Brush your teeth, do your homework, and speak Finnish.
February 16, 2016 5:35 AM   Subscribe

Learn everything you need to know about Finnishthe secret language of Finland—with Kirikou. Jump wantonly, and learn the magic of verbal derivational suffixes. Kiitos! Anteeksi.
posted by ocherdraco (46 comments total) 33 users marked this as a favorite
 
I'm still working on Danish.
posted by Obscure Reference at 5:44 AM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Will it tell me what the magic Sampo is?
posted by octobersurprise at 5:56 AM on February 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


All I know is there must be a demand for good Finnish-English translators.

So I was interested in reading books by the Finnish author Arto Paasilinna.

As you can see by that Wikipedia article, he has written a lot of books and "Translated into 27 languages, over seven million copies of his books have been sold worldwide, and he has been claimed as "instrumental in generating the current level of interest in books from Finland"

Great, except that those 27 languages don't really include English. Only one of his books Year of the Hare has been translated directly into English. And one other The Howling Miller has been translated from the French translation!

As it happens I read Italian, so at the moment I am reading Il Bosco delle Volpi Impiccate- an Italian translation of Finnish because, I guess, Finnish to English is just too hard.
posted by vacapinta at 5:58 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I thought this was sufficient to get around in Finland.
posted by delfin at 6:13 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


... the Finnish author Arto Paasilinna ...

Interesting. "The annual Paasilinna is as much an element of the Finnish autumn as falling birch leaves." In the US we celebrate a similar occurrence called Joyce Carol Oates.
posted by octobersurprise at 6:14 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Learn Finnish with cats!
posted by almostmanda at 6:30 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Cute kid. Frightening language.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:43 AM on February 16, 2016


My Daughter is lucky enough to be at a Canadian school that teaches Finnish and is in a 101 class right now so Link sent Thanks!
posted by mrgroweler at 6:45 AM on February 16, 2016


All I know is there must be a demand for good Finnish-English translators.
Yeah, and English-Finnish too (and a lot do both combinations), and you should the prices they charge. I was just looking earlier at the average price ranges for official translations for the EU institutions, all the Scandinavian languages hit figures I couldn't even dream of and among them Finnish is the clear winner.
For books, well, literary translators would be paid a lot less anyway, but I bet Finnish would be a superpower there too.

An English translation from a French translation of Finnish is just, sad... obviously a result of cost considerations.
posted by bitteschoen at 6:46 AM on February 16, 2016


I am shocked to learn that Moomins was originally published in Swedish.
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I have a brother in law who is Finnish so now I know all the important bits of Finnish -- Raikkonen, Kovalainen, Hakkinen, Bottas, lansigootanmaanpystykorva. And of course megapussi.

NAILED IT.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:52 AM on February 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Am disappointed to learn megapussi is not a folkloric giant cat.
posted by Artw at 6:55 AM on February 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


I thought Finnish with cats was referring to this comic.

and Obscure Reference, me too with the Danish. At least that is also Indo-European (like English)..
posted by nat at 6:59 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


Herbert Lomas had some interesting comments about literary translation from Finnish to English in his essay Why Translate? :
Any writer’s likely to feel […] a necessary evil in the publisher’s world, but not very necessary. How much more, then, the translator from a ‘small’ country’s language.
Why do it? The pay’s absurd, you need the time for your own writing, it’s very hard to please people, and translation is, after all, the complacent argument goes, impossible…
[…]
Translation, often so free as to be something new, has been an important, even central element in our literature right up to the twentieth century. It’s no longer so. Asked what is the place or opportunity for translation of minor languages into English at the present time, I’m tempted to say: almost none. There’ll always be people who want to translate because they find it an extension or an excitement to do so. There’ll always be minorities who want to explore, are keen and curious for new experiences – anxious to read what some translator of an exotic tongue can turn up for them.
But after a translator has performed a great labour of love and time, for a financial return that is ludicrous, considering the time and effort, what is the reward? Hardly a review or comment. A great silence proceeds, not only from the great British public, but from the small literary world. It’s very discouraging and makes the writer anxious to hurry back to his own work, which he has been perilously abandoning for so long.
posted by misteraitch at 7:03 AM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Megapussi was the riskiest work search I've done in a while. Wasn't what I was expecting, but then I was expecting to be fired, so I suppose it was a pleasant surprise.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:06 AM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I do sort of dispute that the pussi in those photos is really mega unless a regular old unprefixed pussi holds less than a cubic millimeter.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:33 AM on February 16, 2016


I'm still working on Danish.

Well, it is breakfast.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:38 AM on February 16, 2016




As a Dane, I heartily recommend anyone learning Danish stop right now and take up Norwegian instead. It's basically Danish on easy mode.
posted by Dysk at 8:09 AM on February 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


Sure Finnish is vastly different from English, but here's the secret: Finnish grammar is actually consistent and makes fucking sense.
posted by ursus_comiter at 8:24 AM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


When I visited Helsinki in 1971 I tried to use my carefully memorized single sentence of Finnish: Puhutteko englantia? [Do you speak English?] Unfortunately, this invariably produced a flood of Finnish. I quickly realized it was far more efficient to say "Do you speak English?" Alas, nobody in Helsinki in 1971 spoke English. Lots of them spoke Russian, but they didn't want to, and they gave you a dirty look if you tried to use it.

Also: perkele!
posted by languagehat at 9:21 AM on February 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


In 2003 I was on the cross-town, headed for my studio on the Helsinki harbor..A French couple across the aisle from me was turning a map of Helsinki over and over and going back and forth about their plan, all this in French.

The man turned in his seat and addressed the person behind him, in English - that rider, a Finn, responded in perfect English.

I never bothered with any Finnish except "hello" and "thank you" for the rest of my time there!
posted by bird internet at 9:43 AM on February 16, 2016


I've always been afraid that after spending years learning Finnish you'll find out it's just an elaborate joke at your expense and everyone in Finland really just speaks English.
posted by tommasz at 9:49 AM on February 16, 2016


I'ma let you Finnish, but Meänkieli is the greatest dialect of ALL TIME.
posted by maxsparber at 11:01 AM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


My grandparents left Finland in the 1950s, but since they were able to settle into a pretty sizeable Finnish diaspora in northern Ontario, Finnish remained their primary language. But with some...innovations.

My aunt is fond of telling a story about how some relatives who spoke little English were visiting from Finland and over breakfast couldn't for the life of them figure out what or who the hell this "orange-jussi" my grandparents kept talking about was.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:03 AM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


Filling in some of the gaps. The metalhead blondie he talks about in the beginning asks:
Onks sulla kaikki muumit laaksossa? = Do you have all the Moomintrolls in the valley? (are you crazy/stupid)

And the synonyms for Minä rakastan sinua (I love you):

Muori, tuuhan kahville. = Come and sit down for a cup of coffee, wifey.
Vaihoin sulle talvirenkaat. = I changed winter tires for your car.
Sulla on samanlainen Nokian puhelin kuin mulla. = You have the same Nokia telephone as me.

hääyöaie = wedding night intention

järjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään = this means uh, "even without his/her/its/their [attribute of] not making [someone] systematize..." yeah we don't use that so much :P

Answer to the blondie:
Kyllä, kiitos samoin. = Yes, thank you, likewise.

And it's true, Finns absolutely talk about foreigners in their presence in Finnish, especially abroad where it's almost guaranteed to be safe. It's awesome and practical and really a superpower, and every 10-20 years or so, it turns out the foreigner person actually understands Finnish, and then you die.
posted by sively at 11:28 AM on February 16, 2016 [19 favorites]


I was just looking earlier at the average price ranges for official translations for the EU institutions, all the Scandinavian languages hit figures I couldn't even dream of and among them Finnish is the clear winner.

The Scandinavian languages are probably the easiest to learn from English (very similar grammar, no surfeit of cases, verbs remain largely in one form, a lot of Germanic cognates which will be familiar), though the major barrier is that virtually everyone in Scandinavia speaks excellent English and is happy to practice it, meaning that there is very little reason for an English-speaker who does not live in Scandinavia to learn one of them. Though perhaps the sky-high rates Scandinavian-English translators can charge will remedy this; surely there must be people who are bored with their jobs and/or frustrated with their pay and have sufficient aptitude for language. Just add Duolingo, a stack of Nordic Noir box sets and some “News In Slow Danish/Swedish/Norwegian” podcasts, and let the Invisible Hand do its work.
posted by acb at 11:52 AM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Finnish is not a Scandinavian language, though. And it's very hard to learn for you Indo-Europeans. Source: years of teaching Finnish for Indo-Europeans. (Although maybe I just wasn't very good at it.)

And since we're talking about Finland, here are some Finnish nightmares. The basic premise is that all Finns suffer from crippling social anxiety. Which is true.
posted by sively at 12:10 PM on February 16, 2016 [7 favorites]


It's been a while since I've been to Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, but it was my experience then that English may be spoken by most in the cities, but in smaller town, especially among older people, I would not assume they speak English.

I taught English in a small Finnish town for a couple of months. Grades 3-11. Although I knew a little Danish and French, like most Americans, I am basically monolingual. So it was an English-only classroom.

I love Finland.
posted by kozad at 12:48 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have a brother in law who is Finnish so now I know all the important bits of Finnish -- Raikkonen, Kovalainen, Hakkinen, Bottas, lansigootanmaanpystykorva. And of course megapussi.
And don't forget sauna - and it's pronounced SOW-na, not SAW-na.

My grandparents left Finland in the 1950s, but since they were able to settle into a pretty sizeable Finnish diaspora in northern Ontario, Finnish remained their primary language. But with some...innovations.
Same thing happened to a lot of Italian dialects in the same area at around the same time - try explaining to relatives in Italy what a "storo" is (instead of "negozio", the Italian word for "store" or "shop").
posted by milnews.ca at 1:42 PM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


I empathize with Finnish nightmares so much that it gives me a sense of belonging. Thank you for the link, sively.

Now that my ethnocentrism has been slightly encouraged, I am going to take this as an opportunity to post awesome Finnish music.

Conga Se Menne
acoustic guitar cover of Satumaa
Mummon kaappikello
Isoisän olkihattu

Via spectacular finnish, this thread is completed.
posted by MisplaceDisgrace at 7:09 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


How can it be finnished until Japanese people have danced with leeks to a polka in Finnish and nonsense-Finnish that's been mashed through a vocaloid?

What a wondrous time we live in!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:23 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


And it's true, Finns absolutely talk about foreigners in their presence in Finnish, especially abroad where it's almost guaranteed to be safe.

I spend quite a lot of time with Finnish collaborators, either in Finland with them or on frequent conference calls, and by now, I...have not learned any Finnish besides 'kiitos'. But I do feel fairly confident in my developing ability to tell when they're using Finnish to devious ends (i.e., saying things like, 'oy, i was hoping she wouldn't bring that up....' or 'do you know? I have no idea...where's Ville? Would he know? How are we supposed to know?')
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:34 PM on February 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


Hi Sively! I'm one of those foreigners. My ex and I used to love it when we caught some Finnish visitors to our lovely NYC talking smack about someone on the subway. Usually, we agreed with their assessments.
posted by ursus_comiter at 9:05 PM on February 16, 2016 [2 favorites]


re the moomins in the valley, some other Finnish aphorisms for peeps who aren't running on all sylinders:

ei oo kaikki murot kulhossa = his cereal isn't all in the bowl
ei ole kaikki Ismot kasinossa = all the Ismos aren't at the casino (Ismo is your typical middle aged small town dude who goes hunting etc.)
ei oo kaikki natsit bunkkerissa = all the nazis aren't in the bunker (these abound, ranging from mild to ..uh, worse. i can't remember them all)
toinen airo veessä = rowing with one oar
ei pelaa täydellä pakalla = not playing with a full deck

Also,
a day in the life of a Finn
posted by speakeasy at 11:29 PM on February 16, 2016 [3 favorites]


ei oo kaikki mummot bingossa = doesn't have all the grannies at the Bingo
ei oo kaikki silakat verkossa = doesn't have all the herrings in the net
ei oo kaikki kivet kiukaalla = doesn't have all the rocks on the sauna stove

Yep, there are tons of those, and some are really inappropriate. Or maybe most of them.

Omg that video, speakeasy. I lost it at the relaxing morning music, and "By the time you get to car house, the sun has already gone down."
posted by sively at 12:01 AM on February 17, 2016


And it's true, Finns absolutely talk about foreigners in their presence in Finnish, especially abroad where it's almost guaranteed to be safe.

This is not at all unique to Finns. I can vouch for Scandinavians of all kinds doing it, and I imagine anyone who speaks a less widely understood language will take advantage of the opportunity.
posted by Dysk at 1:57 AM on February 17, 2016


ocherdraco Thanks for posting this.

I just spent the last hour or so watching that boy's vids.

My gosh, what a neat little boy. And a great dad.

Also, I couldn't learn Finnish to save my life.
posted by james33 at 3:31 AM on February 17, 2016


Now that my ethnocentrism has been slightly encouraged, I am going to take this as an opportunity to post awesome Finnish music.

Something that is a thing in Finland is versions of popular songs from abroad (often the English-speaking world) with the lyrics rewritten in Finnish (and often being thematically unrelated to the original song). A Finnish friend sent me a Spotify playlist of such songs, which may be found here.
posted by acb at 4:52 AM on February 17, 2016


On a tangent., I recently started reading Michael Booth's The Almost Nearly Perfect People, a somewhat humorous investigation of the Nordic countries' cultures and how they differ from stereotypes. I'm in the middle of the section on Finland, and it has a few things to say about Finnish and its relationship with Finland's culture:
‘You know, there is no future tense in the Finnish language. While in English or German you might say, “I am going to do this or that,” or “I shall have done that,” a Finn would say, “How can you trust people who have different ways of talking about the future?” Either you do it, and consider it done, or not.’
posted by acb at 5:15 AM on February 17, 2016 [1 favorite]


Mummot bingossa!! man can't believe i forgot that one!!

That vid is quite on the mark. Stoked the dark is starting to let up now though! trying to make sure your spousal unit from a warmer climate doesn't die from lack of vitamin D starts to get old after a bit
posted by speakeasy at 11:42 PM on February 17, 2016


Ah, life on the taiga. If the polar bears don't get you, it'll be the vitamin D deficiency.

Ai juu, nythän meidän kuuluu sit tietysti alkaa puhua noista muista kommentoijista suomeksi...
posted by sively at 8:02 AM on February 18, 2016 [1 favorite]


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4om1rQKPijI
posted by Obscure Reference at 3:00 PM on February 18, 2016


joo, ollaan salakavalii! :D
posted by speakeasy at 7:28 AM on February 19, 2016 [1 favorite]


Laitan tähän hämäykseksi muutamien postaajien nimiä orcherdraco, niin että ne luulee että me juoruillaan niistä Obscure Reference, eikä tajua acb Dysk että todellinen tarkoitus Artw on aloittaa vallankaappauksen suunnittelu.
posted by sively at 11:20 AM on February 19, 2016


I took an intensive Finnish course for three months last year. It was a lot of fun. If for some reason you get the opportunity to learn the language, I can't recommend it highly enough. And to go against the grain, and quote my Finnish teacher, let me say: Suomi on helppo kieli!
posted by Kattullus at 4:12 PM on February 27, 2016 [1 favorite]


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