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Finnish (suomen kieli) is spoken by people in Finlandia, and by Finns in other areas, predominately in Scandinavia. Finland is a country that is officially bilingual in Finnish and svedese, and most Finns eventually learn both languages. In contrast, very few Swedes and even fewer foreigners learn Finnish.
il finlandese è una lingua ugro-finnica and hence completely unrelated to almost every language between Ireland and India. (In particular, Finnish has nothing at all in common with Swedish, Norwegian, Danish or any other Scandinavian language or Russian except for a load of loan words.) le origini di questa lingua risalgono a 5000 anni dai popoli nomadi dei monti urali in russia migrati verso l'europa occidentale.Just across the Gulf of Finland the closest modern relative to the Finnish language, estone, is spoken. Other related languages are the SÃ¡mi languages of Lapland and the Murmansk Peninsula, and more distantly, ungherese.
The Finnish language is fairly easy to pronounce: it has one of the most phonetic writing systems in the world, with only a small number of simple consonants and relatively few vowel sounds. Native English speakers tend to have the most problems with vowel length and the distinction between the front vowels (Ã¤, Ã¶, y) and back vowels (a, o, u). English does make the same distiction — consider the "a" sounds of father (back) and cat (front), or the difference in the "i" sound for bit (short) and beat (long) — but you will need to pay extra attention to it in Finnish.
In Finnish, all vowels are single sounds (or "pure" vowels). All diphthongs retain the individual sounds of its vowels but are slightly blended together to be pronounced in one "beat". Doubled letters are simply pronounced longer, but it's important to differentiate between short and long sounds. Example:
The basic Finnish alphabet consists of the following letters:
Additionally the letters š and Å¾ appear in a small number of loanwords and are pronounced like English sh and as s in treasure, respectively. The letter w also occurs infrequently in some proper names and is treated identically to v. Lastly, the letter å occurs in some Swedish proper names and is pronounced "o", but the beginning learner need not worry about these minutiae.
Long vowels are indicated simply by doubling the vowel in question.
If a Finnish consonant is doubled, it should be pronounced with a brief glottal stop, meaning that your mouth is ready to say it but pauses for a moment. Hence mato (worm) is "MAto", but matto (carpet) is "MA'to".
Stress and tone
Word stress is always on the first syllable. There is no tone whatsoever in Finnish speech, just a long strings of monotone sounds. Foreigners tend to think this makes the language sound rather depressing; Finns, on the other hand, wonder why everybody else's languages sound so sing-songy.
Finnish grammar is radically different from English (or any other Indo-European language), making Finnish a rather difficult language to master, and Finns love to regale foreigners with horror stories of compound words a mile long and verbs with seventeen suffixes tacked on. Basically, everything in a sentence (nouns, verbs, adjectives, pronouns) conjugates to indicate who is doing what, why, when and in what way, so constructing even a simple sentence requires lots of tweaking about:
Nouns can be conjugated in 14 different cases and there is a whole assortment of additional suffixes, leading to improbable but entirely grammatical monsters like talo ("house") → taloissammekinkohan ("also in our houses, perhaps?") or kala ("fish") → kalastajamaisuudettomuudellansakaan ("even by using his non-fisherman-likeness").
The good news is that most of these monstrosities are limited to formal written Finnish, and it's possible to "speak like Tarzan" (without conjugating anything) in subject-verb-object order like English and still be more or less understood. MinÃ¤ mennÃ¤ kauppa, minÃ¤ nopea ostaa leipÃ¤ (I go shop, I quick buy bread) will get you a zero in Finnish class, but it gets the message across.
And there are some minor consolations for the aspiring student: Finnish has no articles and no grammatical gender. Rules for conjugation are often complex, but at least they are very regular.
Phrases in the following phrase list use the informal singular (sinuttelu), which is by far the most common form in modern Finnish and appropriate for almost all situations a traveller might encounter.
Note: Due to the ease, specificity and regularity of Finnish pronunciation, the difficulty of transcribing long vowels, and the general inaccuracy of English-based phoneticizations, it is highly recommended you take a few minutes to learn the alphabet instead of relying on the phoneticizations. That being said, however, Finns are often quite excited to hear a foreigner attempt to speak the language and tend to be very forgiving of pronunciation blunders.
You should note that in Finland you're not entitled to a phonecall, a search warrant, or to be set free on bail. However, the authorities must allow you to find a lawyer.
While in Finland
The University of Helsinki offers a highly popular Finnish for Foreigners program in six different skill levels, ranging from absolute beginner to advanced courses ending with language certification. Spring and Fall classes are offered in standard 1 unit (3 hrs/wk, 135 â¬) and intensive 2 unit (8 hrs/wk, 310 â¬) versions.