Most difficult language in the world
Learning a new language can be great fun and open new possibilities. However, some languages are easier to learn than others. Finnish language is considered to be one of the most difficult languages to learn. If you study Finnish language pat yourself to the shoulder. It was not until I started to teach Finnish I realized how difficult it can be to change one´s mindset from one language to another. Here are five things you should know about the Finnish language.
1. Lack of articles
Finnish language does not have any articles. In English definite articles "a" and "the" are used in front of a noun when reader/hearer knows exactly what they are referring to. In German articles are "der" "das" and "die". In French "la" and "le". In Finnish there are no articles. This can confuse those who are used to use articles but often the context of the word is explains enough.
2. Finnish is gender-neutral language
Finnish has only gender-neutral pronouns and completely lacks grammatical gender. Third person singular pronoun hän can refer to any gender. Using basic word for all genders is the norm. For example word näyttelijä means both actor and an actress. There are some professions where the word mies (man) is integral part that are not considered gender-specific. For example puhemies (chairperson) and palomies (fireman).
There is a high degree of equality between the sexes in Finland, as can be seen in the relatively high number of women holding advanced positions in politics and other areas of society. Finland was the first country in Europe to grant women rights to vote in 1919. One of the campaign slogans for the early Finnish suffragettes was the fact that in Finland women have always been working and building their careers same way as men. Gender equality and model of two providers is applied to everything from law making to sociological constructions.
3. Grammatical cases
Are you up for a challenge? Finnish language has 15 grammatical cases. But do not feel despaired. Only 13 of them are used in every day spoken language. Grammatical cases reflect grammatical functions performed by the word. For example in English language grammatical cases are most often prepositions such "in" "on" "at" which tell the location of something.
In Finnish language there are some prepositions but post positions are more common. In Finnish post positions are suffixes that come behind the words. For example:
In the house in Finnish is:
Talo meaning house +
She went into the house
Hän meni taloon
talo = house
Use of each grammatical case depends on the context.
4. Finnish is very phonetic language.
For each letter there is only one way to pronounce them. Pay attention to the short and long sounds. Sometimes words can sound similar but they have completely different meaning. For example:
tapaan = I meet
tapan= I kill
tuli = fire
tuuli = wind
For native English speakers it is recommended to pay special attention to Finnish pronunciation. When in spoken English stress is in the last syllable. In Finnish stress is always in the first syllable.
5. Great deal of compound words
Finnish language has great amount of compound words. Two or tree words together create a one new word.
maa+ilma = maailma / world (earth +air)
tieto+kone= tietokone/computer (knowledge+machine)
Finns have reputation for having very dark sense of humour. Here are some of my favourite Finnish expressions. I´ll let you decide whether our humour is dark or not but let me tell you, using these expression can be very satisfying. (Warning. This post includes strong language).
1. We don´t tell someone to ”go away”. We tell them to ”ski into a spruce tree” (suksi kuuseen).
2. Finns don´t say ”that sounds like Greek to me”. To us It "sounds like Hebrew” (täyttä hepreaa).
3. This is one of my favourites and I often use it when I hang out with my girlfriends. We don´t say ”let´s go”. Instead we say ”let´s go cows, bull has a boner” (mennään lehmät, sonnilla seisoo).
4. When I get fed up with everything I don´t say ”fuck this”. I´ll say ”spring festival of cunts” (vitttujen kevätjuhla).
5. Finns don´t get cranky. They behave like a ”bear shot in the ass” (perseeseen ammuttu karhu).
6. Be careful if someone tells you ”they want to take you behind the sauna” (viedä saunan taakse). It means they want to kill you.
7. We don´t talk about forsaken places. For us remote places are ”behind god´s back” (jumalan selän takana).
8. When someone is dumb and they don´t have it all together, what they don´t have is "all the moomins in the valley” (ei ole kaikki muumit laaksossa).
9. We don´t ”get hurry”. We run ”using our head as the third foot” (juosta pää kolmantena jalkana).
10. We don´t encourage others (or ourselves) to drink. We simply say ”drop won´t kill you and you can´t drown in a bucket (ei tippa tapa, eikä ämpäriin huku).
11. Shia La Beauf, instead of saying ”just do it” maybe you could say ”forward, said grandma in the snow” (eteenpäin sanoi mummo lumessa) or would that be Shia in the snow?
12. It´s not Santa Clause who visits us on Christmas. Instead presents are brought by Christmas Goat (joulupukki) and it probably refers into an old pagan fertility god. That´s Finland for you.
The Language Tag
From the depths of the internet I found the language tag that I thought would be fun to do. I will challenge you all who are passionate about languages to do this tag.
What is your native language?
Native Finnish speaker here!
What was your first language learning experience?
In Finland kids start to study English when they are 9 therefore I started to study English when I was 9. I took German when I was 10. German was not mandatory but I wanted to learn another language + my two childhood besties took German aswell and I wanted to hang out with them. Another language that is mandatory in Finland is Swedish, so I started to study Swedish when I was 13. I do like Swedish language but it was very difficult for me to study because I was studying German at the same time and they are pretty close to each others and I always mixed Swedish and German grammar. As far as I know in Finland system is changing a bit and kids start studying languages even earlier. I think that is great because child´s ability to learn another language is at it´s best when they are 11 or younger. I studied French in highschool but I didn´t really get a long with the teacher so I stopped it after a year. When I was in my early twenties I was in exchange in Hungary for a while and picked up some basic Hungarian. I love Estonian language and Estonian culture and I´ve been studying Estonian online for few years now. I also study Welsh and Hawaiian online. Even though I live in Wales I live pretty close to the border of England so I need to travel more closer to the coast if I wish to hear actual Welsh being spoken.
Which languages do you speak?
Finnish, of course. English, German, Swedish. I also speak some French, Hungarian and Estonian. Little bit (few words) of Greek, Hawaiian, Inuiktituut, Northern Saami, Welsh and Croatian.
Which languages would you like to learn?
Hebrew, I´ve always tought it sounds really beautiful, Spanish would be very useful because it is such widespoken language, Russian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Arabic, Korean. Since I speak little bit northern Saami, I´d like to learn other saami languages as well, also some native american languages and Irish.
How does your personality affects how you learn languages?
I am a good listener so that helps. I like to meet people and I´m endlesly curious about other cultures. Best way to learn language is of course to hang out with people who speak it but that is not always possible. Most of the time when I paint I have some language video playing on the background. Good concentration skills!
Do you prefer to study languages individually or in school environment?
When I was a child school was definitely the best learning environment but I guess now as a grown up I actully learn languages better indiviually.
Do you have tips for people who wish to learn languages?
Make friends with native speakers of the language you wish to learn. YouTube is a great source for language videos. There are lots of language apps and games available these days. One of my Hungarian friends told me that when he studied Finnish he went to the Finland´s ambassady in Budapest and watched Finnnish movies there. Even if you are just watching a film change the subtitles or the voice over into the language you wish to learn. Think about what kind of learner you are? Are you like me and you learn by listening or do you learn more by talking? Think about the reasons why do you want to learn specific language. I´ve always been interested from anthropology and history and for me it has been helpful to do my studies on folklore with my basic knowledge on different languages. I am an Estophile and fascinated by Estonian culture and that inspires me to study Estonian. I really love the world of Finnish mythology and folklore as well so to me studying Estonian it gives me glimpse to what old Finnish language and those long gone Uralic languages might have sounded like.
That was fun! Take care you guys!
Tätäpä oli hauska tehdä! voikaa hyvin!
Artist and Illustrator. Mythology and Folklore enthusiastic. Keen traveler. Comes from Finland. Likes cats, tea, and such.
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