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Blog 10 fun facts about the Finnish language
Date: 14 February 2020

10 fun facts about the Finnish language


Want to learn some ‘Suomi’? The Finnish language is known to be tricky to pick up, thanks to its complicated and seemingly infinite grammar rules.

Plus, the pronunciation can be a bit of a minefield. There’s plenty of double letters that have to be said twice or you get into trouble, like ‘tapaan’ (I meet) vs ‘tapan’ (I kill). Oh dear.

But if you do stick to the rules (and don’t let the 200 possible verb endings put you off) then you’ll be fluent in Finnish as quick as you can say ‘epäjärjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään’.

In the meantime, if you’re planning a trip and want to gen up on your Suomi trivia, here are 10 fun facts about the Finnish language to get you started.

1. Finnish has one of the world’s longest words

Chalkboard with Finnish writing on it
Do you speak Finnish? Give its longest word a go…

The Finnish language uses a lot of compound words, (two or more words joined together to create a new word with an entirely new meaning). The biggest compound word with a whopping 61 letters, is ‘lentokonesuihkuturbiinimoottoriapumekaanikkoaliupseerioppilas’, which translates as ‘airplane jet turbine engine auxiliary mechanic non-commissioned officer student’.

Not a word you’ll use every day, but good to know anyway!

2. It’s unlike other European languages

Helsinki at sunset as seen from above
Practice your Finnish skills in the capital, Helsinki

The Finnish language has no similarities with Russian or Swedish, despite them being next door neighbours. Part of the Uralic language family, Finnish is closest to Hungarian and Estonian.

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3. You can say a lot with one word

Another fun fact about the Finnish language is that Finns don’t waste words. One Finnish word can express a whole sentence in English. If you’re feeling peckish in Helsinki, say ‘söisinköhän’, which means ‘I’m wondering if I should eat something.’

4. There’s no grammatical gender

Male and female symbols
Finnish is gender neutral

If you learned French or Spanish at school, you’ll probably remember that nouns have a gender. Is it le table or la table?

But in Finnish, there’s none of this labelling and all pronouns are gender-neutral. In fact, the word ‘hän’ can mean both ‘he’ and ‘she’. Talk about gender equality!

5. It inspired Elvish

Elvish writing
The fictional language of Lord of the Rings was inspired by Finnish

Here’s a cool fact about the Finnish language: J.R.R. Tolkien was fascinated by it. So much so, it formed the basis of the Elvish language of Quenya in Lord of the Rings.

6. There’s no word for please

This can be surprising to some but there isn’t a word for ‘please’ in Finnish. It just doesn’t exist. But that doesn’t mean everyone is going around being rude to each other. When the situation calls for courtesy, the word for ‘thank you’ (‘kiitos’) is used instead.

7. It holds a Guinness World Record

Guinness World Records logo over a soapstone
Finnish is an official Guinness World Record holder

The Finnish word ‘saippuakivikauppias’ is the world’s longest palindrome (a word that’s spelled the same forwards and backwards). It’s listed in the Guinness World Records book and means ‘a seller of soapstone’. Wow!

8. One Finnish word is used worldwide

Empty sauna
You’ve probably already used Finnish more than you think, especially if you’ve ever been to a sauna

One of the few Finnish words to make it into everyday English language is ‘sauna’. In fact, the word is spelled the same in most languages.

The Finns are mad about saunas. They’re in the usual places like people’s houses, offices, factories, and sports centres. But you’ll also find saunas in some rather surprising places such as a Burger King in Helsinki, a gondola at the Ylläs ski resort, and even the Finnish parliament.

9. The Finns take things literally

A lot of Finnish words have a very literal translation in English. A fridge is an ‘ice cupboard’ (jääkaappi), a computer is a ‘knowledge machine’ (tietokone) and dice are ‘lottery cubes’ (arpakuutiot). Talk about saying what you see!

10. Every dot counts

Finish words säde (ray of light) and sade (rain)
Be careful how you pronounce your Finnish words

A key fact about the Finnish language is that it’s pronounced how it’s written. There’s almost 100% correspondence between letters and sounds so every diacritic is important. If you get your pronunciation wrong, you’re in danger of changing the meaning of the sentence.

For example, the letter ä is not the same as the letter a. They’re listed as separate letters in the Finnish alphabet, they’re pronounced differently, and they mean different things. Take the words säde (ray of light) and sade (rain). The umlaut changes the pronunciation and meaning.

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Learn Finnish with the WordDive app

If you’re looking for a bit more than a few fun facts about Finnish, then take a look at the WordDive app. You can learn the language quickly and easily, and it’s been tried and tested by over 700,000 people the world over (including Leora Sameni who learned everyday Finnish in just three months).

There are other languages you can learn with WordDive, too from French to Japanese.

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