«Ekŭsŭpŭresŭ Finrandogo» («Express Finnish») is intended as a quick and trust-worthy introduction to the Finnish language for Japanese learners. The book belongs to a series of primers for the study of world languages. As can be seen from the information at the end of the book, the other titles already published in the series include similar textbooks of Korean, Chinese, Hindi, Modern Greek, Russian, Czech, Italian, German, Dutch and French.
The series has a strictly practical aim in view - to give the basics of reading, writing and speaking of a foreign language. Every book in the series is accompanied by tape-recorded material on cassettes to help the learner to acquire correct pronunciation and intonation.
The author of «Express Finnish» is Kazuto Matsumura (b. 1953). K. Matsumura, in fact, is not a newcomer in the field of writing textbooks of Finno-Ugric languages for the native speakers of Japanese. The year 1983 saw the publication of a three-volume textbook of Finnish for Japanese learners by the same author (Finrandogo tekĭsŭto 1. Matsumura Kazuto, Finrandogo bunpō. 2. Matsumura Kazuto, Finrandogo tokuhon. 3. Matsumura Kazuto, Okuda Raija, Finrandogo kaiwa bnnreishū, Tōkyō Gaikokugo Daigaku, Ajia Afŭrika Gengo Bunka Kenkyūjo, 1983). So, the present textbook is the fruit of an already experienced author.
«Express Finnish» opens with a map of Finland and its neighbouring countries in Northern Europe. In the Foreword K. Matsumura notes that language and culture are always closely intertwined and therefore one should at first learn the language of a nation to understand its culture. On this premise the author recommends everybody who is interested in various aspects of Finnish life to learn Finnish.
The Foreword is followed by hints for learners how to work with the book and the tape-recorded material on cassettes. Since the use of the Latin alphabet is for Japanese learners likely to be associated first and foremost 'with the spelling traditions of the English language, the author finds it necessary to emphasize the fact that Finnish words are to be pron6unced in the way they are written. The author makes an interesting observalion about the two types of foreign languages from the point of view of a native speaker of Japanese. It appears that Enghish is a type of language that is easy forr beginners but will gradually become more complicated at a more advanced level. Finnish, on the other hand, represents a type of language that is hard to begin, but is supposed to become more simple later.
It goes without saying that a textbook of limited scope (157 p.) has to be very concise. This needs a careful planning. K. Matsumura has met this requirement successfully, the book is well-planned and easy to use.
«Express Finnish» contains twenty units. Each unit begins with a short text which takes up about half a page. The texts focus on spoken language and many of them are in the form of conversation. An asset of short texts is that vocabulary notes can be given more room. Thus each text is followed by a vocabulary in word-forms together with their Japanese equivalents as well as by a translation of the whole text into Japanese. The majority of texts are accompanied by an illustration or two which give a Finnish touch to the book. In the first six units the Finnish texts are supplied with a transcript in the katakana syllabary. However, the phonological systems of Japanese and Finnish differing considerably, the katakana syllabary fails to convey the pronunciation exactly. For example, the sentence Sinä olet suomalainen has been transcribed in accordance with the katakana syllabary as shina oretto suomarainen. Grammar notes, as can be expected, deal mostly with morphology. Concise as they are, they, nevertheless, bring to the fore many interesting features of Finnish grammar that are further explained and drilled in the course of learning. Then come various exercises. In my view, both the explanations and exercises are well compiled. The exercises are supplied with a key at the end of the book, which enables the learner to check himself immediately whenever in doubt. The textbook closes, with a Finnish-Japanese vocabulary.
To conclude, «Express Finnish» makes a favourable impression and it remains to be hoped that it will be met enthusiastically by Japanese learners. The book certainly contributes to the understanding of Balto-Finnic cultures and languages in Japan.
ENN VELDI (Tartu)