Finnish language facts for kids
|Native to||Finland, Estonia, Ingria, Karelia, Norway, Sweden|
|Native speakers||c. 5 million (2011)|
|Writing system||Latin (Finnish alphabet)
|Official language in||
|Regulated by||Language Planning Department of the Institute for the Languages of Finland|
Official language. Spoken by a minority.
The Finnish language is a Finno-Ugric language, a group of languages belonging to the Uralic language family. It is one of the two official languages of Finland. It is also an official minority language in Sweden. Finnish is one of the four national languages of Europe that is not an Indo-European language. The other three are Estonian and Hungarian, which are also Uralic languages, and Basque.
The Finnish grammar and most Finnish words are very different from those in other European languages, because Finnish is not an Indo-European language. The two other national languages that are Uralic languages as Finnish are Estonian and Hungarian. Estonian and Finnish are very close to each other, and Estonians and Finns usually may understand each other. Even though Finnish and Hungarian are related languages, they do not look or sound similar. The Finnish and Hungarian languages separated a long time ago, and each language developed its own vocabulary. People who can speak Finnish cannot understand Hungarian without extra study, and Hungarians cannot understand Finnish. However, there are some basic words that are very similar, for example: 'hand' (Finnish 'käsi' vs. Hungarian 'kéz') 'to go' (Finnish 'mennä' vs. Hungarian 'menni'), 'fish' (Finnish 'kala' vs. Hungarian 'hal').
Finnish is a synthetic and an agglutinative language. This means that words in Finnish have a stem called "body", and other parts inside them which make up the meaning. Finnish is similar in this respect to the Japanese language, Turkish language, and Latin language. In Finnish, there are 17 cases/word types (sanatyypit). You can think of a "case" as an ending added to a word that helps describe its purpose in the sentence. Verbs have 5 tempora (present tense, past tense, perfect, pluperfect and future tense). In addition, verbs have two participle (active and passive) cases. Gerunds, which are nouns made from verbs (for example: reading - to read) also exist in Finnish (lukeminen - lukea), are abundant in Finnish.
Finnish is a complex, self-morphing language. It has been ranked as the most difficult language for native speakers of English by the U.S. Department of State. The difficulty is due not only to the grammatical structure of the language, but also pronunciation and intonation as compared to English.
Finnish spelling and pronunciation
Finnish is pronounced the way it is spelled. The pronunciation of some letters is similar to English. However:
- 'j' is like English 'y' in 'yes'
- 's' is like English 's' in 'sad' (never like 'z')
- 'h' is always pronounced, even at the end of a syllable e.g. 'ahdas' ('narrow')
- double vowels make the sound long
- 'ä' is similar to 'a' in English 'cat'
- 'ö' is almost like english article 'a'. It is pronounced with rounded lips, like 'eu' in French 'peur' or German 'ö'
- the letter 'c' is not used. It is replaced either by 'k' or 's' to avoid confusion and make writing simple.
- the letter 'q' is not used. It is replaced by either 'k' or 'kv' to make writing simple.
- the letter 'y' is pronounced like the 'u' in French language, or 'i' in 'in' but with rounded lips, very close to 'ö'.
- the letter 'z' is pronounced 'ts' as in German language. It is often written as "ts" to make writing simple.
- the letter 'x' is usually written out as 'ks' to make writing simple, for example in the word "taksi" instead of "taxi".
English speakers often exhale when saying letters like "k", "p", and "t". They don't do this in Finnish, and to "swallow the sound", as the old saying goes, takes a lot of practice.
The proper pronunciation for the Finnish diphthongs (öy, yö, äy, eu, etc) is difficult.
Examples of Finnish words
|Olen/Minä olen||I am|
Basic Finnish expressions
|Kuinka sinä voit?||How are you?|
|Kiitos hyvää||Very well, thank you|
|Kiitos paljon||Thank you very much|
|Hyvää huomenta||Good morning|
|Hyvää iltaa||Good evening|
|Hyvää yötä||Good night|
|Nimeni on Anna||My name is Anna|
|En osaa puhua suomea||I can't speak Finnish|
|Puhutteko englantia?||Do you speak English?|
Images for kids
The first page of Abckiria (1543), the first book written in the Finnish language. The spelling of Finnish in the book had many inconsistencies: for example, the k sound could be represented by c, k or even g; the long u and the long i were represented by w and ij respectively, and ä was represented by e.
Finnish language Facts for Kids. Kiddle Encyclopedia.