Why fiddle with a phrasebook when you can access Finnish sentences on your mobile phone? Find and listen to basic expressions on the free service Hei Finland, which covers everything from business to dating.
The opening message on Hei Finland reads: “If Kaunis ilma tänään means nothing to you, you need Hei Finland in your pocket.” Hei means “hello”, and the service makes it easy to find conversation openers.
Accessible in English and French versions, Hei Finland is designed with mobile devices in mind, and an iPhone app is available. You can also use it on your computer. A couple of quick menus bring you to various lists of sentences for social, business and emergency situations. Then just listen and repeat, and hei, you’re talking Finnish.
The great advantage of having a service like this in your pocket is that you can pull up a phrase on the spur of the moment, although on the other hand there’s nothing to stop you practicing them ahead of time. How about these: “Quality has its price.” “To the airport, please.” “May I meet the chef?” “Where is the tram stop?” And don’t forget: “Can we meet again? How about tomorrow?”
So what does Kaunis ilma tänään mean, anyway? The answer can be found on Hei Finland, of course, but we’ll tell you now. It’s something you can always use in Finland: “Beautiful weather today.” As for one of the other Hei Finland phrases, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” we really can’t figure out why you’d ever need to say that in Finnish.
By Peter Marten, January 2010