An introduction to Finnish

Here at EuroTalk, we love languages (obviously). And we particularly enjoy discovering fun facts about languages; they’re all so different and each has its own unique character. So we’ve decided to share some of them with you, in our new Language of the Week series. Each week, we’ll choose a new language, and we’re always open to suggestions!

Please do get involved – we love to hear from you, so send us your own favourite facts and have a go at our weekly challenge for a chance to win some fun EuroTalk prizes 🙂 You can join the conversation here on the blog, or on Facebook or Twitter, where we’ll be sharing more of our discoveries over the coming few days.

An introduction to FinnishSo this week, we’re starting with Finnish, in celebration of the annual Air Guitar World Championships, which start in Oulu on Wednesday, and may be our new favourite event of all time.

Here are a few of the best things we’ve discovered about Finnish this week:

– Finnish is thought to be one of the hardest languages for a native English speaker to learn, because of its complicated grammar, which is nothing like English or any of the other languages we’re used to learning. Finnish words can also look pretty daunting to a new learner, as they’re very long and seem to contain a lot of vowels!

– There is no word for ‘please’ in Finnish – not because Finns are rude, but because they just assume politeness. There is a word which means ‘thank you’, kiitos, which is sometimes used in place of ‘please’, and the other way to indicate politeness is to use the conditional – ‘Would you…’

– Also interesting is that a grandson can be either pojanpoika if it’s the son of a son, or tyttärenpoika if it’s the son of a daughter. The same with granddaughter – pojantytär is the daughter of a son and tyttärentytär is the daughter of a daughter. But don’t panic; you can use just lapsenlapsi, which means ‘child of a child’, for a generic term.

– The word sauna is the most widely used Finnish word in English. There are 3.3 million saunas in Finland, which means there is 1 for every 1.63 people. Visiting the sauna is as normal for Finns as going to the pub is to Brits. It’s also a tradition to jump into the lake outside after a hot sauna. This sounds a little crazy and very cold!

– The Finnish language holds the world’s longest palindrome, and just in case you don’t know what that means, it is a word that can be read the same both ways. And here it is: saippuakivikauppias, which is a dealer in lye (caustic soda). Probably not something you’d say every day, but always useful to know.

– The longest Finnish word is 61 letters long (which is outrageous compared to English’s mere 45-letter longest word) and it is:


Which means: ‘airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student’.

– A Finnish tongue twister is:

Appilan pappilan apupapin papupata pankolla kiehuu ja kuohuu. Pappilan paksuposki piski pisti paksun papukeiton poskeensa.

There is no absolute translation but it’s about a vicarage’s assistant priest and his hot pot of beans, which are boiling on the stove and the vicarage’s fat mongrel who ate up the thick bean soup.

Language Challenge of the Week

So now it’s your turn. Have a go at pronouncing one of the words above, or, for ultimate respect, the tongue twister… Send us your videos on Twitter to @EuroTalk with hashtag #loveFinnish or post a link to your video in the comments below. If we’re really impressed, we’ll send you a code for uTalk Finnish 😉

Oh, and in case you wondered what’s so great about the Air Guitar World Championships…


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