Try to learn Finnish - yes, everyone here is very fluent in English, but you will make many more Finnish friends and get many more opportunities if you learn Finnish and use it, even if you only start while you are in Finland. -U.S. Student Grantee 2013-2014
Learn the language - it is NOT impossible like many will tell you, and it will open up so many doors for you. -U.S. Student Grantee 2013-2014
Some people say it is hard to practice speaking Finnish because so many Finns speak perfect English. However, I learned that if you initiate conversation and let people know that you want to speak in their language, most people are very patient and will help you. -U.S. Student Grantee 2013-2014
Finnish Language and Culture Summer/Winter Schools in Finland
Courses in Jyväskylä
- Organized by the Summer University of Jyväskylä
- Includes also Social Program
Jan 31 - Feb 9, 2024
Winter Intensive Course in Finnish Language and Culture
Registration is open until December 12th.
Summer 2024 (dates TBC)
Intensive Summer Course in Finnish Language and Culture (see on the left on the page)
Finnish Language Courses
Finnish language courses are very popular, and you should enroll in a class as soon as the dates are published. Courses at different levels are arranged by different organizations, for instance, universities, Open Universities, Summer Universities, folk academies, etc.
The Fulbright Finland Foundation can help you find a suitable course.
Intensive Finnish language courses for international students are available in most Finnish universities during the regular academic year. Course schedules may be obtained from the Foreign Student Advisor at your host institution. If you want to get a head start, you may want to consider attending an intensive course in Finnish during the summer. Intensive Finnish instruction is available within summer university programs in many cities.
Beginners Finnish has been recommended as an excellent book (available on Amazon), and there are great websites with everything from flashcards to grammar. One favorite cited often has been Tavataan taas. It walks you through the most important phrases and grammar.
Take a course in Finnish language—for fun, to show respect for the people here, and to learn simple communication. My home department couldn’t understand why I did this, and discouraged it, but I’m glad that I persevered.
Take a beginner's course in Finnish before arrival. Most people do speak English, but a basic understanding of the language can be helpful in performing simple tasks like using an automated teller machine at the bank or preparing food.
Search for In-Person Finnish Courses
- https://finnishcourses.fi/ - In the Finnishcourses.fi service, you can search for Finnish and Swedish language courses held in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area, Turku, Tampere, and Oulu.
- Studying Finnish - InfoFinland
- Many Finnish summer universities around the country organize Finnish language courses also outside the summer months. Contact the summer university in your region for further information.
Learn Finnish Online
- Duolingo - is the world's most-downloaded education app and with it you can practice speaking, reading, listening, and writing to build up your Finnish language vocabulary and grammar skills. You can download the app to your phone, or play online, and learn Finnish!
- Aalto OpenLearning organized an Introductory Finnish Online course
- Real Finnish – Supisuomea - A course in Finnish language and culture for foreigners
- Euromobil - Multimedia language training and information programs promoting student mobility
- University of Helsinki - Open online course for basic Finnish
- Digital Dialects: Finnish
- Finnish Grammar
- Finnish verb conjugation
- Random Finnish Lesson blog
- Tavataan taas! Finnish for Foreigners
- Intermediate-level everyday Finnish for transactions
A few recommendations from an alum:
- Study with Sisu - "This page provides a good survey of Finnish and many links for resources for studying the language."
- "I have become a believer in Stephen Krashen's theory of language acquisition which emphasises comprehensible input (the way we all learn our first language). A couple of my favorite Youtube sites that use this approach are: www.youtube.com/@finnished, and www.youtube.com/@EasyFinnish. The producer of the Finnished blog offers an introductory course for 150 euros. Both of these resources provide a lot of short videos speaking puhekieli (spoken language)."
Online Tutor for Learning Finnish
I actually have worked with about 20 Finnish tutors; they all have different strengths. Check out both iTalki and Preply. There are short bios and welcome videos from each tutor that is currently accepting students. You can also see the tutors' available times in your own time zone. You should see who resonates with you! I usually schedule a single hour or intro lesson to see if I vibe with the tutor and then take it from there.
Tips for Keeping up Your Finnish Skills
- Brush up the basics with YLE's online exercises
- Practice listening and reading easy Finnish news
- Make learning a part of your daily routine by taking five minutes to practice on an App (e. g. Suomipassi or WordDive) while on the bus, waiting for a meeting to start, queuing at the grocery store...
- Dive into spoken language at extreme-finnish.teachable.com and Puhutsä suomee?
- Learn new words and watch TV at the same time at YLE Kielikoulu
- Read books! Start out with "selkosuomi" (easy Finnish) books. Get tips and inspiration from e. g. randomfinnishlesson
Finnish 101 - General Rules
- Emphasize the first syllable of each word, always
- All letters are pronounced
- Intonation: interrogative sentences do NOT rise at the end
- Long or double vowels and consonants (duration of holding the sound)
- Vowel elision (diphthongs) is common
- J sounds like Y and Y sounds like German Ü
- U is pronounced like the double O in English “pool”
- R should be trilled, if possible (and it sounds lovely)
- H is sounded or vocalized
- Ä and Ö are new vowel sounds for Americans (ä is very open and flat like “at”, and ö sounds a bit like “turn” but more forward in the mouth and rounded lips)
How difficult is it? Can you come up with the meaning of the following Finnish words?
Some Practice Words
Emphasize the first syllable
- Päivää - Hello - greeting appropriate for the afternoon
- Katu - Street
- Olut - Beer
- Keskus - Center
- Satama - Harbor
- Kahdeksan - 8
- Huomiseen! - See you tomorrow!
(hold the vowel sound longer than usual)
- Saari - Island
- Kiitos paljon - Thank you very much
- Anteeksi - Sorry
(hold the consonant sound longer, make a slight stop in the middle of the sound)
- Opiskella - To study
- Kaikki - All, everyone
- Kamppi - Helsinki’s central bus station and big mall
Vowel elision (diphthongs)
- Suomi - Finland
- Euro - Euro
- Pieni - Small
J is pronounced like English y
- Joo - Yes (informal)
- Ja - And
- Kirja - Book
Y is pronounced like the German Ü, closest sound in English is soft u (“too”)
- Yliopisto - University
- Ystävä - Friend
- Terve - Hello
- Ravintola - Restaurant
- Rautatieasema - Railway station
H is sounded
- Terhi - our own Terhi Mölsä
- Tähti - Star