Learning A Language With The Bible

Picture from Codex GigasImage via Wikipedia

A while ago, when I was beginning my struggle with Finnish, I found it quite difficult to find translations online, since Finnish is a highly inflected language and word roots are not easy to identify for a beginner.

After having googled enough Finnish words, I was starting to see a possibility – almost every search yielded an excerpt from a specific source.

Meet the Bible

I had never read more than a few pages of it before, but I soon saw that the Bible is the perfect language resource:

  • It’s available in almost all languages
  • Text is highly consistent across most languages
  • It’s very well structured
  • The smallest unit of text in many parts is 1-3 sentences long

The last point is very important as it makes the book ideal for being used as a text corpus.

Let’s take the word kansalle, for example.

Google Search - kansalle

If you google for the search term “kansalle finnish bible”, the first result gives you Kings, Chapter 12.

12:6 Kuningas Rehabeam neuvotteli vanhain kanssa, jotka olivat palvelleet hänen isäänsä Salomoa, kun tämä vielä eli, ja kysyi: “Kuinka te neuvotte vastaamaan tälle kansalle?”

And the English version:

12:6 And king Rehoboam consulted with the old men, that stood before Solomon his father while he yet lived, and said, How do ye advise that I may answer this people?

So, kansalle clearly means to (the) people, the suffix -lle being an indication of the allative case.

It’s that easy.

I am currently working on a system that would automate this.

Wouldn’t it be nice to have a Bible phrase in both languages pop up whenever you searched for a word? What do you think?


Biblija.net – a magnificent corpus of Slovenian, English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Catalan and Euskara (Basque) bible versions

A list of Finnish cases – the best explanation of the cases I could find

Finnish Bible

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