Who’s afraid of Finnish?

Let’s have a word about the origins and idiosyncrasies of the Finnish language.

Finnish has a notorious reputation for being a difficult language. Is this true?

What is “a difficult language”? We all learn a mother tongue as children as a matter of course. Finnish children learn Finnish as easily as their counterparts in other countries learn their mother tongues. In this sense Finnish is no more difficult than any other language. But, of course, when people talk about “a difficult language”, what they really mean is a language that is thought to be particularly difficult for a foreign adult learner.

In “Where does Finnish come from?” and “Is Finnish a difficult language?” (links below), I discuss some features of Finnish which in my experience as a teacher of Finnish to foreigners for many years are perceived as difficult, but in reality are simply different, for example, from English. To illustrate this difference I shall start with some historical background. Then I shall suggest why and how Finnish has gained its reputation as “a difficult language”.

By Hannele Branch, lecturer in Finnish, University of London