Fast-track Finnish

When you’ve flown to Finland, you’ll notice that you’ve landed in Suomi, and even the names of familiar countries seem strange: Ruotsi, Viro, Saksa, Tanska, Norja, etc. Since most people in this country speak Finnish as their mother tongue, that’s a good reason to learn to understand what’s being said and written here. It may come as a surprise that you already know many Finnish words when you arrive.

In the following, I will give 3 tips that can be used in learning.

1 Letter i at the end of a word

In the Finnish language, there are already familiar words, which have perhaps only been slightly changed and the letter i added at the end. There are many examples: hotelli, parlamentti, modeemi, systeemi, automaatti, pankki, kenraali, koodi, bussi, atomi, etc.
A similar method applies to forming Spanish words, add the magic letter e to the beginning and you get especial, estación, escuela, estudiante, espaguetti, etc.

2 The word appears in another meaning.

The word may have a different meaning in other languages. As an example, the English word home, which means mold in Finnish, or the Spanish word asunto (matter, thing), which in Finnish means residence.
Closely related languages have many common words, and the same words with different meanings, too. Spanish and Portuguese are good examples. Here in the north, we have similar sometimes amusing misunderstandings between Finnish and Estonian native speakers.
It is also interesting to note that some names may also have a Finnish meaning, for example Ali and Kamala.

3 Learn long words from end to beginning.

I once visited a friend of mine in Turku. She went to buy pastries and I stayed at home with her five-year-old son. The boy was interested in my camera, pointed at the telephoto zoom lens, and asked what it was. I answered it’s a “vaihtuvapolttovälinen kauko-objektiivi “. Since he couldn’t say it right away, we learned together starting from the end: “tiivi, jektiivi, objektiivi, kauko-objektiivi”, until the whole expression was under control. When the mother returned home, the boy told her: “Jukalla on vaihtuvapolttovälinen kauko-objektiivi”. I don’t know how I could have used my time better as a babysitter.

Jukka Isotalo


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