Is Finnish a useful language to learn

Finnish: History of Language and Diffusion

In this chapter we want to give you a first introduction to the Finnish language and give you some useful background information about Finland and its language.

A short history of the Finnish language

The Finnish language belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family. Other Finno-Ugric languages ​​are, for example, Hungarian and Estonian, Sami, Karelian, Epsian, Lüdisch, Wotisch and Livisch. Sami is spoken in northern Scandinavian Lapland; the last five languages ​​are spoken on the territory of Russia and are threatened with extinction.

The Finno-Ugric languages ​​are all so-called "agglutinating" languages. Don't worry, in a separate chapter we will explain, along with other special features of Finnish, what constitutes an agglutinating language. In terms of its structure, Finnish is very different from the Indo-European languages, which include German or English, for example. But not only the structure of the language is different, the basic vocabulary is also not related to the Indo-European languages. For you as a Finnish learner, this unfortunately means that there is relatively little overlap between German and Finnish vocabulary.

The linguists are of the opinion that Finnish and other Finno-Ugric languages ​​can be added to a common Urural language. The individual members of this language family have developed from this original language through several splits and divisions. In a first phase of the split, two branches emerged: the Finnish and the Ugric. Hungarian later developed from the Ugric branch. While Finnish and Estonian are relatively closely related, Hungarian and Finnish today have very little in common.

The written Finnish language as we know it today dates from the Reformation. It was then that Mikael Agricola, the Bishop of Turku, translated the Bible into Finnish for the first time. The second father of the Finnish written language is Elias Lönnrot, who traveled through Finland in the 19th century and collected the orally transmitted folk poetry in the Kalevala epic.

Until 1809 Finland belonged to Sweden, so Swedish was the language of administration and cultural life in the whole country, while Finnish played a rather subordinate role. A consequence of this time can be seen in the Finnish vocabulary, which has borrowed many loan words from Swedish.

From 1809 to 1917 Finland was an autonomous part of Russia. It was then that Finnish national consciousness began to develop. This national movement in the 19th century had also given a new impetus to Finnish-speaking cultural life. Finland has been an independent republic since 1917 with its own official language, Finnish.

The speakers of Finnish

When asked "Puhutko suomea?" - "Do you speak Finnish?" you will get around 4.7 million people with "Kyllä." - "Yes." reply. In Finland, around 4.1 million people - 92 percent of the population - speak Finnish as their mother tongue.

About six percent of the Finnish population are so-called Swedish-speaking Finns, who speak Swedish as their mother tongue. The 26,000 inhabitants on the island of Åland, for example, use Swedish as the only colloquial and official language. There are also small Sami and Russian-speaking minorities in Finland. However, the only official languages ​​in Finland are Finnish and Swedish. Sami has the status of an official minority language.

In Sweden, Finnish is an official minority language and is spoken by around 300,000 people. There are also small Finnish-speaking minorities in northern Norway, Karelia and Estonia. Many Finns also emigrated to North America.

Before you jump into the study of Finnish grammar, we would like to give you a brief overview of what to expect and point out some differences to German right from the start.