Translation musings: The Finnish language

Sep 29, 2015 | Uncategorized

Special blog post by Tytti, the newest member of our First Edition team. Read on for an introduction to the language of the land of a thousand lakes!

“I can often see some confused faces when I tell people I come from Finland. Most of the time this is either because they do not know anything about Finland or they know that we Finns are just a bit ‘special’. Finnish language has been ranked as one of the most difficult languages to learn, and to be honest, this is quite an accurate statement.

Finnish is part of the Finno-Ugric group of languages along with Hungarian, Estonian, Sami and some languages spoken in Russia. There are about 5.5 million Finnish speakers in the world, which makes it a unique language. So, what makes Finnish so difficult to learn? Probably the most confusing thing for foreigners is the use of suffixes. We Finns use them not only for grammatical purposes but also for creating new words, for example, talo means a house in English but talous has a totally different meaning; economy. One of my favourite ways of introducing the peculiarities of Finnish language is to blurt all the different cases out and enjoy the reaction of my audience. Indeed, there are 15 different cases in Finnish language: nominative, accusative, genitive, partitive, essive, translative, inessive, elative, illative, adessive, ablative, allative, abessive, comitative and instructive. However, it is safe to say that some of the cases are very rarely used, for example, en liene hypännyt (I may possibly not have jumped) is an expression that you can barely hear a Finnish person to say.

Another interesting point to mention is that Finnish is a gender neutral language. We use the pronoun hän for both him and her. It is also worthy to know that we do not have any articles in our language like a and the in English language.

Even though it is widely known that Finnish is not the easiest of the languages to learn, I can assure you that it is not impossible to master even in a short period of time. I have witnessed it with my own eyes. Believe it or not.”

photo credit: Tytti 🙂