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).
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.
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].
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.
Hear the Finnish alphabet
Information about the pronunciation of Finnish compiled by Wolfram Siegel
Kaikki ihmiset syntyvät vapaina ja tasavertaisina arvoltaan ja oikeuksiltaan. Heille on annettu järki ja omatunto, ja heidän on toimittava toisiaan kohtaan veljeyden hengessä.
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)
Finnish as a world language? (Reasons for learning Finnish)
Recordings of the Finnish alphabet
Online Finnish lessons
Online Finnish dictionaries
Radio Suomi - online Finnish language radio
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