Photo by: Riitta Supperi | Keksi | Finnish Promotion Board

Finnish Language Learning Tips

It’s true, that many Finns speak good English. If you move to Lapland you can get by without learning Finnish, if you really want to. But if you plan to live here permanently, we suggest you familiarize yourself with the language. Public employment and business services offer free Finnish courses for immigrants.

Why Should I Learn Finnish?

If you type “learn Finnish” into a search engine, the first thing you will see popping up that Finnish is one of the most difficult languages in the world. Don’t let those headlines intimidate you. It is true that Finnish is not the kind of a language you can just pick up by walking down the streets with a little dictionary in your pocket. And not just because Finns are not very good at small talk.  

It requires real effort at the beginning. But once you have the basics, you will realize that Finnish is a very logical language, and understanding it gets easier and easier with time. Even if this is a language spoken only in Finland, it would be a mistake to underestimate the advantages of speaking it. Why? 

Speaking Finnish…

  • increases your chances in the job market.
  • helps you to understand Lapland, its nature and local cultures. 
  • makes everyday life way easier.
  • can be fun if you are abroad with another Finn or Finnish speaker. You will always have a secret language what no one else can understand. 
  • reminds you every day that you were capable of doing something cool that requires real stamina.

Learn Online 

Type “Learning Finnish Online”, “Free Finnish Online” or “Online Finnish Courses” into Google and you will find blogs, websites, materials, courses, etc. that can be useful. The Finnish public service broadcasting company, YLE, has a free mini course on their website. Once you know the basics you can start reading and listening the so-called selkouutiset. It’s the news written and spoken in a clear and easy form of Finnish for language learners.  

If you ask foreigners how did they learn Finnish, many of them will reply: “By watching Pikku Kakkonen. It’s a program for kids on YLE. Or another frequent answer might be: “By watching Salatut elämät” (Secret Lifes). This is a Finnish soap opera. Generally speaking, YLE is a good place to start. From YLE Areena, you can watch (among others) Finnish series and movies online or from your phone.

Back to School 

When it comes to Finnish courses, the TE-Office is a good place to go. They organize free courses for immigrants. Contact your local office to figure out the possibilities in your area. 

Universities offer courses in Finnish for their international staff and students. Some universities also open their courses to those who are not working or studying at the university. For details on courses, visit the site of the institution. When checking universities, remember to check online courses too. Some of them offer online courses even for free or for a reasonable price. 

Kansalaisopisto is the adult education center in Finland. It organizes intensive Finnish courses. Intensive Finnish courses are also organized by vocational schools.  

Each year, for an extended season in summer, 20 universities throughout Finland collaborate to provide an extensive range of Finnish language courses. Check the site for current info and details of plans for the next season. Seasonal details will also be published on this page. 

Libraries and Other Organizations 

A good place for language learners in Finland are libraries. You can join for free, and you can read, listen or watch as many materials in Finnish as possible. In some libraries, there are free Finnish clubs for immigrants held by volunteers.  

If not the library, then you can probably find a language club or other events where you can master your Finnish. In Rovaniemi, for example, MoniNet is the place you want to go. It’s a multicultural center for immigrants. Apart from language learning, they can help you deal with many things related to everyday life. They help to promote communication between Finnish people and immigrants. These kind of organizations are very common in Finland. They have the experience to help immigrants with integration.  

Don’t be Shy to Speak with Finns 

As we mentioned already, Finns are not very good at small talk which makes language learning a bit more challenging. In Finland and even here in Lapland, it is totally acceptable and polite to buy something without saying a word. In other countries, buying coffee from a little cafe or doing some shopping in the little shop around the corner is always a good opportunity to have a chat with the locals. Here in Finland, it’s not the best way of improving your language skills. Simply because you can totally make it through without saying more than “Hei” and “Kiitos/Ei kiitos.” 

Another challenge is that Finns usually speak good English, and they will often want to practice with you as soon as they realize you’re a foreigner. That’s when you can find yourself in that awkward situation where you speak in Finnish while the person replies and asks questions in English.  

If you try hard enough, eventually you will realize that speaking Finnish with locals is very rewarding. Not just because you can pick up new words and expressions. Finns are really impressed when foreigners make the effort to learn their language. So even if you speak just a little, they will often tell you how good your Finnish is. You will receive so much positive feedback within a short period of time, it will give you the strength to continue. And eventually, your Finnish will be truly good indeed. 

Useful links to learn Finnish: