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  5. "Onko englanti vaikea kieli?"

"Onko englanti vaikea kieli?"

Translation:Is English a difficult language?

June 29, 2020



Finnish is regarded by some as a very difficult language for English speakers. Do Finns find English difficult to learn? Just wondering aloud.


Hahah, well, good question...

It's kind of hard to judge nowadays, since English is ubiquitous in Finland, at least for young people. Even young kids who haven't had a single English class often speak it or at least understand it, because of music and YouTube and whatever those youngsters are into nowadays. And remember that we have subtitles on tv here, not dubbing, so if you ever watch anything, you hear a lot of English (and see the translation in the subtitles so that you quickly learn unfamiliar words).

Most people also then study English at school for several years. There is a misconception that it's actually an obligatory subject, which it is not. But as learning at least one foreign language (in addition to the two national ones) is obligatory, almost everyone learns English, as not all schools are able to offer a whole bunch of languages to choose from.

I'd say that without all that international media and even some Finnish artists singing in English, English would indeed be a pretty hard language to learn for Finnish speakers.


Can I ask what are other languages people choose to learn? Maybe Russian or Norwegian, or Estonian maybe? Also does German really sound cute to Finns (There was a sentence in Duolingo course "Saksa on söpö kieli"... in my country German is stereotypically regarded as ugly, heh...)?


It's only partly what people choose to learn, and a lot depending on what language options are offered at the particular school or university one attends.

Both national languages (Finnish and Swedish) are obligatory, and then almost everyone ends up studying English (for many Finnish speakers, this is actually offered years before Swedish is). Often, people will also study either German or French for at least a couple of years at school. German used to be the clear winner of these two (and even ahead of English maybe 50 or so years ago), but French has become more popular since Finland joined the European Union in the 90's.

Spanish has become quite popular lately, even at some schools and certainly at university and community colleges. Russian used to be viewed with suspicion and was mostly studied by people with particular political leanings, but is now an important business language especially in the south-east of Finland. I don't think Estonian or Norwegian are offered at any school (although there is a school for Estonian kids), but both can be studied at university (as minor subjects) or in community colleges. Another perennial community college favourite is Italian. I think some schools may also offer Mandarin nowadays.

Finns do not think German is cute -- I think that's either supposed to be a funny sentence or a reflection of Mari's (one of the course contributors) personal feelings towards it :-) Or maybe both?

I'd say that Finns consider German to be efficient and precise, and not too bothered with what other people think of it. But then again I may be the wrong person to judge, as German was my first foreign language (as a 9 year old Finnish kid). ;-)


Annika - Thank you for that insight into the teaching of languages in Finland.


You're welcome!

This is of course only my impression, so you might want to start a discussion in the general Finnish section if you want to hear a variety of views.


Schools also need to provide first language/mother tongue lessons to all pupils/students in basic education, so Somali, Arabic, Russian etc. are also taught, but these lessons are of course only for the pupils/students that have one of these as their first language.

Nowadays pupils often begin studying their first foreign language in first grade (A1-language, often English), a possible second foreign language in third or fourth grade (A2-language), Swedish in sixth grade or earlier (B1-language) and a possible 3rd foreign language (B2-language) in eight grade. French and German are indeed the most popular ones, and many schools also offer Spanish, Russian, Chinese and Italian. There are a few schools that also offer Latin as a B2-language, at least in Helsinki. Schools often work together to offer these "rarer" languages.


Thank you for that answer.


How do we find out about the ratings you mentioned?


Interesting! Thank you for your insight. I feel the need to add that I understand that of course, one can't judge if whole nation thinks that a particular language is cute. Although I do think you can say that "most of X people do like Y language"... Today I've told my friends of names Tuuli and Lumi and they went straight "awww". It sounds so lovely and soft to Slavic ears.


And did you tell your friends what Tuuli and Lumi mean? Lumi is pretty modern and Tuuli was veeeery common in the 60s and 70s, but there are a lot of other nature names in use as well.

I like that the different courses built by the volunteer contributors have different "personalities", like the sentence about German being cute. I hope that the hard working volunteers had fun making those up!


annika_a - yes, I did tell them! This is where the conversation started. I was explaining to them that I love Finnish names that come from nature names and that I regret that in our language nature-based names ceased to exist once the country got baptised... so one thousand years ago. Thank you for even more insight.


Thank you, ZuneMargo, for asking this question. I was interested in the answer.


There's possibly little need to bother with learning Norwegian if you have already had to conquer Swedish. Swedes and Norwegians can converse in their own languages and more or less understand each other. I'm English now living in Norway, still learning Norwegian, but I can understand Swedes (and Norwegians for that matter) if they speak slowly and carefully to me. I have listened to a few Fenno-Swedes (Finns whose first language is Swedish) and again, if they speak slowly, I can muddle through. There are a lot of dialects, so I have to concentrate, and miss a lot, but for a native or confident speaker, mutual understanding is probably easier.


I've always loved German! This Finnish is new to me .


Is Finnish hard for native English speakers? I haven't found it so as yet... waiting for it to get harder now tho...

I also have a Finnish friend from the international school I attended in Hong Kong who reiterated that some find it hard whereas others breeze through...


silverthornfire, Perhaps it's that it's a very well-designed course. Perhaps it's the attractiveness of the language and the uniqueness of the sounds that we're enjoying. The difficulty is going to be the lack of similarity with English, and, I am imagining, if it's anything like Hungarian in how the grammar is constructed, that's going to be a challenge.


In my opinion, English is the easiest of all the languages I know, at least grammar-wise. The hardest part was probably learning to use all the correct prepositions, because English was my first foreign language and introduction to an analytic language instead of a synthetic one. (Synthetic languages like Finnish have several morphemes in one word, while analytic languages like English tend to separate them. For example, "even in my dreams" in Finnish is just one word "unissanikin"). Pronunciation was also a bit tricky at first (all the other languages I have studied have much more regular rules about that), but in Finland English can be heard everywhere, which helps a lot.


I said "hard" instead of "difficult" and got marked as wrong, but in a different scentence I said hard instead of difficult and it was accepted. I reported it using the in-app flag option.


Hard is accepted here. Around the time you wrote this, Why is English a hard language? was reported, which is a different question.

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