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Pronunciation Guide for Finnish

by Steisi

Finnish pronunciation..

...is not as horrendous as it looks!

The vowels:

 Vowel sound and IPA

 Equivalent in English

 Example (short)

 Example (long)

 A /ɑ/

 Father, calm.

 Antti (a name)listen to this sound

 Aalto (wave)listen to this sound

 O /o/

 BrE hot, AmE authority.

 On (”is”)listen to this sound

 Foorumi (forum)listen to this sound

 U /u/

 AmE boot

 Ujo (shy)listen to this sound

 Uusi (new)listen to this sound

 I /i/

 Feet, meet

 Ikkuna (window)listen to this sound

 Hiiri (mouse)listen to this sound

 E /e/

 bed

 Että (that)listen to this sound

 Eetu (a name)listen to this sound

 Ä /æ/

 Cat. Never said like German ä!

 Äiti (mother)listen to this sound

 Ääni (sound, voice)listen to this sound

 Ö /ø/

 Girl. German ö, French eu.

 Öljy (oil)listen to this sound

 Insinööri (engineer)listen to this sound

 Y /y/

 Try saying i with your lips rounded. German ü.

 Yö (night)listen to this sound

 Pyytää (to request)listen to this sound

You will also see the vowels doubled, don't worry! Finnish doesn't change its sounds like English (eg hot, but food). It just means you pronounce the sound for double the time. Don't worry if it sounds weird, to a Finn, you sound just right :)

The consonants:

B,C, F, G, Q, X, and Z are only found in loan words or slangi.

 Consonant and IPA

 English equivalent

 Example

 D /d/

 Eng. Do, deck

 Sydän (heart)listen to this sound

 H /h/

 Always pronounced. Slightly breathy. Never like Scot. Loch or German Bach.

 Lehti (leaf, paper, pamphlet)listen to this sound

 J /j/

 Never like English j! Pronounced as Eng.y, or German j.

 Jäätelö (Ice cream)listen to this sound

 K /k/

 Unaspirated. Compare skip and kip to see the difference.

 Kuningas (King)listen to this sound

 L /l/

 Similar to English l. Pronounced with the tongue slightly further back.

 Lamppu (Lamp)listen to this sound

 M /m/

 Mum, Monster

 Minä (I)listen to this sound

 N /n/

 Nail, Nun

 Nimi (name)listen to this sound

 NG /ŋk/, /ŋ:/

 Not a separate letter, but always pronounced as in standard english singer, never like ”finger”.

 Lanka (thread) listen to this sound
Kangas (fabric)listen to this sound

 P /p/

 Unaspirated

 Pikku (small)listen to this sound

 R /r/

 Rrrrrolled!

 Rakkaus (love)listen to this sound

 S /s/

 Always unvoiced. Swim, sea.

 Vesihiisi sihisi hississä! (tongue twister, the water dragon hissed in the lift)listen to this sound

 T /t/

 Unaspirated (compare stand, tooth)

 Tehdä (to do)listen to this sound

 V/W /ʋ/

 W is mostly obsolete and only seen in old words. V is pronounced more ”lazily” than the English v. Touch your teeth gently against the bottom lip but not as strongly as in English.

 Vanha (old)listen to this sound

It's very important to distinguish long and short consonants and vowels, for example ( listen to this sound):

taka- ”rear-”
takka ”fireplace”
Taakka ”burden”

tuli = fire, tuuli = wind, tulli = customs (listen to this sound)

and: Kyllä (indeed, yes) ()
Kylä (village)

It's also important to distinguish front vowels from back vowels (See the section on vowel harmony). A short recap: A,O and U cannot be in the same word as Ä, Ö and Y (except compound words eg pää|kaupunki (capital| city). I and E are so-called ”neutral” vowels and can mix with both, eg Paitsi (except) and Helsingiss ä (In Helsinki). Eg:( )
välittää – to care
valittaa – to complain.

Note that in Finnish, stress always falls on the first syllable!

Diphthongs

 Diphthong

 Equivalent (where applicable)

 Example

 ai

 My, time

 Aika (time/quite)listen to this sound

 au

 Now, foul

 Auto (car)listen to this sound

 äi

 Ä + i

 Äiti (mother)listen to this sound

 äy

  Ä + y (Dutch ui)

 Käy (to visit/to be suitable)listen to this sound

 ei

 Day, weigh

 Ei (no)listen to this sound

 eu

 E + u

 Neuvo (advice)listen to this sound

 iu

  I + u (sounds like e-ew)

 Liukas (slippery)listen to this sound

 io

 I + o

 Huomio (attention)listen to this sound

 ie

 I + e

 Vie! (take!)listen to this sound

 oi

 Boy, foil

 Moi (hi)listen to this sound

 ou

 O + u

 Koulu (school)listen to this sound

 öy

 Ö + y, similar to british english ”oh”

 Löytyy (is found)listen to this sound

 öi

 Ö + i

 Öitä (nights (partitive plural))listen to this sound

 ua

 U + a

 Minua (me)listen to this sound

 uo

 U + o

 Suomi (Finland)listen to this sound

 ui

 U + i

 Kuitenkin, uida (however, to swim)listen to this soundlisten to this sound

 ue

 U + e

 Lue! (read!)listen to this sound

 yö

 Y + ö

 Yö (night)listen to this sound

 yi

 Y + i

 Hyi! (Ew! Yuck!)listen to this sound