Finnish, along with Swedish, is an official language of Finland; Finnish is also an official minority language in Sweden.
There are also notable Finnish-speaking minorities in Norway, Russia, Estonia, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.
There are over 1.6 million Finns living as expats abroad. Most live in Sweden, the United States, and Canada. Approximately 300,000 of these people are Finnish citizens.
Finnish as a native language is spoken by a little over five million people, most of whom reside in Finland, with other significant Finnish-speaking communities in Sweden, Norway, Estonia, and other countries. Unfortunately, no data is available on how many people are learning Finnish as a foreign language.
Finnish is often considered to be one of the hardest foreign languages to master. What makes it so hard?
Finnish has a lot of inflections - 15 noun cases, complicated verb conjugations, rich derivations. You need to master quite a lot of grammar before you can say or write even simple sentences. However, spoken colloquial Finnish differs greatly from the formal written Finnish taught at schools.
Also, despite Finland’s geographical location in Europe, Finnish is not an Indo-European language. It belongs to another family - Uralic languages. This means that it has very few connections with other European languages and a different logic. Thus, native speakers of European languages tend to have difficulties with Finnish.
Although Finland is a European country, Finnish is not an Indo-European language. Indo-European languages are a large family that Germanic (English, German), Romance (French, Spanish), Slavic (Russian, Polish) and other languages belong to.
Finnish belongs to a different language family: it is a Uralic language. The Uralic languages form a family of languages spoken predominantly in Northern Eurasia. The Uralic languages with the most native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian.
The name "Uralic" derives from the fact that the family's original homeland is commonly hypothesized to lie in the vicinity of the Ural Mountains. Finno-Ugric is sometimes used as a synonym for Uralic.
Finnish and Swedish are the two official languages in Finland. Approximately 90 percent of Finns speak Finnish as their first language and roughly 5 percent speak Swedish. However, despite being geographically so close, these languages are very different - in fact, they belong to two entirely different language families.
Finnish is a Uralic language. Its related languages include, for example, Estonian and Hungarian. Finnish has a high number of inflected forms. There are fewer prepositions than in Indo-European languages, for example. Finnish also has some postpositions. Word order is freer than in many other languages. Finnish also has many loanwords, for example, from Swedish, German, Russian and English. Finnish pronunciation is very regular.
Swedish is an Indo-European language and belongs in the group of North Germanic languages. Its kindred languages include, for example, Norwegian, Danish and German. Swedish also has a great number of loanwords, for example, from French. In Swedish, verbs inflect for different tenses. Nouns are divided into two genders. Adjectives inflect by these genders. Swedish uses a large number of prepositions and its word order is very regular.
Finnish and Estonian are both Uralic languages. The Uralic languages form a family of languages spoken predominantly in Northern Eurasia. The Uralic languages with the most native speakers are Hungarian, Finnish, and Estonian.
As the two languages are related, they share some vocabulary and similar logic and grammatical principles (for instance, the large number of inflections).
Of the two, Finnish is a conservative language, while Estonian is more advanced. There are quite a lot of differences between the two, for instance, in pronunciation, meaning that these two languages are not mutually intelligible. However, speakers of one can relatively easily master the other.