Finnish Language and Courses

Many former American Fulbright grantees have agreed that some level of Finnish language competency is appreciated, although it is possible to get by speaking English. Learning basic Finnish will make everyday social activities, conversations with Finns, and shopping for groceries easier.
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 Schools in Finland

July 3-21, 2023
Intensive Summer Course in Finnish Language and Culture

  • Organized by the Summer University of Jyväskylä
  • Includes also Social Program
  • Registration deadline: April 30, 2023


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 beginners 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

  • - In the 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

Tips for Keeping up Your Finnish Skills

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?

  • Amerikka
  • professori
  • posti
  • grilli
  • marketti
  • teatteri
  • Meksiko
  • Intia
  • banaani

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!

Long/double vowels
(hold the vowel sound longer than usual)

  • Saari - Island
  • Kiitos paljon - Thank you very much
  • Anteeksi - Sorry

Long/double consonants
(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

Trilled r

  • Terve - Hello
  • Ravintola - Restaurant
  • Rautatieasema - Railway station

H is sounded

  • Terhi - our own Terhi Mölsä
  • Tähti - Star