extra Mühe thread
, which I did spend a lot of time reading at some point this past summer, but it doesn't sink in until you see it in action.) Every word has a stem, I guess, or at least the words that decline do (maybe that's all of them, I don't know yet). The case endings get added onto this stem, not onto the nominative form. The stem is not always intuitive, from a beginner learner's perspective. As if that's not bad enough, some words have two stems! Because of limits on how many consonants can cluster together and what case ending is being added.
As alluded to above, I'm not likely continuing with Finnish, but I reserve the right to continue, or to stop, and I also reserve the right to bring it back at any time and stop again at any time
Takeaways: I had completed the first three units of Teach Yourself Complete Finnish, as well as eight lessons from FinnishPod101's Absolute Beginner level. The "discovery method" in the newer Teach Yourself books is torture to me. Finnish grammar is quite different to English and TY makes it more difficult than it needs to be. The dialogues are way too short and repetitive throughout the first few units, possibly because they don't explain the grammar to you in a clear way and thus can't give you lots of interesting stuff to work with. Not having interesting stuff up front, you'd better really
want to learn this language or you're likely not to keep with it. FinnishPod101 was alright but suffers from the boringness factor. I find the lessons to be awkward to listen to. Might be best to just read the transcript+notes and only listen to the dialogue clips.
The thing with the stems is not that bad and in most cases you can determine it just by looking at the word. Yes, it might not be completely intuitive from a beginners perspective, but once you know the main rules, there are only a few words that behave differently. (Just as usual in Finnish.)
How to determine the word groups? Look at the words' ending!
The following is only including relevant word groups for a beginner. (You don't know all the cases yet, so e.g. I don't include plural forms here, because that would be an absolute overkill. So there might be subgroups etc, when it comes to determining the right case ending. - only relevant for genitive, partitive and illative! The other cases behave pretty consistent.)
You may already know the following, but now I already wrote it down, so..
Declinated word forms that are not specified are in genitive singular.
Words ending with vowels
1. words ending with a vowel but not e or i are usually easy. Examples: talo, päivä, viikko etc (house, day, week). There's consonant gradiation, but otherwise no significant changes to track down the stem as it is basically just the same as the nominative form. There is a subgroup for words ending in two vowels, when it comes to determining case endings: radio, syy, pää, puu (radio, reason, head/main-, tree).
2. words ending with e. Example: vene.
3. words ending with i. They are a bit mor tricky, as the word can be "new" or "old".
Example for a new word: banaani -> banaanin (part. banaania).
Examples for old words: kieli (tongue, language) becomes kielen (part. kieltä), talvi (winter) becomes talven (part. talvea). Here one can see the difference of the long and short stem. While kieltä is easy to pronounce, talvta would lead to too many consonants and an uncomfortable pronounciation (Finns don't like too many consonants in a row).
4. words ending with -si. The most important examples are: vuosi, kuukausi, käsi, vesi (year, month, hand, water). As there is a historic connection between s and t and t becomes d in consonant graduation, the stem is: -de, so in genitive the words become: vuoden, kuukauden, käden and veden. (Part. vuotta, kuukautta, kättä, vettä.)
Words ending in consontants:
5. words ending with -nen. The stem is -s/-se depending on the case. So nainen (woman) becomes nai+se+n in genitive but nai+s+ta in partitive. This word group is very common.
6. words ending in -in. Stem builds with -ime, so: puhelin -> puhelimen (telephone), avain -> avaimen (key). However partitive is added directely to the -in, so puhelinta and avainta. Not too many words for a beginner. They mostly have the meaning of "a tool to do X".
7. These are actually four different groups ending with s. And I think this is the hardest part for a beginner. There are separate groups for words ending in -as, -is, us/uus/ys/yys, and -s. the words ending in -as and -is are easy to find. Examples: kangas -> kankaan, kaunis -> kauniin.
Words with -s such as leivos, have a stem, where the s becomse ks, so leivos -> leivoksen.
But the -(u)us/-(y)ys group has two subgroups. One mainly for concrete things, such as keskus (center), which behaves just as the words ending in -s. So it becomes keskuksen in genitive.
The other subgroup tends to describe more abstract things, such as rakkaus (love), which becomes rakkauden (part. raukautta).
But distinguishing abstract and concrete things is only a rule of thumb.
Now for the positive side: you don't really need those more abstract words as a beginner
8. words ending with -l. Not many words ands you won't need them in the beginner stage. Examples: sammal, taival.
9. adjectives (!) ending with -ton. Meaning ....-free, such as rasvaton (fatfree).
I probably forgot something. Note, that ths is not an official list and that the numbers are for this post only. The only purpose is to explain what to look for in order to determine the stem. Maybe this looks like a lot, but I think it's more consistent than learning the gender of Spanish nouns. Someone might think, "but Spanish has only two genders". But typical for Finnish is exactly this: a lot of rules, but only a few exceptions.
The long/short stem thing I think is mainly an additional e or the dropping of it. As you already know, some consonants become just very difficult to pronounce without an additional vowel. I think it mostly affects the words/groups that might have an e at the end of the stem.
For verbs there are only 6 groups, plus a few extra rules for the past tenses. The sixth verb group you might actually never see at all.
A good book should introduce words (substantives) of the various word groups gradually, so that you learn them step by step, when you need them, without overloading the student with too much stuff to remember at the same time. Same goes for the different cases.
But I understand that this can lead to a very slow speed in the beginning, that is maybe not understandable at first and therefore may also lead to frustration. (Btw. I don't know TY's method myself, so I have no idea how well it is made.)