How to Speak Basic Finnish

Two Parts:Learning Basic PhrasesSeeking Outside Education

If you're planning a trip to Finland, you'll need to know a few basic words or phrases. Finnish words can be difficult to pronounce for non-native speakers. However, with practice and patience you should be able to master a few basic words and phrases.

Part 1
Learning Basic Phrases

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    Learn basic pronunciation. In order to understand the basics of Finnish language, you need to understand pronunciation. Certain letters are pronounced differently in Finnish and some letters with accent marks are specific to the Finnish language itself.
    • Some letters in the Finnish language are simply softer or stronger than in English. The letters K, P, S, and T are pronounced softer than they are in English. The letter R is pronounced much stronger than in English.[1]
    • Some letters are pronounced only slightly differently than they would be in American or British English. The letter A sounds somewhat like the "u" in cup. The letter E is like the e sound in hen. The letter "I" is pronounced shorter, like it would be pronounced in "fit" or "bit." The letter O is also pronounced shorter and slightly different than in English, sounding more like the A in "all." In Finnish, "U" is pronounced as it would be in the word "full" in English.[2]
    • A few letters have a completely different pronunciation in Finnish. J is pronounced like a hard Y in English. Y in Finnish can be difficult to pronounce for English speakers. To pronounce "Y," prepare yourself to say the short "i" sound (like in "hit" or "fit") but then round out your lips and breathe out. You can listen to pronunciations of the Finnish Y online to see how close you are to approximating the sound.[3]
    • Sometimes, A's and O's have two dots above them to indicate a different pronunciation. Ä is pronounced like the "A" in "hat." Ö would be pronounced like the "u" in "fur."[4]
    • The letters D, L, M, N, and V are pronounced like they are in English.[5]
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    Familiarize yourself with some basic phrases. There are a variety of basic phrases you might need to use for day-to-day interaction that you should learn. You should practice writing these phrases down and pronouncing them a few times a day.
    • The phrase "Do you speak English" can be pronounced in one of two ways in Finnish. Formally, you would say "Puhutteko englantia?" Informally, you would say, "Puhutko englantia?"[6]
    • For shopping and going out, there are some phrases that are useful to know. "How much is this?" would be "Paljonko tämä maksaa?" "Where is the toilet/bathroom?" would be, "Missä on vessa?" You should know basic manners as well. "Sorry" is "Anteeksi." "Please" is "Pyydän." "Thank you" is "Kiitos."[7]
    • In the event you don't know how to say something, "I don't know" would be "En tiedä" and "I don't understand" would be "En ymmärrä."[8]
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    Practice introductions. You should be able to have a basic conversation with someone if your goal is to learn basic Finnish. Strive to practice how to ask for someone's name, where they're from, and other conversational topics.
    • There are a variety of ways to say "Hello" in Finnish. You can say terve, hyvää päivää, päivää, moi, or hei. Speaking on the phone, it's appropriate to say, "Haloo?"[9]
    • "How are you?" can be said in one of two ways. Formerly, you would say "Kuinka voitte?" and informally you'd say, "Kuinka voit?"[10]
    • The phrase "What's your name?" also has formal and informal variations. Formerly, it would be "Mikä teidän nimenne on?" and informally "Mikä sinun nimesi on?"[11]
    • To say "My name is..." you would say "Nimeni on..." To say "I'm from..." you would say "Olen kotoisin ...sta." To ask where someone else is from, you would say "Mistä olet kotoisin?"[12]
    • You should also know basic greetings. "Good morning" is "Hyvää huomenta." "Good afternoon" is "Hyvää päivää." "Good evening" is "Hyvää iltaa." "Good night" is "Hyvää yötä."[13]
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    Know emergency language. In the event of an emergency, you should know basic language to ask for help and contact authorities if necessary.
    • To say "Help!" you would say "Apua!" To say "Stop!" you would say "Seis!"[14]
    • To alert someone of a fire, the word for fire is "tulipalo." To tell someone to call the police, you would say "Soittakaa poliisille!"[15]

Part 2
Seeking Outside Education

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    Invest in software and books on the Finnish language. It can be helpful to consult secondary sources when trying to learn another language, even if you're just trying to master the basics. Consider purchasing software or a book or two on Finnish language to help with the process.
    • Many software packages can be purchased online that help you learn Finnish through online lessons, tests, quizzes, and activities. Make sure you read reviews of any software you see before making a final purchase as not some packages may be better than others. See how useful other users found the programs before making any purchases. Also, there are some language learning tutorials offered for free download but make sure you do research on such packages to make sure they're not scams containing viruses or malware.
    • If you're struggling with pronunciation, many sites allow you to listen to basic words and phrases, including many of the phrases listed above, and might even provide tips and tricks to improve pronunciation.
    • Books on Finnish language can be purchased online through sites like Amazon or even at some college book stores.
    • Rosetta Stone, one of the most well known software tutorials for learning a second language, unfortunately does not currently sell a package on Finnish. However, they do take requests for adding new languages. Keep your eyes out as they may eventually add Finnish.[16]
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    Take online courses. An introductory language course can be really helpful when it comes to learning Finnish. Colleges and universities often allow non students to enroll in courses in their programs online for a fee.
    • Finlandia University, a private liberal arts school found in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, is one of the only institutions in the US that still teaches Finnish as a second language. They do offer some introductory language courses online. You can browse their website to find out how to registration and what fees to expect.
    • The University of Minnesota offers beginning Finnish online. You can check their websites for advice on how to enroll and what fees you'll need to pay.[17]
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    Hire a tutor. If possible, find a tutor to help you with the Finnish language. Finnish can be quite difficult to pronounce and one-on-one tutoring with a fluent speaker can be helpful.
    • As Finnish is not widely spoken as a second language, you may have to seek out tutors from other states, regions, or even countries if you cannot find someone in your own community.
    • You can do sessions via video chat features, such as Skype and Google Hangout, on your laptop. You can post ads looking for tutors in the forums of websites about Finnish language and culture. You could also contact one of the above listed universities to see if a student would be willing to tutor you. Make sure you can put some money towards sessions, however, as most tutors make between $20 and $60 per session.
    • Regionally, there are many Finnish Americans living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Some may speak the language, or at least know the basics. You might post an ad on Craig's List in this area stating you are looking for a long distance tutor. Finlandia University is located in Hancock, Michigan so post in the Houghton/Hancock section of Craig's List.


  • If you don't know how to pronounce the ä, ö, and å letters, you can pronounce them just like regular a and o. The people will still understand you.
  • Search YouTube for videos and audioclips in Finnish. Watching movies and TV shows in a second language can help you pick up the language faster.

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Categories: World Languages