Six Notes on the Finnish Language

Six Notes on the Finnish Language

old-sauna-1378589-mHeaded to Finland soon? SpeakSheets has you covered! Our Finnish contributor Shamien the Scribe provided us some notes on the Finnish language.

1. The Finnish alphabet has 29 letters. The extra letters are å, ä, and ö. The “swedish o” å is not used in Finnish language.

2. The rule of thumb in speaking is that every word is pronounced exactly as it is written and every letter is pronounced separately.

3. Letters “y, ä, ö” are vowels. Y is pronounced mostly like “ew” in “New York” (If you’re not sure what sound that is, listen to Frank Sinatra), ä is the “a” in “cat” and “ant”, and ö is the equivalent of “i” in “sir” or “a” in the article “an”. On our SpeakSheets, sometimes a suggested pronunciation is not 100% accurate because there is not a direct comparison to an English word. However a person will be understood using the provided pronunciations and in many cases the syllables suggested are easier for a native English speaker to say.

4. The y sound is achieved by saying oo and placing the tongue up closer to front teeth.

5. The Finnish language does not use prepositions, instead everything is expressed by word endings, which can also be put one after another. This in turn leads to the fact that almost everything conjugates. The nouns alone have 16 forms in singular and the same in plural tenses, without even adding possessive (I have, you have…) tenses. All in all, the word “dog” with ALL possible (not necessarily commonly used) endings and conjugations has over 100 different forms. Easy, huh?

6. Finnish language does not have a word for “please”. This is why many Finnish people who speak English do not use it. It is not rudeness, just that they don’t necessarily think of using the word at all. The polite way to ask for something is done using conditional tense. In “May I have…” or “I would like…” sentences you can use the word “kiitos” (thank you) instead.

(photo credit: Leeca)
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1 Comment

M. Masters » 13 Mar 2016 » Reply

Your paragraph on prepositions is wrong. Finnish does have a few. More common are postpositions, which act like English prepositions, except they come AFTER the noun and not before. For example: Sopon kanssa (with Seppo), pöydän palla (under the table). For a good description of the Finnish language, see Wikipedia “Finnish Grammar”.

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