One helpful thing when studying Finnish is the regular pronunciation; we use to say that "Finnish is always pronounced like it's written". In ideal case each letter corresponds to one and the same sound, and each sound corresponds to one and the same letter.
Here are all the sounds and letters in Finnish. There are 8 vowels: a, e, i, o, u, y, ä and ö; and 14 consonants d, g, h, j, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v. They are similar to other European languages, but some consonants are left out, and there are two extra vowels, ä and ö. Other sounds (or letters) appear only in the loan words, such as "byrokratia".
Click the button to listen to the example.
- Stress is always on the first syllable.
- Y is a vowel, not a consonant, and it sounds a bit like German ü.
- You must pronounce every letter: nothing should be left out.
- Most sounds in Finnish may be either short or long.
The following consonants may occur in words borrowed recently into Finnish from other languages:
- b : banaani
- f : filmi
- g: golf
Consonants c, f, q, w, x, and z don't exist in Finnish words. Also, b is very rare and possible only in loanword (such as bussi).
A diphthong is a sound made by combining two vowels. In many other European languages, such as English that is interpreted as a single vowel, in Finnish usually as a combination. It means that both vowels are pronounced.
Diphtongs in Finnish language are:
ai, ei, oi, ui, yi, äi , öi, au, eu, iu, ou, äy, öy, ie, uo, yö
Lenght and double letters
The length of the sound is important in Finnish. The word can have a separate meaning depending on the length.
- tuli : tulli : tuuli
- fire : customs : wind
- Tule tänne!
- Come here!
- Pekka tulee.
- Pekka is coming.
- Ulkona ei tuule.
- Wind isn't blowing outside.
- Ulkona tuulee.
- Wind is blowing outside.
- Tuli polttaa.
- Fire burns.
- Tulli pysäytti miehen.
- The customs stopped a man.
Finnish has borrowed many words, especially from Swedish, so it has lot's of common vocabulary with English and other European languages. Here are some examples how foreign words have assimilated into Finnish. These examples might help you to understand Finnish pronunciation.
There are very old loans, which Finnish speakers don't regognize as loan words, because they are assimilated into Finnish language. Then there are very loan words, which still stay in their original form and look foreign. Then there are loan words which are some what assimilated into Finnish form but are still regognizable.
Finnish words tend to end with a vowel
b, c, f, (g), q, w, x, and z don't exist in Finnish words
These consonants are possible only in some relatively new loan words, such as: bussi, fasismi, watti, xylitoli
Finnish doesn't like clusters of consonants
Long vowels are written as double vowels
How ever, these words are written with a single vowel, but the it's prounced long: bonus, laser, virus.