Part I: Finnish basics

296/365 Sunset Over Linnanmäki

Jussi Hellsten photo – Helsinki

I observed that Finns usually switch into English when a non-Finnish speaking person happens to be around the table which makes it probably harder for a foreigner to learn the language. The reason is most likely due to the fact that they acknowledge their mother tongue as one of the hardest to learn in the world. Of course, it is also a sign of politeness.

It is true that Finnish language is one of the most difficult to learn in the world. In fact, Finnish has no common roots with Latin or Germanic languages for instance. The vocabulary is quite unique therefore harder to memorize. (Even though there is some rare similarities with Hungarian & Estonian as a Uralic language)

The alphabet contains extra letters such as:

* Ä / to be pronounced “A” such as in the word “hair”

Ö / this sound does not exist in English

* Å / such as “O”

The good thing about Finnish language is that it sounds exactly the way it is written and all letters in the word should be said out loud. However, pronunciation can also be a tricky part when speaking Finnish. If you don’t pronounce the double letters correctly, the words can have completely opposite meanings for instance:

* Tapaa: he meets (someone)

* Tappaa: he kills (someone)

Pronouncing a new language always makes me feel like if I was chewing the same gum for 24 hours non stop especially Finnish but that’s a good exercise for zygomatics.

Let’s learn some basic Finnish words:

* Hi / bye: Moi

* Good morning: Huomenta

* Good night: Hyvää yötä

* Yes: Joo

*No: ei

* My name is…: Minun nimi on…

* Thank you: Kiitos

* I love you: minä rakastan sinua

* Sorry I don’t speak Finnish: Anteeksi, minä en puhu suomea hyvin.

* Do you speak English? Puhutko Englantia?

* I don’t undertand: En ymmärrä

* How much is it? Kuinka paljon se on?

Swear words in Finnish:

* Vittu: “pussy” commonly used in the same way as “shit”

* Perkele: Old God from Finnish mythology commonly used in the same way as “fuck”

* Saatana: “satan”


Lorsqu’une personne d’origine étrangère se trouve dans un cercle de Finlandais, j’ai remarqué que ces derniers basculent facilement en anglais ce qui probablement rend l’apprentissage de la langue locale plus difficile. Eux mêmes reconnaissent leur langue maternelle comme l’une des plus compliquées à apprendre au monde. C’est également vu comme une faveur, une politesse que de parler en anglais au sein du groupe dans ce cas précis.

Il est vrai que le Finnois est l’une des langues les plus difficiles à apprendre au monde. Il n’a pas de racines communes avec les langues Latines ou Germaniques, par exemple. Le vocabulaire est tout à fait unique et donc plus compliqué à mémoriser. (Même s’il y a quelques rares similitudes avec le Hongrois et l’Estonien en tant que langues Ouraliennes).

Il existe 3 lettres supplémentaires dans l’alphabet, qui sont les suivantes:

* Ä / à prononcer comme le “ê” du verbe “être”

Ö /comme le son “eu”

* Å / tel que “O”

Le point positif du Finnois, c’est que ça se prononce comme ça s’écrit. Toutes les lettres du mot doivent être énoncées ce qui peut aussi rendre la tâche délicate si vous ne prononcez pas les doubles lettres correctement. Le mot peut avoir un sens et son contraire, par exemple:

* Tapaa: il rencontre (quelqu’un)

* Tappaa: il tue (quelqu’un)

La prononciation  d’une nouvelle langue me fait toujours penser à la mastication d’un chewing gum pendant 24 heures non stop particulièrement le Finnois mais c’est un bon exercice pour les zygomatiques.

Ci-dessous quelques bases de Finnois:

* Salut : Moi

* Bonjour (le matin): Huomenta

* Bonne nuit: Hyvää yötä

* Oui: Joo

* Non: Ei

* Je m’appelle ... : Minun nimi on …

* Merci: Kiitos

* Je t’aime: minä rakastan sinua

* Désolé(e), je ne parle pas Finnois: Anteeksi, minä en puhu Suomea hyvin.

* Parlez-vous Francais ? Puhutko Ranskaa ?

* Je ne comprend pas: En ymmärrä

* Combien ça coûte ? Kuinka paljon se on?

Jurons en Finnois:

* Vittu: “chatte” couramment utilisé comme “merde”

* Perkele: Dieu ancien appartenant à la mythologie Finlandaise couramment utilisé comme “putain”

* Saatana: “satan”


5 thoughts on “Part I: Finnish basics

  1. just a wee correction here: the å is not part of the finnish alphabet, but swedish.

    looks like you’re doing better with finnish than i’m doing with french… and you really can’t find 2 languages more dissimilar.

    carry on!


  2. Great article!
    I’ve got just a few items of “correction”, if you don’t mind:

    Ö= pronounced like the “o” in work

    Vittu= actually means “fuck” (paska is shit)
    Perkele= actually means “devil”
    -but, yes, like in most languages, the curse words do not have to make sense in the sentences and are just about interchangeable 🙂

    Thanks for writing a great article. My spouse and son are trying to learn Finnish right now before we move back to Helsinki 🙂

  3. Thank you very much for this post! My partner is Finnish and she’s been teaching me a few things as well but as I also speak French (moderately well… nobody where I live speak French so I’ve forgotten a lot) and interestingly, reading the French helped me with the pronunciations of sounds a better. No idea why, but it was very beneficial. I look forward to reading more of your blogs.

  4. I’m a Finn living in America and I love your posts about Finland and Finnish :). I stopped to think that ä and hair and I think better example good be for example a verb “can”. In American English (not in British) a is pronounced like a Finnish ä in “can”. The French example sounds good :).

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