Dan's Blog

Notes on Learning Finnish


Helsinki Railway Station

Photo by Alexandr Bormotin on Unsplash

I've been learning Finnish for a good number of years, having passed the YKI proficiency test required for citizenship. Finnish is quite a challenge for English speakers, compared to more familiar languages such as Spanish or German, and while it may not be quite so difficult as its reputation makes it out to be, it does require a disciplined approach to master. As with learning any skill, however, having good daily habits of learning, practicing and revising a little every day will build up to mastery over time.


The best resource for learning both the basics and the intricacies of Finnish grammar online is probably Uusi Kielemme, available in English. I use this in combination with Wiktionary (more on which below) - Wiktionary provides full conjugations and declensions of words, which is handy for some particularly difficult edge cases.

Finnish is a remarkably regular language with few exceptions but there are a lot of rules to learn, particularly with the morphology, and constant practice is required. It's important to both read and listen to Finnish to see how it all works in context.


I use Anki to memorize vocabulary (words and phrases). Anki has desktop, mobile and web versions, so you can keep your vocab lists in sync. Some people have different topic lists, I just keep everything in one huge list. My revision rate is 50 words a day, but you can choose your own pace based on your personal preference and available time.

I add pretty much all new words and phrases I encounter as I go, in the early stages you might want to just include core vocabulary. Again, Uusi Kielemme is a great resource for this, with core vocab broken down into useful topics.

I usually check any new words in Wiktionary to ensure I have the correct meaning and nuance before adding them to Anki. Another good source is Sanakirja.org.


Other than offline reading I spend a lot of time on Finnish Wikipedia - just browsing random subjects of interest - and social media (e.g. Twitter). More long form content can be found for free on Yle news as well as Iltalehti and Iltasanomat (the online versions of the Finnish tabloids). Helsingin Sanomat is subscription only - some articles might be free - but it's a bit more high-brow.

You might want to read blogs depending on your personal interests. I like Muropaketti which covers movie and game/console reviews.

Another nice way to pick up vocabulary is watching non-Finnish shows with subtitles in Finnish subtitles enabled - for example Netflix or Amazon Prime. The translations are not going to be exact, but you can note down any new words and check them on Wiktionary.


Yle Areena has a great number of free Finnish TV shows, movies and podcasts. You can also enable subtitles if you want to "cheat " a little, which might also help with particularly difficult content (e.g. regional dialects) and for checking vocabulary. A good exercise might be to just watch a program without the subtitles and just try and get the gist of the content, again with the subtitles noting down any new words, and then one more time without the subtitles to try and see how much you can understand with more context.

YouTube is a good source of random Finnish language content. One particularly good channel for learners is Finnished. Again with podcasts and Youtube you might benefit from re-listening to content as well as casual listening just to tune your ear.


If you don't have much opportunity to speak Finnish in social settings, or you want to get feedback and focused practice, check out your local community college - many run free or cheap courses with a native teacher. There are also opportunities to learn 1:1 with a native speaker, but these can be quite expensive. A good teacher will also be able to help you with written Finnish, particularly in situations like writing business emails.