How hard is Finnish 1

Is Finnish hard to learn for English speakers?

Is Finish hard to learn? Like most things, it depends on who you ask. Learning any new language can be a complex experience. Particularly if there are new grammatical rules and unique alphabets to consider.

Still, many people from inside Scandinavia may find it easier to learn Finnish, because of the similarities between Nordic tongues.

However, this doesn’t mean Finnish is an easy language.

It’s actually one of the more complex options if you’re learning a language from Scandinavia. According to experts, Finnish is one of the more difficult languages for English speakers to learn.

So, why is Finnish so hard?

Let’s find out.

Finnish language basics: Why is Finnish a hard language to learn?

So, why is Finnish language difficulty so significant?

Unlike other Scandinavian languages, such as Swedish, Finnish doesn’t have any Latin or Germanic influence. This means there’s nothing for us to connect Finnish words to in our native tongue. Finnish vocabulary is brand new to English speakers, as is the grammar.

For instance, one of Finland’s longest words is, “Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas”. We really don’t have anything like it in the English language.

Long words aren’t the only thing you’ll struggle with when embracing the Finnish language. According to groups like the FSI, most learners have trouble with the 15 different grammatical cases in the Finnish tongue.

Even a tiny change to a word can be enough to change the entire meaning.

Learning how to speak Finnish can take up to 44 weeks. In comparison, the most difficult languages, like Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Cantonese would usually take around 88 weeks of study time.

Finnish isn’t the toughest language you can pursue as a person keen to learn multiple tongues. Although it’s not the easiest either. 

Let’s cover some Finnish language basics to determine why it’s so hard to learn to speak Finnish.

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Is it easy to learn Finnish? It can be, but…

When you learn Finnish, you need to get used to a huge selection of new grammatical rules and definitions. However, there are some aspects which lower Finnish language difficulty too.

For instance, if you’ve ever tried to learn French, you might have been confused by the fact all French objects had their own gender.

Finnish words aren’t gendered, so when you’re learning how to speak Finnish, you don’t have to worry about the terms which might come before different words to gender them. Humans have no gender either. “She” and “He” are both “han” in Finnish, or “se”, which means “it”.

There are fewer tenses to worry about with Finnish too. Finnish has no future tense, so you only need to learn how to talk about today and yesterday. So, how do you figure out whether someone is making plans for tomorrow?

It’s all about context. For example, if someone was talking about where they want to eat, they might say, “let’s eat here” or “let’s eat here tomorrow” to refer to the future. There’s no phrase for “we will eat here tomorrow”.

Here are a few more things which make it easier to learn Finnish:

Phonetics

When you learn Finnish, you’ll be learning a “phonetic” language. This means you say what you see. There aren’t any pronunciation traps to worry about, so you’re less likely to mess up and say something wrong.

For Finnish pronunciation, you’ll only need to focus on two consonants and vowels which separate the tongue from English.

There are two new vowel sounds in Finnish which sound like “rounded” versions of English vowels. If you start saying “ee” and round your lips into a little circle, you get the letter y in Finnish, which sounds similar to the French “u”. If you say “eh” and round your lips, you get the letter ö.

It’s easier than it seems.

Switch over to consonants, and you have the trilled “r”, which is a sound you can make by vibrating your tongue as you push the r sound through your lips. This takes some practice, but you’ll get it.

Then there’s the Finnish “V”, which sounds similar to something between the V and the W. A Finnish “v” is like an English “W” when you keep your lips straight and squeezed together.

Intonation

Intonation is another thing you’ll need to master as you learn Finnish. Every language has its own pronunciation to worry about when it comes to vowels, consonants, and other unique sounds. Add intonation to the mix, and it’s easy to see how people struggle.

Finnish pronunciation is quite easy to master when you get the hang of it. All you need to do is remember to stress the first syllable of every word you say. As you go deeper, you’ll discover there’s usually a second stress on the third syllable of a word.

Common terms

When people ask, “How hard is Finnish?” or “Is Finnish hard to learn?” they often get hung up on the lack of a Latin or Germanic background. Finnish is a Uralic language, which means it’s unlikely to match much of the words you’re used to.

This doesn’t mean there aren’t some Finnish words which might sound more familiar, however.

Finns take a lot of “adopted” words from other countries, like “Spammata” for your email spam, or “Googlata” to mean “To Google”. There are also a handful of English words which appear in Finnish with a vowel on the end, like “Baari” for Bar.

You’ll also notice a lot of Finnish words replace letters like b, c, d, f, and g. Instead, these letters become p, k, t, v, and k (in order).

So, if you see the word “Kahvi”, you might be able to guess it means “Coffee”.

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How hard is it to learn Finnish?

Answering the question, “Is Finnish hard to learn for English speakers” is tough? On one hand, Finnish is a lot more challenging than many of the Scandinavian languages, because there aren’t as many connections to Latin and Germanic words.

New grammatical forms, new vowels and unique consonants, all add to the various lessons you’ll need to learn before becoming fluent.

However, Finnish certainly isn’t the toughest language to learn. The chances are, you already know a few words from Finland, like “sauna” and “tundra”.

Finnish has its complicated elements to consider. There are up to 15 different cases, which is pretty overwhelming for anyone to get used to. However, there’s no “a” or “the” in Finnish.

This can be difficult to grasp at first, but it also means you don’t have to worry about articles when you’re changing the case of a noun.

There are absolutely no definite or indefinite articles in Finnish, which means you have more freedom when you’re experimenting with the language.

Getting the hang of Finnish means getting to know a few different letters, determining how a verb is conjugated, and learning a thing or two about cases.

Here’s a quick cheat sheet for the cases to help you:

  • Nominative: Example — Cat is a simple word.
  • Genitive: Example — I don’t like the cat’s attitude.
  • Accusative: Example — Help me train the cat.
  • Partitive: Example — I’m training the cat.
  • Inessive: Example — The cat lives in my house.
  • Elative: Example — Get the cat out of my house.
  • Illative: Example — I’m going to visit her house.
  • Adessive: Example — See you at the street.
  • Ablative: Example — I walked from one house to another.
  • Allative: Example — When will you be arriving to the street?
  • Essive: Example — Are you building your house on this street?
  • Translative: Example — I’ll turn these materials into a house.
  • Instructive: Example — They housed a town with the buildings they built.
  • Abessive: Example — It’s hard to live without a home.
  • Comitative: Example — He must be wealthy with all the houses he owns.
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So, why learn Finnish?

Learning Finnish has its challenges, but its worth the effort too. Yes, there’s a lot of complicated terms to understand, including different cases and grammatical concepts. However, once you get the hang of it, you’ll start feeling more confident with this tongue.

Here are some tools to get you started:

The best way to learn. Get to know the Finnish language basics online, then take a trip to Finland where you can practice your lessons around locals.

Scandification: Discovering Scandinavia.

Now read these:
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Mastering the Danish language basics
Is Swedish hard for English speakers?

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