Mar 20, 2023

When to use spoken or written Finnish?

Puhekieli and Kirjakieli might be a headache for those who want to learn Finnish. This blog post covers their main differences and when to use which.

By Opeton

1. Differences between spoken and written Finnish

Spoken Finnish (also known as Puhekieli) differs from the written language (Kirjakieli). Firstly, spoken language tends to be more informal, with shorter sentences and more colloquial language. Additionally, spoken language can include regional dialects and slang that may not be as commonly used in written language.

In terms of regional differences, there are variations in spoken language depending on which city or region of Finland you are in. For example, in Helsinki, the capital city, the spoken language tends to be closer to standard Finnish, with less use of regional dialects. In contrast, in rural areas, regional dialects are more commonly used in daily conversation.

However, it's important to note that the differences between spoken language in different cities or regions are often subtle, and many Finns can understand and communicate with each other regardless of where they are from.

In terms of written language, there is generally less variation between different regions or cities. Standard Finnish is used in formal writing such as news articles, official documents, and academic texts. However, in informal written communication such as text messages or social media posts, there may be more use of slang and colloquial language.

Overall, while there are some differences in spoken language depending on the city or region, written language in Finland tends to be more standardized and consistent across the country.

For example, a text message to a friend may use more informal language than a business email to a colleague.

2. When is spoken or written Finnish used?

In Finland, as in most countries, the choice between spoken and written language depends on the context and situation.

Use spoken language:

  • When having a conversation with someone in person or over the phone
  • When giving a speech or presentation
  • When participating in a group discussion or meeting
  • When making small talk or socializing with friends and colleagues

Use written language:

  • When sending formal emails, letters, or other written correspondence
  • When submitting academic papers or writing assignments
  • When filling out official forms or documents
  • When posting on social media or writing blog posts

It's important to note that while written language is generally more formal than spoken language, there can be variations depending on the context. For example, a text message to a friend may use more informal language than a business email to a colleague.

Overall, the choice between spoken and written language in Finland depends on the situation and the level of formality required.

3. How do spoken and written Finnish differ?

Spoken Finnish often includes more colloquial and informal vocabulary than written Finnish. For example, the spoken language might include more slang, regional expressions, or loanwords from other languages.

Spoken Finnish can be more informal in terms of grammar. For example, sentences may be shorter and simpler, and there may be more use of contractions or sentence fragments. In addition, the spoken language may include more "filler" words such as "niin", "joo", or "no".

While written Finnish is typically based on standard Finnish pronunciation, spoken Finnish can vary depending on the speaker's regional dialect or accent. This can include variations in vowel sounds, intonation, and rhythm.


Written: "Minun nimeni on Maija." (My name is Maija.)
Spoken: "Mä oon Maija." (I'm Maija.)

Written: "Miten voit?" (How are you?)
Spoken: "Mitä kuuluu?" (What's up?)

Written: "Oletko valmis lähtemään?" (Are you ready to go?)
Spoken: "Ootsä valmis lähtee?" (Are you ready to go?)

Written: "Kiitos paljon avusta." (Thank you very much for your help.)
Spoken: "Kiitti paljon avusta." (Thanks a lot for helping.)

Written: "Mikä on sinun nimesi?" (What is your name?)
Spoken: "Mikä sun nimi on?" (What's your name?)

Written: "Minun täytyy mennä kotiin." (I must go home.)
Spoken: "Mun täytyy mennä himaan." (I gotta go home.)

Written: "Miten voin auttaa sinua?" (How can I help you?)
Spoken: "Miten mä voin auttaa sua?" (How can I help you?)

Written: "Mikä on sinun puhelinnumerosi?" (What is your phone number?)
Spoken: "Mikä sun numero on?" (What is your number?)

Written: "Se on merkittävä ongelma." (It is a significant problem.)
Spoken: "Se on iso juttu." (It's a big thing.)

Written: "Olen pahoillani, että olen myöhässä." (I'm sorry for being late.)
Spoken: "Sori et oon myöhäs." (Sorry I'm late.)

Written: "Olin iloinen nähdessäni sinut." (I was happy to see you.)
Spoken: "Mä olin ilonen ku näin sut." (I was happy when I saw you.)

Written: "Oletko sinä nähnyt sen?" (Have you seen it?)
Spoken: "Ooksä nähny sen?" (Have you seen it?)

Written: "Haluaisin ostaa uuden auton." (I would like to buy a new car.)
Spoken: "Mä haluaisin ostaa uuen auton." (I'd like to buy a new car.)

Many Finns can understand and communicate with each other regardless of where they are from.

4. How does written language and spoken language differ by city/urban area in Finland?

The spoken language in Helsinki is generally considered to be the standard for Finnish, and it is often used in formal settings, such as in the media, education, and government. However, there are regional differences in the spoken language across Finland, including the big cities.

For example, the spoken language in Turku, located in southwestern Finland, has a distinctive intonation and accent that can differ from the spoken language in Helsinki. In the Tampere region, located in central Finland, the spoken language has its own unique vocabulary and expressions. The spoken language in Oulu, located in northern Finland, is also known for its distinct accent and vocabulary.

Overall, the differences between the spoken language in Helsinki and other big cities in Finland are not significant, and most Finns can understand and communicate with each other regardless of their regional differences. However, just like any language, the spoken language in different regions can have unique features and characteristics that may take some time to get used to for non-native speakers.

5. The best way to learn spoken Finnish

Immerse yourself in the language
One of the best ways to learn Finnish spoken language is to immerse yourself in the language as much as possible. This means listening to Finnish music and radio, watching Finnish TV shows and movies, and practicing with native speakers.

Practice regularly
Consistency is key when it comes to learning a new language, so try to practice your Finnish regularly, even if it's just for a few minutes each day. Learning a language like Finnish can take hundreds if not thousands of hours to learn. Whether you use language apps, go to lessons, or talk with natives, repetition is a must.

Focus on pronuncation
Finnish has a unique pronunciation system that can be difficult to master, so it's important to pay attention to your pronunciation from the start. Try to listen to native speakers and practice speaking aloud to get a better sense of the correct intonation and stress.

Learn common phrases
Learning common phrases and expressions can be a helpful way to get started with speaking Finnish. Focus on phrases that you'll use in everyday situations, such as greetings, ordering food, and asking for directions.

Talk with natives
There’s no better way to learn spoken Finnish than by talking with a native.

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