INTRODUCTION TO THE FINNISH LANGUAGE
Finnish is a member of the Finno-Ugric family of languages, unlike most of the other languages spoken in Europe. Therefore, its structure and vocabulary are very different from the Indo-European languages.
Do not try to compare Finnish with your mother tongue (unless it happens to be Estonian, which is closely related to Finnish) Instead, empty your mind and take Finnish as it comes – a different but an exciting language!
Welcome to study Finnish!
Finnish has no articles (cf. English a, the).
bussi a/the bus
tomaatti a/the tomato
Finnish words have no grammatical gender (cf. German der, die, das).
Even the pronoun hän ´he, she´ is used for both sexes.
ENDINGS AND SUFFIXES INSTEAD OF PREPOSITIONS OR OTHER INDIVIDUAL WORDS
The basic characteristics – and the basic difference to Indo-European languages – is that Finnish expresses different grammatical meanings mainly by adding endings and suffixes to a word.
bussi+ssa in a/the bus
bussi+lla by bus
puhu+t you speak
puhu+t+ko? do you speak?
We do have words which are used the same way as English prepositions. But most of them are put after the word, not before. They are called postpositions. The preceding word has to have a certain ending.
Teijan kanssa with Teija
hotellia vastapäätä opposite the hotel
ABOUT THE PRONOUNCIATION & SPELLING
Finnish is a phonetic language: each written letter is always represented by the same sound and each sound is written with the same letter.
(Think of English words such as e.g. blue, do, moon, shoe – the vowel sound is the same but the spelling is different.)
There are long and short sounds (and letters) in Finnish. It is very important to keep them separate when spelling and pronouncing. If you don´t you might not get your message through.
Pay attention to the differences between short and long sounds:
tulli customs office
tapaan I meet
tapan I kill
Listen and repeat:
kuka – kukka who – flower
mato – matto worm – carpet
sata – sataa – saattaa hundred – it is raining – to see someone off
mutta – muta – muuttaa but – mud – to move
WORD STRESS AND SENTENCE INTONATION
The main stress of the word is always on the first syllable.
Listen and repeat the words:
Sentence intonation falls off. Even in questions it does not rise. The question has either a question pronoun or the question suffix.
Listen and repeat:
Do you speak Finnish?
Mikä sinun nimi on?
What is your name?
Listen and repeat the alphabets:
|A a [aa]||K k [koo]||U u [uu]|
|B b [bee]||L l [äl]||V v [vee]|
|C c [see]||M m [äm]||W w [tupla vee]|
|D d [dee]||N n [än]||X x [äx]|
|E e [ee]||O o [oo]||Y y [yy]|
|F f [äf]||P p [pee]||Z z [zeta]|
|G g [gee]||Q q [kuu]||Å å [ruotsalainen oo]|
|H h [hoo]||R r [är]||Ä ä [ää]|
|I i [ii]||S s [äs]||Ö ö [öö]|
|J j [jii]||T t [tee]|
Å (ruotsalainen oo = Swedish o) is needed in some Swedish proper names, e.g. Åke Fågel (a Finnish man with a Swedish name)
You hear some names spelt in Finnish. Write the name down. Use the capital first letter.
Listen and write the names down:
1) jii – uu – aa – än
2) tee – ee -ii – jii -aa
3) koo – aa – ii – är – ee
4) hoo – ee – äl – ee – än – aa
5) gee – oo – är -gee -ee
Practise to spell your name in Finnish.
VOWELS & VOWEL COMBINATIONS
There are 8 vowels in Finnish. They can all be long and short.
Listen and repeat:
a aa kamala aamu awful morning
o oo oma koodi own code
u uu hullu muuli crazy mule
e ee heti Suomeen at once to Finland
i ii iso viini large wine
ä ää nätti ääni nice voice
ö öö hölmö insinööri silly engineer
y yy hyvä tyyli good style
There are lots of vowel combinations and diphtongs. Remember that each vowel has its own sound and must be uttered. Here are a few examples. Listen to them and try to pronouce them in a Finnish way:
Listen and repeat:
työ work, job
Although the vowels can combine in many ways, there is one important restriction: The vowels a, u, o can never occur in a single word together with the vowels ä, ö, y.
(The vowels e and i can combine with any other vowels.)
This is called vowel harmony. Because of it most endings have two variants, both carrying the same meaning, e.g.
bussi+ssa in a bus
keittiö+ssä in a kitchen
puhut+ko? do you speak?
kysyt+kö? do you ask?
Listen and repeat he words:
|Consonant||Example in Finnish||Translation|
|k kk||kuka, kukka||who, flower|
|p pp||papu, soppa||bean, soup|
|t tt||sata, vuotta||hundred, years|
|l ll||tuli, tulli||fire, customs|
|m mm||sama, mummo||same, granny (grandmother)|
|n nn||uuni, sinne||oven, there|
|r rr||meri, herra||sea, mister|
|s ss||vesi, passi||water, passport|
|h||tähti, lehti||star, newspaper|
|j||joo, kaljaa||yes, beer|
|v||hyvä, vessa||good, toilet|
|d||kadulla||in a street|
Notice the pronunciation of the following consonants:
k, p, t are pronounced without the aspiration
r as in Roma (Italian)
h as in hello
j as in yes
v as in video
nk as in think
ng as in thing
The following consonants can occur in loan words and foreign names
You can probably understand the meaning of the words!
Listen the words:
c Celcius; Coca-Cola
g geologia, grilli
z jazz, pizza
1.Listen carefully and write the words you hear:
2.You will hear some place names of European countries or cities. Write them down in Finnish:
Scroll down to see the correct answers!
1: joo, hän, vaari, baari, lehti, hyvä
2:Pariisi, Ateena, Berliini, Italia, Espanja, Belgia, Hollanti
Finnish vocabulary has a fair number of words borrowed from Indo-European languages. Although they are written and pronounced differently (that is: in a Finnish way), many of them are quite easy to recognize, e.g.
Can you guess what these are in English (or in your language)?
turisti, ooppera, kitara, sohva, paperi, elefantti, auto, viini, viski
However, most of the Finnish words are either original Finno-Ugric words, or even if borrowed they have changed so much that it is quite impossible to assosiate them with anything you already know.
It is, therefore, very important that you pay attention to the vocabulary right from the start.
We have many suffixes for forming new words from the existing ones. A few examples:
kirja a book kirjasto library
sana word sanasto vocabulary
kahvi coffee kahvila café
asunto residence/flat? asuntola dormitory?
opettaa to teach opettaja teacher
opiskella to study opiskelija student
Finnish vocabulary has a huge amount of compound words: two or three words stuck together thus creating a new word.
sana + kirja = sanakirja dictionary (“wordbook”)
tieto+ sanakirja = tietosanakirja encyclopaedia (“knowledgewordbook”)
tieto + kone = tietokone computer (“knowledgemachine”)
maa + ilma = maailma world (“earth+air”)
posti+merkki = postimerkki (postal) stamp