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Stories from Lapland

Finnish Language ABC

Published on September 2018

Author
Andrea Cammisuli / Front Desk Supervisor

My name is Andrea, an Italian guy living in Lapland. The past two years I dedicated my time to learn about the Finnish language. As you may know, language represents an important part of the culture in a nation. As soon as I entered Finland, I realized, “Oh my! What a different culture”. In fact, Finnish differs completely from the other languages spoken in Europe.

Suomi – the technical word when referring to Finnish Language – belongs to the Finnic-Ugric group of the Uralic languages. It is a non-Indo-European language spoken by approximately 5.2 million of people, and shares similarities with Estonian, Samoyed, and in a certain level with the Sami language. Hungarian is the major Uralic language spoken in Europe, but sadly Finns and Hungarians are not able to understand each-others. They only share approximately 200 common words. Estonians are luckier, they can usually understand a basic conversation in Finnish. Then, here you have learnt already something: Finnish is not similar to Swedish nor to Russian, as many people may think. They come from a totally different families of languages, and the whole structure of the sentences is different.

Finnish is a strongly agglutinative language, which means that most of the words are conjugated with different endings according to the logical function that they have in the sentence. Finnish language counts fifteen different cases, even if the most used ones are around eight to ten, according to the region. Due to this, in Finnish several actions can be explained by using one single word, a long one. Here you will find an example: “Sulje ovi lähtiessäsi” which literally means: Close (Sulje) the door (ovi) when you are leaving (Iähtiessäsi).

Since the very beginning I found this language very interesting. I took it as a challenge towards all those people who think – and have told me – that Finnish is impossible to learn for a foreigner. I went back to school to study this language, and I started from the very basics, like the kids in the first grade. For sure, it took me time, statistics say that it takes 18 months to become fluent. Well, I lost the count of how much time I have spent – and still I am spending – on learning Finnish. However, I made it, and it is not a miracle. To those who ask me how this has been possible, I just answer that it is a matter of motivation, that if you want something, you can do it, even if it is in Finnish! And believe me, the more I dug inside of this language, the more my motivation grew. Understanding and speaking Finnish makes your daily life way easier up here, and you can get to know better Finns and their wonderful culture.

So here you have some tips for your stay in Finland:

Hei: Hello

Hei, hei: Goodbye – I know, it seems very easy at this point, but no…

Kiitos! – Thank you

Mitä kuuluu? – How are you?

Hyvää, kiitos! – I am fine, thanks!

And now some funny stories:

As you may know, snow is an important feature in Finland, and thus Finns have approx. 40 different words to describe this phenomenon. Of course, I do not want to bother you by putting them all in here, but here you have the most common: lumi, pyry, myräkkä, rae, räntä, tuisku, laviini etc. etc. etc. They all describe the snow in its different conditions: wetter, drier, whiter, heavily falling, with wind, without wind…Finns are very precise when it comes to the snow!

And finally, the longest word in finnish: lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas. I must say this is not a word which is used daily (at least I hope), and its meaning is something like: airplane jet turbine engine assistant mechanic officer student. Of course, it is a basic word, so on top of this, we need to add the endings!

Despite all these interesting facts, I cannot help falling in love with this language and discover its new features every day. You should also try couple of words during your stay in Finland, I am sure Finns would love it and will remember you! Good luck!

Andrea

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