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How to master Finnish language?

Satu Nurmi | 23.08.2017

Language is the main key to dive into the culture, they say.

For many years I was certain that our language is impossible to learn. Therefore, I was hoping that employers would take a step forward and stop demanding Finnish from their employees, in case the job could be done without knowing Finnish. I still agree that there are many jobs out there that do not require fluent Finnish skills, but I would challenge you to change your mind, like I did.

First of all, Finnish is difficult language but it is not impossible to learn. You write it with Latin alphabet, from left to right, you pronounce it pretty much the same way as you write it and it has no difficult consonants. Imagine if you had to learn to pronounce Polish!

I was interviewing my non-Finnish friends who have been able to learn Finnish. They gave me valuable tips that I hope are useful for you as well:

1) Take intensive Finnish course or at least some basic course in the beginning to get the main idea of grammar. The golden rule is: Grammar + Vocabulary + Speaking = Proficiency.

2) Take time to find study book that suits you the best: library and internet are full of them. Studying on your on requires lots of work but it will also reward you later on.

3) Listen to Finnish audio books, such as Suomen mestari on Youtube.

4) If you have reason (e.g. work, family...) to learn Finnish, it is easier to stay motivated.

5) Watch series/movies with Finnish subtitles or Finnish series/movies with English subtitles, listen to radio and people speaking Finnish.

6) Take notes and write down words wherever they are visible for you.

7) Read and listen to Finnish selkouutiset.

8) Have Finnish tandem or friend who you can practice with.

9) Do something every day, do not get frustrated!

10) Last but not least: Do not think you should not learn Finnish and do not believe if people say Finnish is impossible to learn!


In the past year I have been witnessing Finnish learning process myself and as my tips to Finns I would give:


1) If non-Finnish speaker wants to speak Finnish, let them speak. Remember also to reply in Finnish.

2) Help to find useful links online to learn Finnish.

3) Help to find courses and tandem possibilities in your city that your Finnish learner could join.

4) Patience is necessary. Sometimes you have to simplify your way of speaking, slow down and explain things over again.

5) You can ask whether the learner wants to be corrected or not. After that do what they wish.

6) Little by little you can push in some local words and slang, the way people talk in everyday life.

7) When you text on social media/ SMS, use Finnish.

8) Introduce some Finnish music, series and movies: you have no idea if it gives inspiration.

9) Finns have peculiar sense of humor that does not always translate. Do not forget to explain that.

10) Never ever tell that Finnish is unnecessary or impossible to learn!


When it comes to Finnish employers, I think you are keeping options open for international talents if you let them use and improve their Finnish little by little, even if the job itself could be done without Finnish skills. But please, do not require fluent Finnish from the day one.


Want to know more?


Learn Finnish with TYY! During autumn 2017 TYY International will publish Finnish vocabulary as shared pictures on Facebook.

TYY is also planning Finnish language passport together with Finnish for foreigners teacher Jenni Laine. Stay tuned for more info.


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Satu Nurmi