Finnish (suomi)

Finnish is a Finnic language spoken mainly in Finland and Sweden, and also in Estonia, Norway and Russia. In 2018 there were 5.7 million speakers of Finnish in Finland, 500,000 of whom spoke Finnish as a second language, and the rest were native speakers. In 2009 there were 201,000 Finnish speakers in Sweden, and in 2010 there were 38,900 speakers of Finnish in Russia, mainly in Leningrad Oblast (province).

Finnish at a glance

  • Native name: suomi [ˈsuo̯mi]; suomen kieli [ˈsuo̯men ˈkie̯li]
  • Language family: Uralic, Finnic
  • Number of speakers: c. 6.3 million
  • Spoken in: Finland, Sweden, Estonia, Russia and Norway
  • First written: c. 1450
  • Writing system: Latin script
  • Status: Official language in Finland. Recognised as a minority language in Sweden, Norway and Russia

Status of Finnish

Until 1809 Finland was a part of Sweden, and Swedish was the official language. From 1863, the Finnish language could be used, along with Swedish, when dealing with authorities. From 1883, civil servants were obliged to use the Finnish language, and to issue documents in Finnish. In 1892, Finnish became an official language, and gained a status comparable to that of Swedish.

Finnish is an official language in Finland, along with Swedish, and is one of the official languages of the EU. Finnish is recognised as a minority language in Sweden, Norway and Russia.

Relationship to other languages

Finnish belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family. It is classified as belonging to the Northern Finnic group of languages, along with Karelian, Ingrian, Ludic and Veps. Southern Finnic languages include Estonian, Livonian and Votic [source]. Finnish and Karelian are more or less mutually intelligible [source].

Written Finnish

The earliest known example of written Finnish appeared in a German travel journal dating from about 1450. The first piece of Finnish literature was a translation of the New Testament by Michael Agricola, a Finish bishop, which was published in 1548. He created an orthography for Finnish based on western dialect of Finnish, and Swedish, German and Latin spelling. This orthography has since been revised.

Finnish alphabet (suomen aakkoset)

Finnish alphabet

Hear the Finnish alphabet

Finnish pronunciation

Finnish pronunciation


Information about the pronunciation of Finnish compiled by Wolfram Siegel

Sample text

Kaikki ihmiset syntyvät vapaina ja tasavertaisina arvoltaan ja oikeuksiltaan. Heille on annettu järki ja omatunto, ja heidän on toimittava toisiaan kohtaan veljeyden hengessä.

Hear a recording of this text by Frans Saukko

Hear another recording of this text


All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
(Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights)

Sample videos in Finnish

Information about Finnish | Useful Phrases | Silly Phrases Numbers | Time | Family words | Weather words | Tongue twisters | Tower of Babel | Learning materials

- Learn Finnish with Glossika
- Learn Finnish online with FinnishPod101
- Finnish learning software


Information about Finnish

Finnish as a world language? (Reasons for learning Finnish)

Recordings of the Finnish alphabet

Online Finnish lessons

Finnish phrases

Online Finnish dictionaries

Radio Suomi - online Finnish language radio

Online Finnish news

Finnic languages

Estonian, Finnish, Karelian, Kven, Livvi-Karelian, Livonian, Ludic, Meänkieli, Seto, Veps, Võro, Votic

Languages written with the Latin alphabet

Page last modified: 26.09.21


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