About Learning Finnish with Berlitz
Finnish is the national language of Finland, spoken there by about 5 million people. There are also some 200,000 speakers in northern Sweden and 50,000 in northwestern Russia.
Finnish is one of the few languages of Europe not of the Indo-European family. Like Estonian, spoken across the Gulf of Finland, it is one of the Finno-Ugric languages, which constitute the main branch of the Uralic family.
The Finnish alphabet contains only 21 letters. There are 13 consonants (d, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v) and eight vowels (a, e, i, o, u, y, ä, ö). There is only one sound for every letter, one letter for every sound, and the stress is always on the first syllable. The language makes no distinction as to gender, and has no articles, either definite or indefinite.
Nonetheless Finnish is an exceedingly difficult language to learn. Aside from foreign borrowings (mostly from the Germanic languages), the long, often compound words bear no similarity whatever to their counterparts in the Indo-European languages. The Finnish word for “question,” for example, is kysymys, while the word for “twenty” is kaksikymmentä. Even the Finnish names of different countries are often hard to recognize: e.g., Suomi (Finland), Ruotsi (Sweden), Tanska (Denmark), Saksa (Germany), Ranska (France), and Venäjä (Russia). The number of case forms for nouns is enormous: whereas German has four cases, Latin five, and Russian six, Finnish has no fewer than 15! In addition to the familiar nominative, genitive, partitive, and ablative, there are also the elative, allative, illative, essive, inessive, adessive, abessive, and several others.