How to learn Finnish, fast! | フィンエアー

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How to learn Finnish, fast!

Finland provides the ultimate getaway–from–it–all experience. And whether you’re plotting a city break in Helsinki or a back–to–nature adventure high above the Arctic Circle, a few words of Finnish will go a long way towards turning a good trip into a great one.

Students learning in a library
Joe Minihane

Bridging the language gap can seem challenging though. Research by the The US State Department’s Foreign Service Institute shows that Finland’s language is one of the hardest in the world to learn for English speakers. Finnish is not related to Latin or Germanic languages and so, for many non-native speakers, requires as much as 1,100 hours of study to master. 

But there are shortcuts.

Master Finnish with your smartphone

The good news for those who want to learn Finnish is that picking up a few words doesn’t require anywhere near as much time or dedication. The world’s biggest language learning app, Duolingo, has now started offering free, bitesize lessons, meaning you can practice a little Finnish every day ahead of your trip or even practice on your flight. Duolingo is easy to use, combining listening tasks, multiple choice questions and speaking tests to help get your Finnish language up to speed in as little as five minutes per day.

Before you know it, you’ll be saying ‘Hei’ (hello in Finnish), and ‘kiitos’ (thank you in Finnish) with confidence. Learning the basics will help you translate words from Finnish to English too, as well as serving you well whoever you happen to meet. Locals love it when visitors make that extra effort, even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect.

For more advanced learners, there’s the chance to impress with the longest Finnish word. Deep breath: Lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas. This 61 character epic roughly translates as ‘airplane jet turbine motor assistant mechanic, non-commissioned officer, in training’. One to try out on arrival in Helsinki, especially to any ground staff you happen to encounter.

Check out these podcasts and shows

Of course, it’s not just Duolingo that can help those who want to learn Finnish. The excellent Language Hacking podcast helps listeners work out shortcuts so they can master Finland’s language fast. FinnishPod101 helps listeners learn Finnish numbers, letters and basic phrases, all the better for trying to make conversation without immediately resorting to English. However, it does require users to pay a subscription fee. Complete Language Lessons: Finnish offers 10 episodes, all available for free on Spotify, to help newbies grasp the basics of Finland’s language.

And then there’s the wealth of shows on streaming services that can give you hand learning Finnish, as well as helping to translate Finnish to English when needed. Sorjonen (Bordertown) and Deadwind are great for understanding conversational Finnish, not to mention keeping you entertained, having seen an original-language Finnish TV show will surprise the locals you meet in Finland and help demonstrate your commitment to immersing yourself in local culture. 

Put your skills into practice

Whether you're ordering lunch or buying train tickets, the main thing is to give it a go and keep practicing. You won’t be fluent, and certainly not perfect at first, but being armed with a few words and the willingness to try them will make all the difference when it comes to practicing your Finnish. 

While many locals in Finland speak English, you’re likely to find that the more you speak Finnish, the easier it becomes and the more natural it feels. There are millions of people on hand to help you brush up on your pronunciation and boost your vocabulary. All you need is your smartphone and a plane ticket. What are you waiting for?


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