Why Study Finnish? A Hot Language

UW Finnish instructors Lotta, Mia and Karoliina at the Finnish Community Bazaar 2006

Pictured: UW Finnish instructors Lotta, Mia and Karoliina at the Finnish Community Bazaar 2006

Facts and Phrases

  1. Mis oot? Where are you?

    Instead of picking up the phone and answering with one’s name - the traditional way of receiving a phone call – Finns just answer their cell phone by asking where the caller is. Nokia, the flagship of the Finnish economy, has added to the popularity of cell phones. In fact, 955 out of 1000 Finns had a cell phone in 2004. The same year 82 % of Finnish households had a cell phone. By comparison 70 % of the households had a car.

  2. Mikä sinun nimi on? What’s your name?

    Do you know these famous Finns? Alvar Aalto, Tarja Halonen, Renny Harlin, Aki Kaurismäki, Karita Mattila, Jorma Ollila, Jean Sibelius, Linus Torvalds, Ville Valo.

    Alvar Aalto: The most famous Finnish architect, known for his functional buildings and design.

    Tarja Halonen: the 11th president of Finland. She is a Social Democrat and the first woman president.

    Renny Harlin aka Lauri Harjola: Finland’s son in Hollywood, director of Die Hard 2, Deep Blue Sea, Cliffhanger and Exorcist: The Beginning.

    Aki Kaurismäki: a Finnish film director, producer and screenwriter awarded with the Cannes Grand Prix for The Man Without A Past.

    Karita Mattila: An opera singer voted Musician of the Year 2005 by Musical America. She appears with top orchestras and in major opera houses worldwide.

    Jorma Ollila: chairman and CEO of Nokia Corporation 1992-2006.

    Jean Sibelius: a Finnish composer of classical music, and one of the most popular composers of the late 19th and early 20th century.

    Linus Torvalds: a Finnish software engineer best known for initiating the development of the Linux kernel.

    Ville Valo: the vocalist, songwriter and frontman of the Finnish "Love Metal" band HIM.

  3. Anteeksi, puhuisitko suomea? Excuse me, could you speak Finnish?

    Non-native Finnish speakers, other than the national minorities, are still somewhat of a curiosity. Finns easily switch to English, so if you want to learn Finnish, you have to ask people to speak it. Out of 5,200,000 Finns only 113,852 are foreigners. The largest immigrant group is the Russians, approximately 25,000 people.

  4. Ääliö, älä lyö enää lisää löylyä! Moron, don’t throw more water on the sauna!

    The sauna is an integral part of Finnish culture. Almost all Finnish households have a sauna; there are over two million saunas in Finland. For Finnish people the sauna is a place to relax with friends and family. There is nothing luxurious about it, it is a necessity. Not many Finnish words have been loaned into English, but sauna is one of them.

  5. Vaka, vanha Väinämöinen… Steadfast, old Väinämöinen

    Väinämöinen is a sage and a shaman in the national epic of Finland, The Kalevala, compiled by Elias Lönnrot in the 19th century. The Kalevala inspired Tolkien to start his epic work, some of the characters in The Silmarillion are largely modeled after Kalevala characters. The Kalevala has also inspired other nations to collect and write their respective epics, such as The Kalevipoeg (Estonia). The Kalevala was also inspiration for Hiawatha.

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