Finnish (Suomi) is an official language in both Finland and the EU and is a recognised minority language in Sweden and the Russian Federation. There are 6 million native Finnish speakers worldwide, mainly in Finland but also in Estonia, Norway and Sweden. Finnish, along with Estonian, is part of the Baltic-Finnic group of the Finno-Ugrian languages. Historically, Finno-Ugrian languages were spoken from Norway to Siberia.  Finnish has two main dialects, Western Finnish and Eastern Finnish, but they are mutually intelligible. There is also a significant difference between standard Finnish (yleiskieli) and spoken Finnish (puhekieli).

Finnish has borrowed words extensively from other languages, including Baltic languages, Germanic languages and Swedish. Swedish has been particularly influential with regards to governmental terms, for example the words for province (läänit) and emperor (keisari) come from the Swedish words ‘län’ and ‘kejsari’ respectively. Finland was under Swedish rule for 600 years, and during this time Swedish was the official language and also the language of the upper class. Even today, the Swedish language has co-official status in Finland along with Finnish. Germanic loanwords used in Finnish prove that ancient Finns traded with Germanic people, for example the Finnish words for bread (leipä), gold (kulta) and iron (rauta) all have Germanic origins and were all important trading materials. In 1548, Michael Agricola translated the New Testament into Finnish, and this was the first piece of Finnish literature to be published. In the 19th century the Kalevala, an epic poem based on traditional folk tales, was published which inspired a nationalist movement and which eventually led to Finnish being made an official language in 1892.

Today’s standard Finnish is quite a new language; very few words remain from the original Finno-Ugrian language. It has also incorporated some English loanwords recently, especially influenced by television, as most English-language television programmes on Finnish television are subtitled rather than dubbed. For example, ‘deittailla’ is a new Finnish word derived from the English ‘to date’. However, The Language Planning Office and the media have also been inventing new Finnish words for technical terminology, for example ‘tietokone’ – literally ‘knowledge machine’ – for ‘computer’ (the English loanword ‘kompuutteri’ didn’t catch on). Finnish has also contributed some words to the English language, for example ‘sauna’.

Finnish uses the Latin alphabet with two additional letters, ä and ö. There are 15 noun cases in Finnish, compared with just two in English, four in German and six in Russian, and there is no definite or indefinite article. These factors have all contributed to the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, rating Finnish a level three language (out of a possible four) for learning difficulty for native English speakers.

Business Language Services Ltd. (BLS) specialises in Finnish translation (both English to Finnish and Finnish to English). We have a broad network of highly experienced, qualified professional Finnish translators, who only translate into their mother tongue. What’s more, all our Finnish translations are proofread by a second, independent linguist. BLS has an extensive database of Finnish interpreters, selected according to their expertise, specialist knowledge, friendly attitude and professional reliability. BLS also works with some of the best Finnish language tutors, enabling us to offer you tailor-made courses to match your precise needs and suit your ongoing work commitments.

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