Moi kaikkille! I’m studying Finnish pronunciation right now, and I figured as part of my practise I would write about my learning process and also post some audio clips on here of me (trying) to say Finnish words the right way.
To get started, I recommend this video showing how to pronounce each of the Finnish letters! I would rather offer a resource from a native speaker than try to do it myself, because basic pronunciation is important and I wouldn’t want to put the wrong sounds in your head.
Finnish pronunciation is easy enough, as it is a phonetic language and each letter always sounds the same. However, where you run into difficulty is in differentiating the long and short vowel sounds in words. Depending on the stress you put on a vowel, a word could have a completely different meaning than intended.
For an example, we’re going to look at the word “takka”, which means “fireplace”. Depending on the combination of short and long vowels, the word has many different forms and meanings!
Takka – fireplace
Taakka – burden
Takkaa – fireplace (partitive case)
Taakkaa – burden (partitive case)
Taka – back
Takaa – from behind
You can hear the difference (maybe) here: Takka (I am saying the words in the order they are listed above!)
*I wish I could upload audio directly to the post, but I need a premium account to do so and I don’t fancy paying a total 99$ at once. If they offered a monthly plan I
would be glad to, but…bah.
Of course my pronunciation is not perfect, but hopefully I made them distinguishable and understandable. I will also use this as an opportunity for any Finns to correct me on my speaking!
Here are some other words that change depending on the vowel sounds:
tili – account ; tiili – brick ; tilli – drill
tuli – fire ; tuuli – wind ; tulli – customs
mutta – but ; muuttaa – (to) change ; muuta – other (partitive case)
muna – egg ; muuna – other (essive case) ; muunna – transform
You can hear me pronounce them here ( in order they are listed ) : long and short vowels 1
The pronunciation is a bit exaggerated as I’m trying to make the difference noticeable!
These are combinations of two vowels occurring in the same syllable. As I want you guys to get the absolute correct pronunciation I recommend this video from the same channel as the alphabet video:
Long and short consonants
This is pretty much the same principle as the long and short vowels, but it can be a bit tricky because the difference isn’t immediately noticeable if you’re not a native speaker. I have trouble with it myself, but I’m going to try to pronounce the differences!
There is a rule for this, and it is: When the consonants p, t, k, or s occur after the consonants l, r, m, n, or ng, there is a distinction between the long and short consonant sounds.
To explain as simply as I can, if p, t, k, or s make a long sound (‘kanssa’), then the consonant before it (l, r, m, n, or ng) will make a shorter sound. If p, t, k, or s make a short sound (‘kansa’) then the consonant before it (l, r, m, n, or ng) will make a longer sound.
If you’re confused by the notion of “long consonants”, it basically means double consonants like ‘kk’ or ‘ss’. When the consonants double like that it makes a longer sound and there’s a bit of a pause in the word.
Here’s a few pronunciation examples; I’ve tried to really exaggerate the sounds so you can tell what the difference is (supposed to be). Try to pay attention to which letters have emphasis in each word.
arki – arkki
kansa – kanssa
pelko – palkki
lampi – lamppu
valta – valtti
The “H” Sound
I know that when I first started Finnish, I didn’t really pronounce the “h” in the middle of words. But you’re supposed to! And I personally think it sounds kind of cool so I’ve recorded some examples of how it (should hopefully) sound:
ihminen ; vanha ; vihko ; vihta ; sähkö ; tuhka
Once again a bit exaggerated to point out the ‘h’ ! Notice that in these examples, the “h” always comes before a consonant, so it is pronounced a bit more heavily. When it occurs between vowels, it is pronounced more weakly:
Paha ; Huono ; Miehen
H Sound 2 (Notice that in these words the ‘h’ is not quite as aspirated!)
*All examples were taken from:
Karlsson, Fred. Finnish: An Essential Grammar. Trans. Andrew Chesterman. 3rd ed. London [u.a.: Routledge, 2003. Print.