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Learning Finnish (the s.c.nordic FAQ)
nordic flags
The home pages for the Usenet newsgroup soc.culture.nordic
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Learning Finnish


Subject: 4.8 

Dictionaries and other study-material

<Compiled by Nils O. Monaghan>


Many thanks to all those who have contributed and commented on this list. As usual any additions, corrections, and other comments should be mailed to <nmonagha@nyx.cs.du.edu>.

This list contains works which may be found useful for learning Finnish - either whether by self-study or other means. Some works are directed towards teachers rather than students. Older works are retained as these are often the ones that will be stumbled across in libraries.


       Grammars, Primers, Phrase Books.
       Materials for Teaching Finnish  
       Course Details                  

4.8.1 Grammars, primers, phrase books


Maija-Hellikki Aaltio: Finnish for Foreigners (1963)
               A good book to work through, it teaches grammar and
       vocabulary in small chunks with plenty of grammatical exercises
       and reading exercises. The emphasis on obtaining a practical
       command of the language (even if mainly a reading knowledge)
       makes it very useful. I think there may well be an updated
       version available these days. A new edition is now available. [NOM]

Maija-Hellikki Aaltio: Finnish for Foreigners (1987):
       Finnish for Foreigners 1 Textbook
       Finnish for Foreigners 1 Exercises
       Finnish for Foreigners 2 Textbook
       Finnish for Foreigners 2 Exercises
       Finnish for Foreigners 3 Textbook
       [ There are also 2 cassettes per book giving aural 
       versions of the chapter readers and listening
       exercises for the exercise books. ]
               I find these books OK for learning progressively, and the 
       reference tables in the back are more useful as a quick grammar 
       reference than Fred Karlsson's book, however there are two 
       distinct drawbacks:
       1. It is very difficult to find anything in the books, e.g. if 
       you decide you want to check up a particular grammatical 
       feature or item of vocabulary.
       2. The texts are getting a bit out of date (they're quite
       sixties/seventies in their topics and attitudes in places).
       [Matthew Faupel] 
               A complete revision of the original 1963 book which 
       bore the same title, this has long been the standard work 
       for teaching Finnish to English-speaking foreigners. The 
       book is slightly dated with respect to language teaching
       methodology, but it takes the student from the basics to
       a solid command of the language. The 1987 edition devotes 
       considerable attention to the peculiarities of spoken Finnish.
       [Eugene Holman]
J. Atkinson: Finnish Grammar (Helsinki, 1956)
               A course in Finnish grammar for the learner. It concentrates
       on explaining the grammar and thus contains only a
       few short reading passages and a very limited vocabulary.

Michael Branch et al: A Student's Glossary of Finnish: The Literary
       Language Arranged by Frequency and Alphabet (Werner Soderstrom
       Osakeyhtio, Porvoo, 1980)
               1200 items, graded and accompanied by morphological
       information. Glossed in several languages, including English.
       [Lance Eccles]

Berlitz Finnish for Travellers
       Various editions in various languages.
               A typical inexpensive Berlitz pocket language guide. 
       Like all the these guides, it of great help unless you actually
       know a little bit already, but then it is very helpful for
       vocabulary in various situations - especially menus. [NOM]

Björn Collinder: A Handbook of the Uralic Languages. Part 2. Survey of
       the Uralic Languages (Stockholm, 1957) [This may have been
       issued separately entitled "A Finnish Primer".]
               Although a book aimed at compartative linguists, the Finnish
       section contains a graded grammatical introduction together
       with reading passages and a vocabulary. I have seen this Finnish
       section as a separate pamphlet but without any publication
       details. [NOM]

Artem Davdijants Inge Davidjants, Eugene Holman, Riitta Koivisto-Arhinmäki:
       Terve, Suomi! Conversational Finnish in video ( Helsinki/Tallinn
               This is the first attempt to produce an audiovisual
       course in Finnish. The course consists of a 45-minute video 
       (VHS-PAL) dramatization of a trip to Finland, a 60-minutte 
       audio cassette, and a 140-page textbook. The English version 
       is a translation and expansion of the Estonian original. The 
       course was produced under difficult circumstances during the 
       last days of Soviet Estonia, and it has some unfortunate 
       shortcomings. Nevertheless, it represents a totally new
       approach to presenting and teaching Finnish as a foreign langauge.
       Contact <holman@elo.helsinki.fi> for further information.
       [Eugene Holman]

Eugene Holman: Handbook of Finnish Verbs. 231 Finnish verbs
       conjugated in all tenses (Finnish Literature Society, 1984)
               Modelled on the famous Barrons 201 Verbs series, this 
       book contains a detailed discussion of all the regularities 
       and peculiarities of Finnish verb morphology, in
       addition to which it has information on the cases used in 
       conjunction with more than 1200 Finnish verbs.

Eugene Holman: Finnmorf (1986)
               An MS-DOS computer program which generates
       all the forms of a Finnish verb, noun, adjective, numeral 
       or pronoun if given the dictionary form. It is thus a computer 
       emulation of a handbook of Finnish inflectional morphology. 
       Particularly useful for teachers of Finnish because it 
       quickly produces neatly formatted full paradigms
       which can be saved as text files for further editing. Available 
       as freeware upon request from <holman@elo.helsinki.fi>. 
       [Eugene Holman].

Leena Horton: First Finnish (Helsinki, 1982)
               Teaches a very basic knowledge of Finnish with a limited
       vocabulary through pictures. There are no grammatical
       explanations beyond the translations in the vocabularies for
       each chapter. This book was designed for use with children in a
       classroom situation. [NOM]

Mirja Joro et al.: Askelia Suomeen (Ammattikasvatushallitus,
       Helsinki, 1985-86)
               Four slim vols, all in Finnish, and intended for
       newcomers to Finland. [Lance Eccles]

Fred Karlsson: Finnish Grammar (tr Andrew Chesterman, WSOY,
       Porvoo-Helsinki-Juva, 1983).
       Finnish edition: Suomen peruskielioppi (1982)
       Swedish edition: Finsk grammatik (1978).
               Karrlsson systematically covers the grammar of Finnish. This
       is an excellent book - the grammar rules are easy to read and
       understand and numerous examples are given. The book uses a very
       clear and understandable style of layout. However, it is a
       grammar and will need to be used in conjunction with other
       material. [NOM]
               I've got this book, and while I find it useful, I'd 
       hesitate to call it "excellent".  It's difficult to find things 
       in it sometimes, it doesn't cover everything (e.g. I would dearly 
       love to have information on such things as the use of "fossilised" 
       cases (e.g. maanatai/sin, posti/tse) and I find the rule blocks 
       written entirely in capitals difficult to read.  There is 
       definite room for improvement. [Matthew Faupel] 

Aira Haapakoski, Seija Koski & Mirja Valkesalmi: HUOMENTA SUOMI (Valtion
       painatuskeskus, Helsinki, 1990, ISBN 951-861-175-0)
               I've used it for adults and children. It
       illustrates basic grammar fairly clearly and may make teaching
       grammar more fun, it does not, however, give verbal rules, mainly
       the info is given in "boxes". Huomenta Suomi costs around 100
       FIM (= $25 CAD). [Marja Coady]

Marjatta Karanko & Ulla Talvitie: TOTTAKAI! (Oy Finn Lectura Ab, Loimaan
       kirjapaino, Loimaa 1993, ISBN 951-8905-71-1)
               I have not used it much yet but it would seem to
       be suitable especially for teenagers since its texts are geared
       towards them. Grammar is explained somewhat and the book
       contains exercises as well. Everything is done in Finnish. 
       [Marja Coady]

Meri Lehtinen: Basic Course in Finnish (Ural and Altaic Series #27,
       Indiana UP, Bloomington, 1963)
               A huge book, full of drills. Unfortunately now out of
       print. [Lance Eccles]

Terttu Leney: Teach Yourself Finnish (New Version, Hodder and Stoughton,
       ISBN 0-340-56174-2) [An audio casette is also available]
               Whitney's notorious _Teach Yourself Finnish_ has been
       superseded by a new Finnish textbook compiled according to the 
       Council of Europe's Threshold guidelines on language learning.
       It is an excellent introduction to spoken and written
       Finnish. [Eugene Holman]
               Teach Yourself has just recently brought out a
       new version. A colleague recckons its pretty good. [Matthew Faupel] 
               The new version seems to be a *much* better 
       book [Antti Lahelma] 
Anneli Lieko: Suomen kielen fonetiikkaa ja fonologiaa ulkomaalaisille
       (1992) [Finnish phonetics and phonology for foreigners].
               A clearly written presentation of the Finnish sound 
       system intended for foreigners with a good reading knowledge 
       of the language. The book concentrates on the learning 
       difficulties foreigners speaking a wide range
       of languages face when trying to master Finnish pronunciation.
       [Eugene Holman]
               I would like to say that the book is certainly useful
       but far from being a complete presentation of Finnish phonetics and
       phonology for foreigners. It does not, for example, specify exactly
       when a two-vowel pair is pronounced as a diphthong (instead of two 
       vowels belonging to distinct syllables), nor does it describe the 
       rules for secondary stress in Finnish. Admittedly, these are areas 
       which have not been studied extensively enough, and they seldom have 
       any phonematic effect.  But the phenomena certainly affect the 
       naturalness of one's speech in Finnish. [Jukka "Yucca" Korpela]

Olli Nuutinen: Suomea Suomeksi 1. (Suomalaisen Sirjallisuuden Seura,
       Helsinki, repr. 1992) Vocabuary available in Danish, Icelandic, 
       French, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, English, German, and Italian.
               Teaches everything in Finnish only. Probably less suitable
       for self studies. No audio cassettes available. As a student
       I know only this one and can't compare, but my impression is
       quite good. Seems to be up to date. The German vocabulary
       contains many errors. [Uwe Geuder]
               At first the book looks extremely childish but all of
       the grammar is there. I have found it quite effective when used in
       tandem with Karlsson's grammar. I first used this book in
       1982 and I would guess it was first published in the
       late 70's. This book makes Finnish feel EASY and
       with a little imagination is fun to learn from (and teach with!).  
       [Cecelia A Musselman].

John B. Olli: Fundamentals of Finnish Grammar (Northland Press, New
       York, 1958)
               This book concentrates mainly on long lists of declensions 
       and conjugations. The approach taken is not a very helpful for the
       learner. [NOM]

Anges Renfors: Finnish Self-Taught (Thimm's System) with Phonetic
       Pronunciation (Marlborough's Self Taught Series, London, 1910)
               Quite a old one! It is really a structured vocabulary with a
       brief grammar and a mini-phrase book. Very similar in many ways
       to the modern Berlitz books. [NOM]

Thomas A. Sekeboed (?): Spoken Finnish
               It seems to be good for having lots of conversational 
       stuff in it, though probably you need the tapes (and a grammar) 
       to make a good go of it [Robert Cumming]

Leena Silfverberg: Suomen kielen jatko-oppikirja (Finn Lectura,
       Helsinki?, 1990)
               An intermediate course. All in Finnish. Has vocab lists,
       but no translations. [Lance Eccles]

Arthur H. Whitney: Finnish (Teach Yourself Books, Hodder and Stoughton,
               Being available in the cheap Teach Yourself Series, this book
       is easily and widely available. Which makes it such a shame that
       it is so bad. It consists of 20 chapters each of which has a
       grammatical section, a vocabulary, and exercises including short
       reading passages. The grammar is dreadfully complicated with the
       reader learning rare variations almost immediately. It is also
       very poorly laid out with no attempt at making it even vaguely
       easy on the eye and brain. The vocabularies seem somewhat
       pointless - they are normally 4 or 5 pages long which is an
       incredible amount of learning expected for a single chapter - it
       would have been better to include them alphabetically at the end
       of the work and then tell the reader "learn the words beigining
       with 'a' today". The exercises and reading passages are short
       and no great aid to someone working alone - as "Teach yourself"
       implies. A replacement by Terttu Leney is now available in this
       series. [NOM] 
               Yes, that book presents the reader with the most massive

       vocabulary lessons I have seen in any text book. But, I liked 
       one thing about it; the reading passages form a real continuing 
       story. This is something most language books lack completely. 
       Personally, I also liked the fact that even the first passage is 
       far from trivial, not on the order of "Hello, Mrs. Paivinen. 
       That is a house." But as usually happens with me and language 
       books, I didn't assimilate the whole of the book. A
       lot has stuck, though. 
       [ <konarj@eua.ericsson.se> ]


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4.8.2 Dictionaries


Suomi-Englanti-Suomi taskusanakirja, WSOY, Porvoo-Helsinki-Juva 1989.
               A small pocket dictionary with a stylised picture of the Union 
       Jack as its cover.  Just about passable as a pocket dictionary,
       but it often doesn't give an indication of whether the word is
       a noun, adjective or verb (not always obvious) and only gives
       the basic form of each word (not helpful if it has an irregular
       partitive or whatever).  It also lacks most Finnish
       colloquialisms (the dictionary seems to be designed for Finns
       coming to Britain rather than vice-versa). [Matthew Faupel] 

WSOY Suomi/Englanti and Englanti/Suomi.
               Two volumes, about the same size as the Concise Oxford 
       (i.e. about 25cmx20cmx8cm).  Hence lots of words and
       examples. [Matthew Faupel]

Suomi/Englanti/Suomi Sanakirja, Gummerus Kirjapaino OY, 1989
               A single volume mid-size dictionary with a reasonable amount 
       of colloquial information in, but still no information on
       things other than the basic forms of words (other than
       indirectly via examples). [Matthew Faupel]

Nykysuomen sanakirja
               Something like 6 volumes. Irreplaceable for knowing
       which words inflect in which ways, and for less common words.  
       Clearly not for beginners, because of the total lack of English, 
       but it's currently a bargain at around 300FIM (40 pounds
       sterling) in softback. [Steve Kelly]


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4.8.3 Readers

Robert Austerlitz: Finnish Reader and Glossary (Research and Studies in
       Uralic and Altaic Languages No 14, Indiana UP, 1963)

Aili Rytkönen Bell & Augustus Koski: Finnish Graded Reader (1968)
       (Foreign Service Institute. Department of State. 1968)
       [Audio cassettes are also available]
               A behemoth (744 pgs.) of a book, this book takes the 
       student from the advanmced elementary level (approx.  500 words
       and basic grammar) up to unedited journalistic, literary, and
       historical texts. Jam packed with interesting exercises and 
       information otherwise unavailable about Finnish vocabulary, 
       idioms and phraseology.  In my opinion this is the 
       BEST BOOK AVAILABLE for mastering Finnish in all of its 
       stylistic variety after you have learned the basics. The book 
       is a public document and costs $17.50 according to the latest 
       information I have available. [Eugene Holman]


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4.8.4 Material for teaching Finnish

(Language Centre for Finnish Universities)

Eija Aalto (ed.): Kohdekielenä suomi. Oppimateriaalien kommentoitu
       bibliografia. (Information from the Language Centre for Finnish
       Universities, 1991) (in Finnish)

Jönsson-Korhola & White: Rakastan sinua. Pidätkö sinä minusta? Suomen
       verbien rektioita. (Language Centre Materials No. 66, 1989)

H. Koivisto: Suomi-tytön kieli. Suggestopedinen alkeiskurssi (Finnish-
       English). (Language Centre Materials No. 75, 1990)

K. Siitonen: Auringonvalo. Elämää suomalaisessa kylässä. (Reading
       materials for conversation classes). (Language Centre Materials
       No. 79, 1990)

E. Aalto: Kuule hei! Suomen kielen kuunteluharjoituksia
       vieraskielisille, (listening comprehension material, booklet + tapes).
       (Language Centre Materials No. 80, 1990)

Ahonen & White: Monta sataa suomen sanaa. (reader for vocabulary
       building and revision, English glossaries). (Language Centre
       Materials No. 101, 1993)

All the above can be ordered from: Language Centre for Finnish
Universities, University of Jyväskylä, P.O. Box 35, 40351 Jyväskylä,
Finland. If you want further information, feel free to contact Helena Valtanen
[Helena Valtanen]


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4.8.5 Miscellaneous


Peter Hajdu: Finno-Ugrian languages and peoples (tr and adapted by G.F.
       Cushing fr Hungarian "Finnugor nepek es nyelvek", Deutsch,
       London, 1975).
               Gives a background to the peoples and cultures of the
       Finno-Ugrian family of languages. [NOM]


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4.8.6 Course details


       Soumen kielen ja kultuurin opinnot kesällä 1994 /
       Att studera finska och Finlands kultur sommaren 1994 /
       Courses in Finnish language and culture summer 1994
       (Council for Instruction of Finnish for Foreigners, Ministery of
               This brochure is available from UKAN/Opitusministeri|
       PL 293, FIN-00171 Helsinki, Finland [Uwe Geuder]


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4.8.7 Acknowledgements

With lots of additions & help gratefully received from:

Uwe Geuder <Uwe.Geuder@informatik.uni-stuttgart.d400.de>;
Matthew Faupel <matthew@cpdapo.tele.nokia.fi> 
Antti Lahelma <alahelma@cc.helsinki.fi> 
Eugene Holman <holman@elo.helsinki.fi> 
Robert Cumming <rjc@mail.ast.cam.ac.uk>
Cecelia A Musselman <cam17@edu.columbia>
Helena Valtanen <valtanen@tukki.jyu.fi>
Arndt Jonasson <Arndt.Jonasson@eua.ericsson.se>
Brian Wilkins  <bew@cix.compulink.co.uk>
Hans-Christian Holm <hcholm@idt.unit.no>
Lance Eccles <leccles@laurel.ocs.mq.edu.au>
Steven Kelly <stevek@cs.jyu.fi>
Jukka "Yucca" Korpela <jkorpela@gamma.hut.fi>

plus others.

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- Is the text above really reliable?
- See the discussion in section 1.2.2!
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© Copyright 1996-2001 by Nils O. Monaghan.
You are free to quote this page as long as you mention the URL.
The line of flags is modified after a picture at det Åländska skoldatanätet.
This page was last updated June the 27th in the year of 1998.

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