One-Stop

Study with Sisu: Your Comprehensive Guide to Learning Finnish

This banner features the blue Moomin House, part of a Finnish amusement park, in a fairytale setting of snow.

Born somewhere between the snow forests of the Ural Mountains and the bend of the mighty Volga, the Finnish language has thrived against great odds.

It has been spoken by Nobel laureates, telecommunications engineers at Nokia, and Linus Torvalds, the inventor of a renowned computer operating system.

Elias Lönnrot, the writer of the saga that influenced Tolkien’s Middle Earth, came from Finland — as did Eero Saarinen, the designer who inspired the tulip-style chairs in Star Trek. So did composer Jean Sibelius, whose tone poem Finlandia is considered Finland’s national hymn…with a tune that echoes in Christian churches around the world.

This detail of the Sibelius Monument shows the sculpted head of the composer against a backdrop of metal tubes, reminiscent of organ pipes, symbolizing a sound wave.A likeness of Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, part of Eila Hiltunen’s Sibelius Monument in Helsinki, Finland

About the Finnish Language

Despite how Finnish flourishes today, it had to overcome years of suppression and stigmas, even in its native land. For centuries, Finland was annexed and occupied by forces from both Sweden and Russia — two powers who were locked into geopolitical and religious conflict with each other.

Finland was a Swedish territory for nearly seven hundred years, starting in 1120. During the time of Swedish control, the Finnish language took a back seat to three other languages: Swedish was used for government and administrative purposes; Latin dominated the churches; Middle Saxon (also called Middle Low German) was the language of commerce. Because of the political situation, Finnish speakers were relegated to a secondary status in society, unable to use their native language in any official capacity.

Helsinki Cathedral, with its cream-colored walls and green domes, dominates the skyline in Helsinki.Helsingin tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral)

For centuries, Finnish was not taught or used in written form. This all changed in the mid-16th century when Mikael Agricola, the Lutheran Bishop of Turku, decided to translate the New Testament into Finnish to make it more accessible for his fellow Finns. Agricola realized that he needed to standardize Finnish writing and spelling, in order to make his translation project work.

Agricola’s efforts led to the development of the modern Finnish language. To this day, Finns commemorate the April 9 anniversary of Agricola’s 1557 death, which has been declared the national day of the Finnish language. (Coincidentally, it’s also the birthday of Elias Lönnrot, who wrote the best-known Finnish epic poem.)

In this black-and-white work by Albert Edelfelt, Finnish language pioneer Mikael Agricola sits at a desk copying text with a quill pen from a manuscript. He is bearded and wearing dark robes. Mikael Agricola, by Albert Edelfelt (1854–1905) PD-US (Public domain in the United States, its country of origin, and other countries where the copyright term is the author’s life plus 100 years or fewer.)

Finnish faced further challenges in the early 18th century, when it was occupied by Russia during the latter country’s Great Northern War with Sweden, as well as the Russo-Swedish War of 1741-1743. Just as under Swedish rule, a foreign language — in this case, Russian — dominated the upper social strata of Finland. Even so, the Russian government did not obstruct the efforts of Johan Vilhelm Snellman and the Fennoman movement to make Finnish an official language in its native land.

Throughout the 19th century, Finland was subject to further incursions and violence from neighboring countries. From 1809 through 1917, Finland functioned semi-autonomously as the Grand Duchy of Finland. Although the Grand Duchy’s government had some freedom of self-determination in the beginning, and saw steady economic growth, Russian control grew stricter and more dominant over time.

In 1917, when the Russian Empire fell, Finland declared its independence. Finns still celebrate their independence each year on December 6. Now, Finnish is the predominant language in Finland — in government, education, and everyday life.

Unlike languages such as English, Swedish, Norwegian, French, Pashto, Persian, German, Greek, or Russian, Finnish is not an Indo-European language.

Finnish — called suomi by its native speakers — is a Uralic language, like Hungarian and Estonian. It’s one of two official languages spoken in Finland, used every day by 90% of the Finnish population. By way of contrast, Swedish — Finland’s other official language — is only spoken by about 5% of the population.

Mirroring this, Finnish is a minority language in Sweden, as well as a recognized minority language in Karelia and Russia. Finnish is also an official language of the European Union and the Nordic Council, and is sometimes used in the Finnish part of Sápmi (the indigenous name for Lapland), the traditional home of the Sámi (Saami) people.

Greenish-blue swirls from the Northern Lights streak through the skies above this wooded section in Finnish Lapland.Aurora borealis in Finnish Lapland

The Finnish language counts 5.8 million speakers, of which 5.4 million reside in Finland.

Finnish itself is divided primarily into Western and Eastern dialects. According to Kotimaisten kielten keskus (The Institute for the Languages of Finland), there are eight major dialect groups in Finland, which are each further subdivided into a handful of smaller groups.

Some of these dialect groupings, especially in border areas of the country, are interpreted variously by linguists. For example: Ingrian, a severely endangered language in Finland’s southeast region, is sometimes considered a dialect of Finnish. Many sociolinguists, however, classify Ingrian as an independent Uralic language that’s related to Finnish. Sometimes, the distinction is made between Ingrian (as a separate language) and Ingrian Finnish (as a dialect of Finnish).

Similarly, Karelian is a separate language from Finnish, although it’s very closely related to Finnish — moreso than any other language. Still. it should not be confused with the Karelian Finnish dialects. Since there are strong ties between language and identity, understanding the perceptions of local speakers can go a long way in establishing a respectful rapport with them.

In this winter scene in Oulu, Finland, snow is piled high outside of shops in painted wooden buildingsShops in winter, Oulu, Finland

If you plan to live or work in a particular area of Finland, you might take some time to learn more about its local dialect. Especially in its spoken form, the local dialect can deviate greatly from textbook Finnish. It’s probably best to learn the more neutral Finnish standard first, then enhance your knowledge with particular dialectical variations.

How to Learn Finnish: Hacking the Language for English Speakers

Finnish is rated as a Category III language by the U.S. Department of State’s Foreign Service Institute. This means that English speakers would find it about as difficult to learn as Greek, Bengali, Hungarian, Armenian, Polish, Urdu, and Farsi (Persian). That said, every learner’s experience is unique.

The art-deco Helsinki Central Railway Station is made of reddish-brown stone. Four large statues of men bearing globes of light flank the arched central entryway, from which projects an oxidized metal awning.Helsinki Central Railway Station (detail of the National Romantic/Art Nouveau-style architecture, designed by Eliel Saarinen, and featuring statues by Emil Wikström)

We’ll look at a few characteristics of Finnish that might be easier to grasp for English speakers. Then, we’ll tackle some of the more challenging features of Finnish.

After that, we’ll talk about how to build an effective study plan. Finally, we’ll take a tour of the many resources you can use to facilitate your Finnish studies while stimulating your interest and supporting your progress toward fluency.

Easier Aspects for English Speakers

Even a complex language like Finnish can have characteristics that make learning easier. We’ll focus on a few of these that can be particularly helpful for English speakers.

Writing System

Essentially, Finnish uses the same Latin alphabet as many of its Indo-European cousins — including English. Finnish uses the same 26 letters that are found in the English alphabet, with the addition of three vowels with diacritical (accent) marks.: ä, ö, and å.

Å is called ruotsalainen O (Swedish O). This letter is primarily used in proper names that derive from Swedish. You’ll see it in placenames, especially for areas near the border between Finland and Sweden — such as the Åland Archipelago, the port of Långnäs, and the island of Kråkö.

Be mindful of these “accent marks” (diacritics), which will literally change the meaning of what would otherwise be the same word. For example, säde (ray of light) would mean sade (rain) without its accent mark. It’s helpful to think as the Finns do about this, and see a and ä as two entirely separate letters — as are o and ö.

A blue city limits sign for Jyväskylä, Finland stands in front of a group of evergreen trees. The sign also displays Jyväskylä's coat of arms, which features water, a ship, and a Caduceus, topped with a crown.Jyväskylä city limits sign
Antti Leppänen,
CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Every once in a while, you may see the letters š and ž in loanwords. And, speaking of loanwords, that’s where these so-called “borrowed consonants” can generally be found:

  • b
  • c
  • f
  • q
  • w
  • x
  • z

Despite the few accented letters, learning to read and write in Finnish is definitely much less of a challenge for English speakers than having to learn a whole different script or set of characters, as you might for some other languages.

We’ll look at a couple of easy ways to type the accented letters in Finnish, which you can use with your regular computer keyboard. (If you’re using a virtual keyboard on a mobile device, those accented letters are likely already built in.)

Finnish Spelling and Pronunciation

As compared to English, Finnish pronunciation is fairly straightforward. In general, there is a one-to-one relationship between the letters in a word and the sounds in the word’s pronunciation. While there are some diphthongs, such as the oi combination in the words koira (dog) and poika (boy), you can sound out each vowel in the diphthong and understand how the combined vowel sound is created.

Even as a complete beginner at Finnish, I found I was quickly able to learn to spell simple Finnish words correctly when I heard them.

A yellow building with signs in Finnish declares the presence of an optician's shop in Rauma, Finland. Seated on a bench in front of a shop is a modern sculpture of a red-haired woman.Optician’s shop, Rauma, Finland

Despite fairly uncomplicated spelling, there are a few aspects of Finnish pronunciation that could throw off English speakers.

For example, Finnish uses a rolled R, which you’ll hear in words like terve (hello) and tervetuloa (welcome). If you’re not familiar with how to produce a rolled R, there are several techniques you can try.

In a little bit, we’ll look at double letters in Finnish, which can also present a pronunciation challenge for learners.

Loanwords from English

Aside from sauna, which is pronounced very differently in Finnish than in English, there are few Finnish loanwords commonly used in English.

On the other hand, Finnish has many lainasanoja (loanwords) from English, which you can recognize easily and use to build your vocabulary a little more painlessly. These are common words like idea (idea), helikopteri (helicopter), musiikki (music), kitara (guitar), and taksi (taxi).

A man dressed in an overcoat, with a hat and scarf, sits in back of an array of beer bottles suspended from a curved frame. These comprise his musical instrument.Helsinki street busker playing glass bottles

Articles

Like Russian and a host of other languages, Finnish lacks both definite and indefinite articles. Whether a noun is preceded by a “the,” or “a(n)” is determined by context.

If this sounds complicated, think about the plethora of rules needed in English to explain how these articles are used. If you’re a native English speaker, you don’t need to think twice about this. However, if you were learning English, you’d need to understand some complex rules for using articles.

When you’re learning Finnish, you may discover that it’s surprisingly easy to navigate the language without words meaning “the” or “a(n).”

Grammatical Gender

Just like English, Finnish has no grammatical gender. You’ll never have to worry about memorizing which words are masculine, feminine, or neuter.

You won’t need to make adjectives “agree” with a noun’s gender, as you would in a language like French.

And, since there are no definite or indefinite articles, you needn’t be concerned with using the correct version of “the,” as you would in Spanish—in which la, el, las, and los all mean “the,” and have to be used according to certain rules.

A multistory wooden oblong creates the most visually dramatic part of the ecumenical Kamppi Chapel of Silence in Helsinki.The ecumenical Kampin Kappeli (Kamppi Chapel of Silence), Helsinki, Finland

Subject Pronouns and Possessives

There are no gender-specific subject pronouns in Finnish. Hän is used for both “he” and “she,” as well as the gender-neutral, singular “they.”

Spoken Finnish tends to use variations on the subject pronouns. For example, minä (“I”) might be said as minä, , mää, or mie. It’s important to know this when you’re talking with native speakers, so you can understand them better. If you start out by using the standard, written forms, you should still be understood.

Just like in English, Finnish has different versions of each subject pronoun for use in possessives. In Finnish, possessive adjectives (like “my” in English) are the same as their corresponding possessive pronouns ( like “mine” in English.)

Whereas English has “I,” “my,” and “mine,” Finnish has minä, minun, and minun.

No Irregular Verbs

If you’re not a big fan of memorizing verb conjugations, you’ll be pleased to discover that Finnish has no irregular verbs. This means that all verbs of the same type follow the same patterns.

While there are different ways of classifying verbs in Finnish, most grammars follow the model of six standard verb types. So, once you memorize this set of half-dozen different verb conjugations, you’re set!

Dozens of padlocks adorn Helsinki's Love locks on Helsinki’s Bridge of Love

Syllable Stress

In standard Finnish, words of three syllables or fewer always put syllable stress on the first syllable. Although this varies in some dialects, it’s a good rule of thumb to learn so that your spoken Finnish can be readily understood.

Question Marker

In Finnish, –ko is added to the end of a conjugated verb to indicate that the verb is being used to ask a question. In some ways, -ko makes things simpler for English speakers, since it makes it easier to identify questions in Finnish.

If you were asking a question for which you’d use “is” or “does” in English, you would use the Finnish verb olla (to be) in the present tense, with -ko added: Onko poika ujo? would mean, “Is the boy shy?”

The noun order is important here, just as it would be in English. If you were to ask, Onko mies velho?, it would mean, “Is the man a wizard?” On the other hand, Onko velho mies? would mean, “Is the wizard a man?”

Potential Challenges for English Speakers

Finnish has a beautiful word that embodies a concept you will call upon again and again in your Finnish studies: sisu.

There’s no direct translation to English. Sisu refers to a combination of determination, grit, inner strength, courage, tenacity, and perseverance.

Sisu will keep you going, even when you face these elements of the Finnish language that may seem difficult to grasp.

St. Olaf's Castle, with its round turrets and high walls, rises above the water on a clear, sunny day in Savonlinna, Finland. Olavinlinna (St. Olaf’s Castle), Savonlinna, Finland

Agglutinative Language

In Finnish, words are often built with individual building blocks that get stuck together, unchanged. This is called “agglutinative.” (You might think of it as “glued-together” words.)

Agglutination leads to the creation of very long words in Finnish. An interesting example is saippuakivikauppias, which means a seller of caustic (lye) or a soapstone vendor and holds the Guinness world record for “longest palindromic word” (a word that’s spelled the same backwards and forwards).

Other agglutinative languages include Japanese, Turkish, Korean, Hungarian, Swahili, and Filipino.

In many of these languages, you’ll see very long, single words used to express a complex concept — something that a language like English might use multiple words to express. The parts of these words can be broken apart like Legos, and the roots of the words don’t change.

Once you learn to recognize the root words, prefixes, and suffixes in Finnish, you actually have a better shot at decoding — that is, figuring out the meaning of new words from their component parts. This is because the components of the words themselves become modular: If you can understand the individual parts of an unfamiliar word, you can understand the whole.

A Plethora of Grammatical Cases

Words in many languages sometimes inflect (change their form) to reflect their function. In grammatical terms, we’d say that the words are in different cases. In English, you can see this with the related pronouns “I,” “me,” and “mine.”

Unlike modern English, which only has these three grammatical cases, Finnish has fifteen cases.

Because of all the cases, you might learn to express certain basic concepts, such as possession, very differently in Finnish than you would in English.

For instance: Rather than having a verb for “to have,” Finnish uses the verb olla (to be) in conjunction with a pronoun in the adessive case. This changes the ending of the pronoun representing the person who has something.

Therefore, “I have a musical instrument” would be Minulla on soitin. The pronoun minä, meaning “I” in the nominative case, is now minulla.

A man is seated while playing the kantele, a wooden stringed instrument (similar to a zither) that's traditional in Finland.Playing the kantele (traditional Finnish stringed instrument)

Similarly, sinulla on koira would mean “you have a dog,” meillä on poni would mean “we have a pony,” and hänella on undulaatti would mean “he/she has a parakeet.”

Regardless of who owns what, olla (to be) is always conjugated in the third person singular. So, in all of these present-tense examples, it’s always rendered on.

Double Vowels and Consonants

English rarely uses double vowels — and tends not to change pronunciation much for double consonants.

In Finnish, however, it’s important to learn to hear and pronounce double vowels and consonants correctly, as they directly impact the meaning of words.

Here are a few examples; you can click on the links to hear the words pronounced by native Finnish speakers:

Word with Single Consonant

Meaning in English

Similar Word with Double Consonant

Meaning in English

palo fire pallo ball
kuka who kukka flower
mato worm matto carpet


Vowel Harmony

Finnish has a concept called vowel harmony. It dictates which of the eight vowels in Finnish can be used with each other in a word.

In order to learn about vowel harmony, you’ll need to grasp the phonetics of so-called “back” vowels (A, O, and U, which are pronounced in the back of your mouth) versus “front” vowels (Ä, Ö, and Y, which are pronounced closer to your lips). There are also two “neutral” vowels, I and E.

Learning the rules of vowel harmony will help you with both your Finnish spelling and pronunciation.

No Future Tense

Unlike English and many other languages, Finnish doesn’t have a future verb tense. Generally, the present tense is used to talk about the future in Finnish.

A future time can be indicated by adding words and phrases like ensi viikolla (next week), ensi vuonna (next year), huomenna (tomorrow), or ylihuomenna (the day after tomorrow).

You can also use the genitive case to indicate that action will happen in the future.

A third way to talk about the future in Finnish is to use a conjugated verb like aikoa (to intend) or suunnitella (to plan), along with an infinitive (“to” form) of a verb. Think of English phrases like “I intend to travel” or “I plan to study.”

Formal and Informal Finnish

Like many languages, Finnish has both a kirjakieli (formal) and puhekieli (informal) way of saying things.

Kirjakieli, literally meaning “book language,” follows the more regimented standard of the language that’s used in writing. You’ll hear it used in formal speeches and news broadcasts.

An oxidized bronze statue of author Aleksis Kivi in a contemplative pose. There is a tree and a stone railway building behind the statue.Memorial to Aleksis Kivi, celebrated Finnish author,at the Helsinki Railway Square

Puhekieli, on the other hand, is “speech language.” It mirrors the way people speak informally, in everyday life. (You might also see puhekieli used in informal writing — like in social media, online discussion boards, or blog posts.)

As in many languages, Finnish speakers tend to shorten down the formal language when they’re using it in everyday conversation. So, for example, minä olen (I am) is usually just said as olen, since it will be obvious from the way the verb is conjugated that you’re talking about yourself.

In certain parts of Finland — notably, the south — you’ll often hear mä oon (a shortened form of “I am”) in place of minä olen.

Of course, the spoken versions of English and many other languages have such casual speech conventions. It’s not all that unusual to hear phrases like “I’m gonna” in spoken English, as opposed to “I am going to.” The trick is learning both the standard Finnish and the variations that are used in everyday speech.

Exposing yourself to authentic Finnish media, such as radio, television, films, and podcasts, is one of the best ways to hear and absorb the spoken language. We’ll look at several ways you can find such media to incorporate into your studies.

How you plan to use Finnish, in a formal or informal environment, will help you decide how much time to focus on learning kirjakieli versus puhekieli.

Your Plan for Learning Finnish

No matter what resources you decide to use in your studies, remember to tailor your learning to suit your style and your goals: Study when it makes the most sense for you — whether that’s early morning, late night, or during your lunch break. Focus on the most useful vocabulary for your needs.

The imposing façade of Uspenski Cathedral is covered in red brick a with light green roof. The architecture is a Romanesque style, with rounded arches surrounding windows and doors.Uspenskin katedraali (Uspenski Cathedral), an Eastern Orthodox cathedral in Helsinki, Finland

Resources that mesh well with your learning style might enable you to learn faster or remember better. For example, if you’re a visual learner, image-rich resources such as books with charts or video lessons might facilitate your learning. If you’re an auditory learner, you might favor Finnish music, radio programs, podcasts or audio books.

To keep yourself motivated and learning a wide range of vocabulary, try integrating a variety of learning resources into your study routine. Look for resources that cater to your personal interests. It’s enough of a challenge to understand a text or audio in an unfamiliar language without having to force yourself to sit through material you find boring.

Even though learning a language is a serious commitment, it’s important to enjoy your experience. When we’re relaxed and having fun, our brains produce more dopamine. Dopamine is a neurochemical that gives us a pleasurable sensation, enhances memory retention, and primes our brains for learning.

A loaf of pulla, a traditional Finnish bread served with coffee, sits on a round plate. There is a knife for slicing the bread.Pulla (cardamom bread), a beloved part of the Finnish kahvi (coffee) ritual
Julia, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Learning doesn’t have to be all formal study. Try to think of creative ways you can integrate Finnish into your life, such as baking bread using a Finnish recipe or playing Finnish word games.

Against a stark background of a tawny-gray sky, the white façade of Helsinki Cathedral is vividly colored with pictures by a projected light show. The Cathedral looms above a steep double-flight of snowy stairs.Helsingin tuomiokirkko (Helsinki Cathedral), at Senate Square, illuminated by a light show

The greater the variety of stimulating activities you can incorporate into your Finnish studies, the easier it will be to sustain your motivation for learning — and to remember what you learn.

Resources for Learning Finnish

We’ll explore many types of resources that will keep your learning adventure engaging at every level.

Language Courses and Apps

Especially if you’re starting from scratch, language courses and apps can give you a foundation in Finnish.

Mango Languages

The step-by-step Finnish lessons from Mango Languages will get you speaking right away. The limited material is best for beginners — specifically, ones who are planning to use Finnish for travel and a little socializing.

The lessons are peppered with cultural notes and a few grammar explanations. Auditory learners might enjoy the constant audio engagement from the automated coach who leads you through the lessons. Overall, we found Mango Languages to be easy-to-use and helpful for learners who are new to the language.

Duolingo

One of the best-known apps for learning languages, Duolingo offers a gamified approach that introduces new concepts with easy-to-digest lessons. Exercises include translations, short dictations, vocabulary matching, and identifying the sounds of Finnish words.

Duolingo’s Finnish course is relatively short, as compared to its offerings for languages such as French and Spanish. Even so, it can provide a fairly solid introduction to the language for beginners.

Two Finnish policemen wear reflective vests while patrolling a residential Helsinki neighborhood on horseback. One-storey, red-roofed houses line the street.Finnish mounted policemen in residential Helsinki neighborhood

Anna, a native Finnish speaker and Finnish teacher, produced a video review of Duolingo’s Finnish course. Although she likes the course overall, she notes that there are a few strange word usages and pronunciation errors. This latter point jibes with the audio issues we noted in our review of Duolingo.

Memrise

A popular app for language learners, Memrise comes through with numerous Finnish courses. Here are a few courses you might find helpful at the beginner-to-early-intermediate level:

  • Survival Finnish has really good, clear audio, with very useful basic phrases for travelers. Unfortunately, it’s very limited, as it only teaches 28 words and phrases.
  • Finnish Street Phrases covers conversation and slang, but no there seems to be no audio.
  • Beginner’s Finnish by toby1kenobi has a great deal of vocabulary — over five hundred words — as well as clear audio throughout. However, the words don’t seem to be categorized in any particular way. For example, the numbers from one to ten are divided up among four different levels of the course.
  • To get a jump start on understanding Finnish, consider learning the 3000 Most Common Finnish Words, which was developed by sehiralti. By presenting you with the most commonly used words first, this course follows the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule.
  • The Basic Finnish Grammar course created by leslieulfandre can teach you about pronouns, as well as some of the Finnish cases. It could be a bit confusing, though. For example, hän is defined only as “he” in English; in Finnish, it means both “he” and “she.” The Personal Pronouns unit in the Beginner’s Finnish course by chempsall seems clearer.
  • The Finnish Grammar course by rodrigo.p.reis.7, which is based upon the grammar lessons on the Uusi kielemme website, breaks down several of the cases in great detail. One downside, however, is the lack of audio. Still, this course is useful for drilling concepts such as noun declensions (inflections), verb conjugations, and how to make plurals.

Intermediate and advanced learners seem to have fewer choices among Memrise courses than beginners do. And Memrise addresses grammar points more through memorization than explanation. Nonetheless, we consider it an effective way to build vocabulary, especially for beginners.

FinnishPod101

A podcast-style course, FinnishPod101 will expose you to the spoken language, right from the start. The lessons include vocabulary and grammar tips, as well as cultural tidbits. We found that the organization can be lacking, though. You’ll probably want to supplement this course with other resources.

Pimsleur

If you’re “all ears” when you’re learning a language, you may favor the Pimsleur method. We felt that the lessons were structured well and that the audio-heavy approach gave learners the flexibility to study hands-free. However, if you crave written components to your lessons, you might not find Pimsleur as appealing as other types of courses.

A modern-looking, white lighthouse on the edge of the water in Oulu, Finland graces the sky at sunset.Lighthouse in Oulu, Finland

Glossika

Glossika has colloquial Finnish lessons for learners at all levels. The focus is on listening and speaking, but there’s little grammar covered. Based on our experience with Glossika, you may find it overpriced if you’re only planning to study one language with it.

FSI Conversational Finnish Course

Live Lingua Project hosts both the textbook and the workbook for the Foreign Service Institute’s Conversational Finnish course. Both of these resources come with audio files and incredibly thorough explanations of Finnish grammar, pronunciation, and grammar.

You can also find the complete FSI Conversational Finnish course on the FSI Language Courses website, where you have the option to either access the course online in your browser or download it in its entirety.

The FSI course is completely free. It was designed to teach the language to diplomats, so it can be a bit stilted. Nonetheless, it can give you a comprehensive grounding in the Finnish language.

As we discovered while reviewing this resource, the “catch” is that these courses are dated and have a rather dull interface, hearkening back to the age of photocopied textbooks and audiocassettes.

A small wooden cabin in an area of scrubland on a beach in Finland. The cabin has log sides and a pitched roof.Beach cabin, Finland

Venla

This site is currently “under maintenance”; it seems like there have been no updates since 2017. Nonetheless, there are a number of well-organized, online lessons to explore, and they appear to be free.

At this juncture, the user guide is defunct, several of the links are broken, the audio seems altogether missing, and many of the exercises don’t seem to work well (if at all). All that said, the lessons might be worth a look, if only for their clear cultural notes, dialogues, and grammar explanations.

Finking Cap Club

This is a membership site where you can subscribe, for a moderately expensive monthly fee, to Finnish lessons that include Zoom sessions (as well as independent study).

To get a free taste of their teaching methods, try their YouTube channel — and their blog, which often features Finnish listening exercises.

Osaan Suomea (I Can Speak Finnish)

Ready to plunge into the Gulf of Finland?

No?

How about diving headfirst into Finnish-only language lessons?

At dusk, lighting flashes through a purple-colored sky above a body of water in Finland.Purple lightning on water, Finland

If you’d like to try learning Finnish through Finnish, you can check out Vanajavesi College’s Osaan Suomea (I Can Speak Finnish) program. There are video and audio lessons, written materials, and plenty of interactive exercises. Best of all, the online program appears to be free.

Other Course Options

At this time, neither Rosetta Stone nor Busuu has a Finnish course available.

Given our unfavorable reviews of Loecsen, Bluebird Languages, 17 Minute Languages, and Cudoo, we would not count them among our top picks for Finnish learners. These resources tend to be somewhat disorganized, not very intuitive to use, and rife with errors.

Additional Apps and Tools for Learners

Round out your coursework with these supplementary resources and tools.

Language Exchange Apps

When you’re ready to start speaking Finnish with a conversation partner, these language exchange apps will facilitate the process of finding someone to chat with or text in Finnish.

A small group of friends and acquaintances chatting in Finnish in a café or coffeehouse. Practicing Finnish conversation in a relaxed setting

We gave Tandem, Hello Talk, and My Language Exchange fairly high marks for their ease of use and large communities of active participants. Speaky is also a solid choice, but we found its features a bit limited.

Language Tutor Marketplaces

If you’d like the services of a tutor to give you one-on-one guidance with your Finnish studies, we would say that both italki and Verbling could suit your needs admirably. We also found Preply useful, although not quite as streamlined as Verbling and italki.

Other possible resources for filling your Finnish tutoring needs:


Finnish Dictionaries

Duolingo’s Finnish course has a simple Finnish/English dictionary, as does FinnishPod101. The Duolingo dictionary is powered by Google Translate and provides limited information, but it can be good for a quick-and-dirty translation. The FinnishPod101 dictionary has two-speed sound clips for each word, shows related words, and even gives a few examples in context.

The Finnish-English dictionary on Suomienglantisanakirja.fi will furnish you with even more details, such as parts of speech and basic word forms. It’s also available as an Android app.

A wide view of the harbor in Helsinki, Finland, in daytime. The view features several landmarks, including Helsinki Cathedral.Helsinki harbor panorama

For both iOS and Android, the free Finnish dictionary app from Inspiration Apps provides translations between Finnish and twenty different languages.

Online Grammar Reference

For looking up grammar points, Panu Mäkinen’s site is a reliable resource with lots of examples.

Joel Yliluoma’s page on the Finnish grammatical cases breaks down all the inflections Finnish words might undergo to indicate changes in meaning.

Typing in Finnish

Typing in Finnish with a regular QWERTY keyboard is fairly easy. To produce the ä and ö letters often found in Finnish, as well as the Swedish O (å) you can simply type in the following number code while holding down the ALT key of a Windows computer keyboard:

Finnish Letter

ALT Code

ä ALT+0228
Ä ALT+0196
ö ALT+0246
Ö ALT+0214
å ALT+0229
Å ALT+0197

Penn State University has a page devoted to the codes you need to type letters found in Finnish, as well as Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish. The codes from Penn State should cover both Windows and Macintosh computers.

You can also use an online Finnish keyboard, like the ones from Branah, TypingBaba, and Lexilogos.

The special letters you need for typing on your mobile devices are generally available on the built-in virtual keyboards.

Language Exercises, Games and Flashcards

These resources give you additional practice with Finnish grammar and vocab.

Language Exercises

Sano suomeksi features Finnish language exercises for beginner and intermediate learners, broken down by CEFR level.

For intermediate to advanced Finnish learners, Clozemaster provides practice with vocabulary in context. Beyond the huge bank of fill-in-the-blanks sentences to try, we discovered that Clozemaster offers some additional features under its paid plan that might be worth a look.

A close-up of a player of a Finnish/Karelian skittles game, this image shows numbered wooden stakes planted in sandy soilMölkky, also called Finska, is a modern take on kyykkä (Karelian skittles)

Language Games

Maybe you shouldn’t play with your food, but you should definitely play with your words!

Digital Dialects brings a little fun to your Finnish studies with a variety of vocabulary topics and retro-style games. In addition to fundamentals like numbers, colors, animal words, and months of the year, there are vocabulary builders, games to teach you Finnish phrases, and games for intermediate learners.

Lingo-Play is styled as a course with lessons, but the Play’s the thing that really keeps you learning. Through word scrambles, true/false questions, and matching, you can quiz yourself on your mastery of Finnish vocab.

Two teams compete in a Finnish game similar to American baseball on a field that looks somewhat like a baseball diamond.The Vimpelin Veto play the Koskenkorvan Urheilijat at pesäpallo (“Finnish baseball”)
Santeri Viinamäki, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Even a simple book of Beginner’s Finnish Word Searches can get you more comfortable with Finnish words. You can also try Double Puzzles #009 – Bilingual Word Search – English Clues – Finnish Words by James Michael Melott or Learn Finnish with Word Search Puzzles by David Solenky.

Flashcard Apps

Quizlet is a hybrid flashcard and language game app. As with Memrise, the quality of the community-sourced content is not always consistent. That said, Quizlet offers flashcard decks for many languages — including Finnish — and, in our experience, the games created from each flashcard deck can add a fun twist.

When it comes to build-your-own flashcard apps, we believe that Anki is one of the most flexible, highly customizable ones available. We would consider Brainscape a good alternative to Anki; Brainscape has a sleeker interface than Anki, but you won’t have quite as many options for tweaking your flashcard decks.

A woman with a shopping bag over her arm stands in front of a building while holding up her smartphone. She's taking a few minutes to review her Finnish vocabulary flashcards with an app.Studying Finnish on-the-go with a flashcard app

Study Stack has hundreds of Finnish flashcard decks to choose from. These pre-made decks are community-sourced from teachers and fellow learners. You can also play word games, such as Hangman, Crossword, and matching, based on individual StudyStack decks. Register to make your own flashcard decks.

We feel that WordBit is a flashcard app with an interesting approach: It superimposes a flashcard over your phone’s lock screen, thereby prompting you to study Finnish each time you open your phone.

Websites and Blogs

Developed by both native Finnish speakers and Finnish learners, a number of websites and blogs furnish you with Finnish vocabulary, grammar explanations, learning tips, and cultural insights, as well as lists of other resources for learning Finnish.

Finnish with Anna is ideal for beginners. She provides a handful of free Finnish worksheets in PDF format for practice. Her site links to her YouTube channel, where she tackles kielioppi (grammar) and sanasto (vocabulary).

The FinnishPod101 blog is regularly updated with articles covering topics such as YouTube channels for learning Finnish, Finnish greetings, Finnish sentence patterns, and telling time in Finnish.

A mural in Kotka with a three-dimensional look is painted on the side of a tall building. It shows modern architecture mixed with more traditional styles.Mural in Kotka, Kymenlaakso province, Finland

Venla: Finnish for beginners offers bite-sized blog entries, primarily about Finnish vocabulary, with some posts dedicated to proverbs and idioms. The Venla blog was last updated in 2017, but there are many interesting posts to explore.

Her Finland was created by Varpu, who also runs a YouTube channel with the same name and focus as the website. Both the website and the channel include cultural information, articles about the Finnish language, and posts recommending resources (such as movies, books, and TV shows) for learning Finnish. You can learn colloquialisms, such as funny Finnish phrases, that will increase your understanding of Finnish culture and worldviews.

Fairy Chamber is a blog from a Niina, an artist and native Finnish speaker. It will help you with basics like introducing yourself in Finnish, colors, months of the year, days of the week, and Finnish personal pronouns. Many of the posts are graced with Niina’s artwork. Niina also hosts a YouTube channel with a Finnish Myths & Folklore playlist. (Those videos are in English, but there are some Finnish subtitles.)

Canadian web developer Sean Potts established Study Finnish as a resource for other English-speaking learners. Although Sean is not a native Finnish speaker, he lives in Finland and gives learners a logical, well-organized guide to Finnish. There are sections of the site for Grammar and Vocabulary, as well as an “Other” section with lists of resources such as Finnish videos and YouTube channels, television and music, documentaries about Finnish history and culture. Potts also proposes various tools and resources you can use in your quest to learn Finnish — things like inflection drills (to practice Finnish cases), additional instructional videos, and flashcard resources.

Learn Finnish by My Way is a bilingual blog. It features grammar tips, as well as suggestions for learning Finnish with social media and other resources. It might be particularly useful for helping intermediate Finnish learners strengthen their reading skills.

Two Finnish reindeer, one dark and one light, graze in a field with their impressive antlers.Finnish reindeer

Think in Finnish is the brainchild of Ursula, a native English speaker who has been exposed to Finnish throughout her lifetime. Ursula’s interest led her to study the language at a university level, in addition to creating the Think in Finnish website. She uses the site to explain key Finnish concepts, such as how Finnish words are broken into syllables or how various vowel combinations appear in Finnish. Some of her discussions can get a little technical, so it might help if you already are familiar with linguistic and grammar terminology.

Intermediate and advanced learners will probably enjoy The Finnish Teacher, which supplies plentiful grammar explanations — as well as Finnish textbooks (written in Finnish).

Inverted rowboats line the shore as the sun sets on a beach in Finland. There is snow on the sand.Sunrise on a Finnish beach, in winter

Poetry

Poetry can be especially valuable for intermediate and advanced learners. It introduces symbolic and metaphorical language, as well as highlighting the rhythm and cadences of Finnish.

One of the best-known poems in the Finnish language is Kalevala. Woven together in the 19th century by Elias Lönnrot, a medical doctor and language lover, Kalevala is a multi-volume work, telling the story of creation in the Finnish and Karelian traditions. It is widely considered to be the Finnish national epic.

The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien, who also created Middle Earth and The Lord of the Rings trilogy, was strongly influenced by reading Kalevala. Tolkien even adapted the Kullervo cycle in Kalevala into prose, in a book called The Story of Kullervo. Reportedly, Tolkien also based Quenya, the Elvish language, largely on Finnish — interwoven with smatterings of Welsh, Greek, Latin, and German.

Advanced learners who wish to experience Kalevala in the original Finnish can do so through Project Gutenberg. (Gutenberg also has the English translation by John Martin Crawford.)

Luminarium hosts a small selection of Finnish poetry, including lyrical poems and works by modern poets such as Eeva Kilpi. These poems are presented in Finnish, side-by-side with Anniina Jokinen’s English translations. On the main page of the collection, Anniina includes some translation notes and discusses the place of poetry in Finnish society.

Media

Finland may be spoken primarily in one corner of the globe, but there’s a whole world of resources out there for learners. Mix and match different kinds of media so that you get exposure to all kinds of vocabulary in different contexts. By using written materials in conjunction with multimedia resources such as videos, you’ll be able to practice both Finnish reading and improve your understanding of spoken Finnish.

A view of the glass-covered walls of a city library in Oulu, Finland. Multiple stories of the library stacks are visible, as are some patrons. The library is identified by a purple neon sign in Finnish.City library, Oulu, Finland

Books

Whether print or electronic, books are still one of the most valuable resources for language learning.

Phrasebooks

Phrasebooks can be a way to jumpstart your Finnish studies. They’re geared toward the needs of travelers, and they can help learners get their feet wet with basic Finnish vocabulary and common phrases.

The Finnish-English/English-Finnish Dictionary & Phrasebook by Ville Kataja is more of a phrasebook than a dictionary. However, many learners find the included phrases quite useful and practical. There are also many notes on Finnish history and culture, as well as a pronunciation guide and a section on basic Finnish grammar.

Well-known travel company Berlitz publishes a combination Finnish Phrase Book & Dictionary in paperback form. However, some learners complained that their Finnish friends found several errors in the text.

Lonely Planet’s Fast Talk Finnish is an alternative to these phrasebooks. Throughout the book, you’ll see cultural tips on everything from politely asking out your new Finnish friends to types of dishes found in Finnish restaurants. The book includes notes on regional usage, pointing out variations on common words as used in Turku, Helsinki, Oulu, and other areas. It also breaks down words into syllables, showing you where to put the stress.

Many people laze on the grass to enjoy spring-like weather at a popular park in Helsinki. Esplanadin puisto (Esplanade Park) in Helsinki, Finland

Textbooks, Grammar Books, and Workbooks

Several Finnish textbooks can get you started — or help you continue your journey — as a Finnish learner.

Terttu Leney’s Complete Finnish Beginner to Intermediate Course comes in two different formats. The paperback is pricey, but the ebook version for Kindle is more affordable. However, several people who purchased the ebook reported that the promised audio was inaccessible on many portable devices. Leney’s book is not grammar-heavy, but gives you topical lessons with practical examples and cultural notes.

Maija-Hellikki Aaltio has a Finnish for Foreigners series, levels 1 and 2, with both textbooks and workbooks. The lessons in the series seem to offer more grammar instruction than Leney’s Complete Finnish text. With relatively short lessons, learners found the series thorough yet easily digestible.

Leila White’s From Start to Finnish: A Short Course in Finnish is thorough, with lots of good grammar explanations. It also includes exercises with an answer key. However, even used copies are not inexpensive.

A seated man holds a e-reader, which he is using to study Finnish.Using an e-reader to study Finnish

Finnish Tutor: Grammar and Vocabulary Workbook, by Dr. Riitta-Liisa Valijärvi, provides a wealth of exercises for students at the advanced beginner to upper intermediate levels (A2 through B2 on the CEFR scale). In addition to the grammar exercises, you’ll find exercises to strengthen your Finnish reading and writing skills. You might want to use this in conjunction with a comprehensive Finnish grammar book, however, as several learners found it lacking in essential grammar explanations. Some people also felt that the book was more suited to learners at an intermediate to advanced level.

Intermediate and advanced Finnish learners with some background in linguistics might appreciate Finnish: An Essential Grammar by Fred Karlsson. This book, part of the Routledge Essential Grammars series, is a comprehensive grammar reference that’s available in hardcover, paperback, or as a Kindle ebook.

More economical alternatives to these textbooks are available. The Suomen kielioppi (Finnish Grammar) site has a downloadable PDF of Finnish grammar, circa 2004, available for free.

If you’re a logical-mathematical learner who’d like to get highly technical about Finnish pronunciation, check out Finnish Sound Structure: Phonetics, phonology, phonotactics and prosody by Kari Suomi, Juhani Toivanen and Riikka Ylitalo. This free, downloadable PDF from the University of Oulu digs deep into topics such as pronunciation, vowel harmony, vowel sequences, and even speaker intonation.

Graded Readers, Bilingual Books, and Children’s Books

Both graded readers and bilingual books are helpful tools for easing into Finnish reading. Many graded readers are also bilingual, giving beginning learners the support they need to understand the Finnish texts.

Several children play on an outdoor Nallikari seaside resort, Hietasaari district, Oulu, Finland

First Finnish Reader for beginners by Enni Saarinen is a bilingual, English-Finnish reader. It uses repetition to help you remember the Finnish words you encounter. The stories in the reader dramatize real-life situations such as looking for a job, meeting people, shopping, and studying. Each story is introduced with a glossary, and the Finnish and English texts are side-by-side in the paperback edition. (Although the Kindle (ebook) edition is about half the price of the paperback, some readers complained that the bilingual texts are not displayed on the same pages — so it may not be as good of a value as the paperback version.) The book, which can be used with its accompanying MP3 audio tracks, has material for learners at an elementary level of Finnish to a low intermediate level. You can sample it as a PDF with embedded audio; be warned, however, that the audio files will open in the same browser tab as the text. The series continues with a second volume from the same author.

Learn Finnish: Parallel Text from Polyglot Planet Publishing offers you a line-by-line, stacked English translation of the Finnish text. Unlike the Saarinen series, this book does not appear to have any vocabulary lists or glossaries. It is supposed to be designed for beginning learners, though. One downside may be that the book contains merely four stories. After the sections with parallel Finnish-English text, the same stories are presented completely in Finnish, then completely in English. This may be beneficial if you wish to test your retention of Finnish vocabulary; it removes the temptation to look down at the English text as you’re reading through the Finnish.

In addition to these graded readers, there are several bilingual children’s books you can use for practice, such as Grimmin Satuja (Grimms' Fairy Tales) from Svetlana Bagdasaryan’s My Grandma’s Tales collection or Villijoutsenet – The Wild Swans, an adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s work from Ulrich Renz’ Children’s Bilingual Books series.

Sujatha Lalgudi offers a few Finnish-English bilingual books, including Counting Fun / Laskemisen ilo, Where is the Baby / Missa vauva on, amazon link=”1508739838″ title=”My daddy is the best / Minun isani on paras” /], and Jojo’s Easter Egg Hunt / Jonne ja pääsiäismunan metsästys.

A circle of upholstered chairs sits on the frozen Oulu lake. There are no people in the picture.Outdoor “living room,” Oulu Lake

Elly Gedye’s Eva the Adventurer / Seikkailija Eeva,, translated by Leena Vesterinen and Elli-Stina Parssinen, brings the fantastic voyages of a young lady to Finnish learners through charming illustrations and simple sentences.

Beyond children’s literature, you can find a bilingual version of the New Testament, which will introduce you to a broader range of vocabulary and more complex sentence structures.

When you’re ready to move beyond bilingual books to full Finnish texts, you might try Helsinki-based author Tuula Pere. She has several heartwarming children’s stories, such as Oopperan hiiri (Opera Mouse), Laakson kehtolaulu (The Lullaby of the Valley), or Lauri – pikku matkamies (Lauri, a Little Traveler).

Fiction and Non-Fiction Books

Online shop Book Depository has an astonishing array of titles for Finnish learners. You’ll find everything from textbooks and children’s books to Harry Potter and Disney stories — as well as romance novels, thrillers, biographies, and fantasies. In addition to many translated works, such as Hobitti (The Hobbit) by J.R.R. Tolkien, there are dozens of homegrown Finnish works.

Once you’ve graduated to intermediate or advanced Finnish lessons, you can try more challenging reading. In addition to the myriad titles on Book Depository, online retail giant Amazon offers a few selections on different topics:

Works by contemporary authors can give advanced learners even more insight into current Finnish culture.

Free eBooks and Audiobooks

Finnish learners need not look far for free ebooks. Project Gutenberg offers over 2,000 works, including translations from other languages. You can read these online, or download them in various formats (including MOBI for Kindle, EPUB, and plain text).

Farkas Translations has a small handful of works translated into Finnish, such as Alice in Wonderland, The Hound of the Baskervilles, and The Call of the Wild. You can read these side-by-side with their English versions; some are also available in French, Swedish, Italian, and a few other languages.

A woman sits at a table at a restaurant or café, listening to Finnish audio on with earphones on her mobile phone.Enjoying a Finnish audiobook

For auditory learners and others who want to practice their Finnish listening skills, LibriVox has about two dozen audiobooks to try. These include poetry and short stories.

Loyal Books has both free ebooks and audiobooks in Finnish, available in several downloadable formats. There’s a short summary, in both English and Finnish, for each book.

Finnish News Online

News in plain language is available through the Finnish national broadcasting company, Yle. Each story is narrated clearly, at a slow pace, and captioned in Finnish.

Finland today boasts around three hundred newspapers, so you’ll have no shortage of current-events reading material!

Here are a few you might check out:

  • Kaleva: Established in 1899, this paper is headquartered in Oulu and is known for some investigative journalism.
  • Kauppalehti (“Trade Newspaper”): Based in Helsinki, it focuses on commerce, trade, and financial news.
  • Turun Sanomat (“Turku Dispatch”): Considered the top regional newspaper in Southwest Finland, this paper is published in Turku.
  • Aamulehti (“Morning Newspaper”): Published in Tampere, western Finland, this daily was founded in 1881.
  • Helsingin Sanomat (“Helsinki Times”): Frequently called Hesari and sometimes simply “HS,” this is a newspaper of record in Finland.
  • Iltalehti (“Evening Newspaper”): A relative newcomer, Iltalehti was founded in 1980 and is published six times weekly in Helsinki.
  • Ilta-Sanomat (“The Evening News”): The largest and most direct competitor to Iltalehti, this tabloid has been around since 1932. It’s also based in Helsinki.

To facilitate reading newspapers and other online content, we find a tool such as Readlang helpful to gloss unfamiliar words. Currently, ReadLang can be used with the Chrome browser; you can also use it to make flashcards.

Finnish Music and Radio

Auditory inputs like radio programs and music are great for learning in hands-free mode.

You can livestream hundreds of Finnish radio broadcasts through several websites, including TuneIn, Streema, Online Radio Box, and Live Online Radio. Several of these services also offer apps for your mobile device.

Many sources of Finnish music — in a plethora of genres — can be found online. Amazon boasts thousands of Finnish songs and albums in a wide variety of genres. Search for Finnish music or suomalainen musiikkia on Spotify for many more selections.

A smartphone displays the Spotify app on its screen.Finding Finnish music on Spotify

YouTube gives learners a huge variety of Finnish music, accompanied by images (and sometimes, lyrics.)

Podcasts

In addition to the podcasts we recommend for Finnish learners, three podcasts were suggested by the Finnished channel on YouTube:

  • Auta Antti! (Help Anti) is hosted by actor and writer Antti Holma. In the podcast, Antti answers listeners’ questions and explores a wide variety of topics, from the everyday to the existential. It’s good for intermediate learners and is somewhat easy to follow, since there’s only one speaker. It’s available on Radiot and Apple Podcasts.
  • Bloggers Alexa Dagmara and Linda Juhola bring you Nonsense, which you can stream on Soundcloud. The two friends chat rapidly in Southern Finnish style, truncating many words as they talk about fashion, makeup, everyday life, family, and personal relationships.
  • Lilli and Helena are two Finns who live in France. They host Kahvihetkiä maailmalla (Café au lait), in which they interview Finnish expats in places as far-flung as Vietnam, Canada, Panama, and Moscow.

Finnish media website Radiot has several other podcasts you can try, on just about every topic imaginable.

YouTube for Finnish Learners

If you like learning with YouTube videos, you’re in luck: There’s no lack of choices when it comes to finding Finnish channels for learners.

Learn Finnish with FinnishPod101.com provides structured playlists for all levels. There’s reading practice, vocabulary, and listening comprehension exercises, as well as study tips and cultural notes. The Learn Finnish with Finking Cap channel has a similar setup, with bite-sized videos for beginners.

KatChats Finnish is hosted by a bilingual Finnish-English speaker. It’s targeted at both beginners and intermediate learners. It has plenty of material about vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Kat also has a series of videos completely in Finnish, with optional English subtitles.

A computer monitor shows a page from YouTube on its screen.Several YouTube channels have Finnish lessons, covering many topics

Finnish with Anna is home to a few dozen well-ordered video lessons, with new ones being added on a somewhat regular basis. The videos are generally between ten and twenty minutes long, and cover a wide range of grammar and vocabulary topics. The lessons have clear written material, which Anna reviews slowly and patiently. It would work well for beginners.

To learn to “Speak like a Finn, not like a book,” try LearnFastFinnishDirty. It’s Finnish for beginners, with everyday vocabulary, verb lessons, and an emphasis on speaking. The channel also teaches you to read Finnish news and learn Finnish through music.

The Finnished channel will probably work best for intermediate learners. It uses the “comprehensible input” theory of American linguist Stephen Krashen. The audio portion of the videos is entirely in Finnish; there are Finnish captions, paired with English subtitles, that you can turn on if you are in the lower-intermediate phase of your learning. Rather than emphasizing grammar, the Finnished channel takes a “learn by listening” approach to teach natural, everyday Finnish. There is a lot of repetition; ideally, you should rewatch each video several times, until you understand about 75% of it without the subtitles.

Her Finland isn’t focused entirely on language learning, but there are several videos devoted to it. These include videos recommending books and courses for learning Finnish. A few videos give pronunciation tips, or cover themes such as Finnish greetings and proverbs. The channel is also helpful for learners who want to learn more about Finnish culture and how Finnish people relate to others. The channel is frequently updated with new videos.

Intermediate to advanced learners who are interested in healthy eating, goal-setting, ecology, and fitness might try the juulialilja (July Lily) channel.

Television and Movies for Finnish Learners

To expand your exposure to Finnish as it’s used in entertainment, tune in to Finnish TV programming and try some Finnish cinema. These are programs and films that native Finnish speakers might watch — and they can even serve as conversation starters for you and your Finnish conversation partners.

A person holding a remote control looks at a variety of choices on a streaming service, such as Netflix.Take advantage of your TV time to improve your mastery of Finnish

Finnish Television

Fear not: Finnish television programming isn’t really as portrayed on Saturday Night Live’s Finnish Talk Show.

There’s a good deal of variety, with shows to suit all different kinds of tastes and interests.

Some Finnish TV shows are available for streaming online from Yle, Finland’s national broadcasting company.

Find global culinary adventure with Voiko tätä syödä? ( “Can This Be Eaten?”), a documentary series in the spirit of Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations.

Luottomies (“Wingman”; sometimes called “Credit Man”) is a buddy comedy following the adventure of neighbors Tommi and Juhis. You can watch it with English subtitles or Finnish captions.

Stan Saanila and André Wickström are a Finnish comedy duo who lampoon current events and politics in their series Tämä tästä (“This Here”).

On the other side of the spectrum from comedy, Rankka vuosi (“Tough Year”) is a documentary series about the coronavirus pandemic in Finland.

Many more Finnish TV shows are available on the Yle Areena channel on YouTube.

Through Prime Video and the ad-supported IMDbTV service, Amazon presents a few Finnish series. Look for shows such as Helppo elämä (“Easy Living”), about a man who turns to crime to support his family and Koukussa (“Hooked”), the story of a narcotics agent with a huge conflict between his career and his personal life. For fans of dark comedies like Dead to Me, there’s Mustat lesket (“Black Widows”), which tells the tale of three desperate wives.

Somewhat surprisingly, Netflix has few Finnish series on offer, although you might find the crime dramas Karppi (literally, “Carp,” but called “Deadwind” in English) and Sorjonen (called “Bordertown” in English). Availability of series can vary, depending on the country where you access Netflix. It’s worth checking back every few months to see if new Finnish programming has been added.

You might also be able to access Finnish television programming over your streaming device, possibly for a small monthly charge. Through your Roku, for example, you can access Finland TV, which would typically have regional channels and local programming.

At this time, Hulu, Sling, AT&T/DirecTV, and DISH Network offer no Finnish-language programming packages.

Finnish Films

There are over one hundred years of Finnish cinema to explore as you improve your command of the language. Here are a few more recent picks that you can find on streaming platforms.

Armoton maa (which translates as “Ruthless Land,” but is called “Law of the Land” in English) is an intense action drama. A police officer must live with the criminal actions of one son while facing the outrage of another.

Tie pohjoiseen (“Road North”) is a road-trip dramedy, in which estranged family members try to connect for the first time.

A row of red, wooden houses sits beside the water in Porvoo, Finland. Wooden houses in the historic center, Porvoo, Uusimaa Region, Finland

For a different kind of road trip, try Hevi reissu (“Heavy (Metal) Trip”), a crass comedy in the spirit of Detroit Rock City and animated series Metalocalypse.

Humor and science fiction fans alike might enjoy Star Wreck: In the Pirkinning, which is available for free on YouTube, and subtitled in ten languages. (The English subtitles are open captioned, meaning that they can’t be removed from the video.) Part of an ongoing series, this screwball comedy parodies both Babylon 5 and Star Trek. You can also download it from the Internet Archive.

Additional films you might find through online Finnish media stores:

  • Etsinnässä (“Searching for You”) follows the summertime adventures of Joni, as he travels and tries to find meaning in his young life
  • Tali–Ihantala 1944, called “1944: The Final Defence” in English, is an historical war film named after a battle site
  • Tuntematon Sotilas (“The Unknown Soldier”), based on a famous 1954 novel by celebrated author Väinö Linna
  • Autio maa (“Forsaken Land”) is a post-apocalyptic film about twin Finnish brothers
  • Teidät tuomitaan elinkautiseen (“You Will Be Sentenced to Life”) is the story of a solitary prisoner whose life takes a dramatic and unexpected turn for the better
  • Ricianne Razen tells the tale of its main character, Ricianne, and her interactions and misadventures with friends

Movies can give you a glimpse into everyday Finnish life and language, as well as insight into key points in Finnish history.

.

An entrance to Kittilä Airport in Finland, with snow on the roof and sidewalk of the building.Kittilän lentoasema (Kittilä Airport), Finland, located inside the Arctic Circle

As an old Finnish saying goes, ei kukaan ole seppä syntyessään (“no one is born a blacksmith”). In other words, learning to be proficient at any skill takes time, and you will need to allow yourself to make mistakes.

Learning Finnish well takes a great deal of sisu — inner strength, tenacity, determination, and commitment. If you take advantage of the many helpful resources available, you can keep the process interesting, enjoyable, and productive.

Soon, you will reap the rewards for your efforts as you find yourself able to appreciate Finnish films, literature, music, and more in their original language. And you’ll be able to express yourself confidently suomen kielellä (in the Finnish language).

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Yet what’s the best way to learn Swahili? How long will it take? Which resources should you use? Hold tight, because we’re about to explore everything you need to know to learn Swahili.

We’ll look at where Swahili is spoken, how to create your personalized Swahili study plan, and how difficult Swahili actually is. We’ll also sum up some of the Swahili resources available, from courses and classes through to apps, podcasts, movies, and books. (And we’ll tell you which ones to avoid, too.) Let’s get started.

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West of the Indus River in Pakistan and south of the river Amu Darya in Afghanistan, the ancestral homeland of the Pashtun people awaits you.

The ancient origins of the Pashtuns are unclear, but their cultural identity is strong. Pashtuns live by the Pashtunwali, a rigorous and ancient code of honor that is over a millennium old, far predating the formation of the modern states of Pakistan and Afghanistan where most Pashtuns live.

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About the Pashto Language

Pashto is an Indo-Iranian language. It’s closely related to Farsi, Kurdish, and Balochi, among other languages.

Pashto is native to both Pakistan and Afghanistan. There are smaller groups of Pashto speakers in Tajikistan, as well as Iran.

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The Pashto language is divided into three standards, or dialect groups.

The language’s “soft” dialects, which retain the age-old /zh/ and /sh/ sounds, are known collectively as Southern Pashto—and spoken by about six million people in Afghanistan.

Conversely, the Northern dialects are sometimes called either Paxto or Pakhto. These dialects are sometimes called the “hard” dialects, since they use the /gh/ and /kh/ sounds in place of the older /zh/ and /sh/ sounds. Northern Pashto counts about 9.6 million speakers in Pakistan.

Northern and Southern Pashto are the two primary standards. There’s also a set of Central Pashto dialects, Bannuchi, Waziri, and Dzadrani, which are spoken along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border.

Some sources put the total number of native Pashto speakers in modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan as high 18.5 million.

The Pashtun diaspora has brought between 40 to 60 million Pashto speakers to the shores of many countries all over the world — such as India, the United States, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Iran, Germany, Japan, Australia, and Russia.

Pashto in Afghanistan

The disparity between the number of Pashtuns in Afghanistan and the attitudes toward their language is a delicate subject.

Pashto is a regional language in Afghanistan, and one of the country’s two official languages. The country’s other official language is Dari (Eastern Persian) — which many of its speakers still prefer to call Farsi, or Fārsī-ye Darī. Afghan Pashto, which shares some vocabulary with Persian, is a literary language with a rich written tradition of poetry.

Varying numbers of Pashto speakers in Afghanistan are reported. Some sources say the number is as low as 18% of the population; others claim that it’s as high as 48%. (It’s unclear whether these numbers represent just native speakers, or some speakers who use Pashto as an auxiliary language.)

Ethnic Pashtuns make up the single largest Afghan ethnic group, accounting for about 42% of the Afghan population. Traditionally, they have also held much of the country’s political power.

Despite all of this, Fārsī-ye Darī holds linguistic sway in Afghanistan. About 80% of the country’s communications, from print and electronic media to official government directives and records, are in Fārsī-ye Darī. It’s largely the language of government and of higher education.

Indeed, many Pashtuns are bilingual in Fārsī-ye Darī, which also serves as a common language between several of the country’s ethnic groups. The Pashto language is less likely than Fārsī-ye Darī to be spoken as an auxiliary language by those outside of the Pashtun ethnic group.

Pashto in Pakistan

Pashto is not an official language in Pakistan.

Roughly 15-20% of the Pakistani population speaks Pashto as their native tongue. Like Punjabi, Balochi, and Sindhi, Pashto is recognized by the Pakistani government as a regional language.

Most of Pakistan’s Pashto speakers live in the northern part of Balochistan province and in the northwestern province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which sits above Balochistan on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (A particularly famous Pashtun and Pashto speaker, Nobel prize winner ملاله یوسفزۍ (Malala Yousafzai), is a native of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s scenic Swat Valley.)

The language is also spoken in Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, among other Pakistani cities and towns.

Pashto is the second most-spoken language in the country, with about half as many speakers as the majority language, Punjabi.

However, Urdu and English are the two official languages of Pakistan. Pakistani Pashto borrows some words from Urdu.

Pashto in Pakistan tends to be more of a spoken language, rather than a literary one. Because it is not given state support to promote its use, many speakers do not learn to read and write it in school.

How to Learn Pashto: Hacking the Language for English Speakers

If you’re an English speaker trying to learn Pashto, you might initially feel a bit overwhelmed by how different it is to English.

However, even languages as different from each other as English and Pashto do have some similarities. By keeping these similarities in mind as you study, you can give yourself a few shortcuts to learning Pashto.

Similarly, we’ll touch on a few of the differences that can make learning Pashto a challenge for English speakers. Being aware of these challenges can give you a bit of a head start in understanding Pashto and help you better plan your studies.

After our sneak preview of a few Pashto basics, we’ll talk about how you can optimize your learning time and create the support and structure you need to successfully learn Pashto.

Easier Aspects for English Speakers

Although Pashto and English are like fifth cousins twice removed on the Indo-European language tree, there are still a few “family resemblances,” which might make Pashto a little easier for English speakers to learn.

Adjectives Before Nouns

Like English, adjectives in Pashto go before the nouns they modify. When you describe people or things in Pashto, you can put a descriptive word in the same place you would in English — right in front of the noun.

Loanwords

Even if you can’t read them yet, you’ll doubtlessly recognize some English loanwords when you hear them. For example, پنسل is “pencil” and ډکشنري is “dictionary.”

Both are pronounced quite similarly to their English counterparts. In these examples, though, the stress is on the second syllable in Pashto — the opposite to the stress used in English.

Compound Words

Like English, Pashto has compound words. So, once you learn the word for book, کتاب, you’ll recognize it in کتابچه (notebook or booklet).

Similarly, خوړنځی (restaurant) derives from the Pashto words خوړل (to eat) and ځای (place)…a “place to eat.”

As you progress in your studies, you might start to see simpler Pashto words forming compound words.Use what you already know to help you decode new vocabulary.

Challenges for English Speakers

Let’s look at some of the possible stumbling blocks you may face on your journey to master Pashto.

A Different Writing System

Pashto is written and read right-to-left.

The Pashto alphabet incorporates a Perso-Arabic script that’s very similar to the ones used by Farsi (Western Persian), Fārsī-ye Darī (Eastern Persian), Kurdish, Tajik, and Balochi. So, if you’ve already studied any of those, you may have an easier time with Pashto.

Pashto has its own numeric script, based on the Arabic-Indic numerals. Some of them may remind you of the Arabic numerals we use in English and other Indo-European languages.

Contextual Letter Forms

Pashto letters change when they are connected to one another — generally, much more than Latin letters might when written in a cursive script.

For example: If you were to write the word for “notebook” in Pashto, leaving a space between each letter, it would look like something this:

ک ت ا ب چ ه

However, if it were written properly, with no spaces in between the letters, it would look like this:

کتابچه

Notice how several letters change as they are joined together, some of them contorting to connect to neighboring letters.

Once you’ve gotten a firm grip on the isolated forms of the Pashto letters, take a look at this Pashto alphabet table, which shows the three contextual forms — initial, medial, and final — for each letter.

Pashto Grammar

Pashto grammar will not be a cinch English speakers. Here are some of the main concerns you might have.

Different Word Order

Pashto sentences don’t follow the same word order as English.

In English, we use a subject-verb-object (SVO) word order. In the sentence, “You learn Pashto,” the word “you” is the subject, “learn” is the verb, and “Pashto” is the object.

Pashto uses a subject-object-verb (SOV) word order. So, if you were to reconstruct the example sentence, using Pashto word order with English words, it would read, “You Pashto learn.”

Dropping the Subject

In English, we often use the same verb conjugation for the subjects I, you, we, and they. So, we almost always need to specify who’s doing an action.

Pashto verbs conjugations tend to be more varied than English. Because the verb changes reflect their subjects so well, it’s quite acceptable in Pashto to drop the subject of a verb.

Grammatical Gender and Declension

Pashto incorporates two grammatical genders: masculine and feminine. Like English, it has both singular and plural forms of words.

Nouns and adjectives in Pashto use declension, or form changes, to signify gender, number, and case. These changes are made so that words “agree” with one another in gender and number. For example, if the noun is masculine and plural, any adjectives describing it must be in their masculine and plural forms also.

Words can take on other changes in Pashto, based on their position and function in a given context.

Tricky Pronunciations

Native English speakers may have some difficulty distinguishing similar sounds in Pashto. What seem like nearly identical sounds to anglophone ears can signify very different word meanings in Pashto.

Pronunciation of consonants can be a problem. Pashto often combines more consonants into a single syllable than English would.

Like English, and many other languages, Pashto uses word stress, communicating different meanings by accentuating certain syllables of a word. And, just like English, the stress is generally not written.

However, if you happen to see a phonetic transliteration of a Pashto word, you’re in luck — the word stress is often marked with an acute accent. For example, the word اوږه (shoulder) is rendered in the Latin alphabet as úẓ̌a, with the stress on the first syllable (ú-ẓ̌a).

Your Plan for Learning Pashto

There are several things you can do to make your Pashto study time more efficient, more effective, and more enjoyable.

Know What You Need to Learn

Before you try memorizing a Pashto textbook or signing up for a twelve-week intensive Pashto immersion course, ask yourself a few questions about your goals.

Motivation

Why do you want to learn Pashto? Is it for work? For recreational travel? For social reasons?

Usage and Focus

How will you use the Pashto you learn? For written correspondence? Chatting with acquaintances over the phone? Securing lodging and meals while traveling? Or do you aspire to become a Pashto translator or interpreter?

If you’re using it for travel, you might only need to learn a few key words and phrases to get around. Of course, the more you learn, the more deeply you will experience the culture and the better you will be able to relate to the people you meet.

Other uses for Pashto will require more thorough, dedicated study. Your goals for learning Pashto will help you figure out where to focus your efforts and what level of fluency you would need to meet your goals.

Dialect Group

Do you want to learn one of the Southern Pashto dialects of Afghanistan or a Northern dialect spoken in Pakistan?

Even though these are essentially all the same Pashto language, there are also a lot of differences in pronunciation between the different dialect groups. Switching repeatedly between one dialect group and the other could stymie your learning efforts, especially as a beginner.

Again, your planned use for the language—where and with whom you’d like to speak Pashto—will help you find your direction.

Decide How You Will Learn

Once you have the answers to these questions, figure out your time frame. Then you can realistically plan how to achieve your desired fluency, given how much study time you have.

Maybe you can only fit in a couple of hours of study on the weekends. How can you make that time really count?

Regular Practice

Pashto will take many months — possibly, many years — to learn well. It will not happen overnight.

You must be patient with yourself as you learn. Learning any language can be demanding, and Pashto is not the easiest language for an English speaker to learn.

Give yourself time to learn and absorb the language. Commit to consistent study, which helps you grow your knowledge slowly and powerfully.

You don’t want to overwhelm yourself. You want to build, little by little.

Pace yourself, but maintain your momentum. One small achievement will get you primed for more challenges and more learning. Celebrate your victories. Keep a language journal and write down what you’re learning as you go along.

If you keep your learning commitment and study steadily, you’ll be amazed by all that you can learn in a relatively short time.

Perfecting Pashto Writing

If you’re serious about learning to write in Pashto, consider practicing writing it longhand. Learn to write the isolated letters in the alphabet, then move on to writing Pashto words.

Studies have shown that writing in longhand has distinct benefits for engaging the brain. It stimulates memory and learning. Like writing in cursive, writing in Pashto script requires concentration and eye-hand coordination.

Writing by hand strengthens your grasp and memory of the new script you’re trying to learn in a way that typing cannot. When you’re typing, your fingers strike any key using the same basic action. Your brain doesn’t make the complex associations it would to produce each particular stroke of a handwritten letter, or to connect letters together in a script.

To practice writing Pashto’s Perso-Arabic script by hand, jot down new Pashto vocabulary in a journal. Use a small whiteboard to write the same words, over and over, like Bart Simpson doing his chalkboard penance in his 4th-grade classroom. Not only will writing in Pashto become easier and more natural to you, you’ll also get a chance to reinforce your memory of individual words.

As you write out new words, try using the four Pashto diacritics (accent marks), which serve as helpful pronunciation reminders for students. You won’t see these in normal Pashto text, but they can be invaluable when you’re learning pronunciations.

Pashto Pronunciation

To learn correct pronunciation, expose yourself to as much Pashto speech as possible. We’ll look at some authentic sources for Pashto audio — like radio, music, podcasts, and television.

Listening is the foundation for good pronunciation. After all, how can you speak Pashto well if you don’t know what it’s supposed to sound like?

Once you have confidently learned some basic conversational phrases, you can start to engage in conversation. We’ll look at a few ways you can find Pashto conversation partners, or maybe even a one-on-one tutor to improve your listening comprehension and speaking skills.

Resources for Learning Pashto

Setting out to learn Pashto might remind you a bit of Robert Frost’s poetry: It is a road “less traveled by.”

In the magical world of internet interconnectivity, there are nearly unlimited resources for English speakers learning languages such as Spanish, French, Italian, Arabic, Mandarin, and German. By contrast, resources for English speakers learning Pashto seem scant.

Pashto Language Courses and Apps

Despite a fairly large number of speakers — in the neighborhood of 50 million worldwide — the internet is not teeming with Pashto courses.

Well-known language platforms like Duolingo, Glossika, Rosetta Stone, and Busuu are not yet offering Pashto.

Mango Languages

The scope of the Pashto curriculum on Mango Languages is limited. There’s only one unit for Pashto, called “Basics.” (Compare that to Mango Language’s Latin American Spanish course, which has five main units, plus six specialty units.)

Still, Mango Languages can be a good pick for absolute beginners. The Perso-Arabic script is very clear and easy to read in Mango Languages, which is a bonus for beginning learners. Even after repeating just a few words in the opening dialogue, I felt as though I could pick out the letters for certain sounds, such as the characters corresponding to “m” and “l.”

Mango Languages’ Pashto lessons include cultural notes about Pashtunwali, the ancient code of honorable conduct in the Pashtun culture. These pieces of advice may serve you in good stead, should you choose to speak Pashto with natives — especially in one of its native countries. For example, you’ll know not to offer your hand for a handshake if you’re greeting someone of the opposite sex.

Memrise

An app like Memrise takes a different approach to language learning than some other learning methods. Its offerings are called “courses,” but it does not teach its curriculum in the more traditional manner favored by resources like Mango Languages.

Rather than presenting lessons with grammar and cultural notes, and explaining new concepts and vocabulary step-by-step, Memrise is more like a gamified set of quizzes. Memrise’s spaced repetition system gives you repeated word exposure, which can be a great tool for reinforcing your retention of Pashto words. You’ll show your recognition and recall of Pashto words in different ways through Memrise, doing multiple choice and fill-in-the-blanks exercises.

There are numerous Memrise Pashto courses for English speakers. The community-created study decks can give you a wide variety of choices. However, since anyone can freely contribute a course through the Memrise platform, the course designs, included features, and quality standards may vary. Some courses lack audio; others use phonetic versions of words, rather than the Pashto alphabet, to write vocabulary.

You can try a few different courses to see which ones best suit your needs, without spending anything but a little time. All course materials are accessible with a free Memrise membership, and some premium features — like “Learn with Locals” (video of native speakers) or “Grammarbot” — aren’t yet available for several of the Pashto courses.

Pimsleur

This well-known program can be particularly good for boosting oral language learning. Currently, Pimsleur offers a monthly Pashto plan with a free trial.

Pimsleur’s Pashto courses, which teach the Afghani standard of the Northern dialect, are also available as MP3 or CD packages. Each level contains thirty lessons; if you’re between levels, you can go à la carte and buy just five lessons at a time. Pimsleur has recently added interactive exercises and reading lessons to its strong oral language foundations, as well as some interesting options like Driving Mode, household lesson sharing, and integration with Amazon Echo.

Instant Immersion

Instant Immersion does not rank highly as compared to more modern resources. That said, it could be a low-budget alternative to Pimsleur for beginning Pashto learners who want to focus on listening and speaking. There are also some games and exercises included in this downloadable software, as well as virtual flashcards and pronunciation practice.

Instant Immersion teaches Pashto as it’s spoken in Afghanistan. The program, while topically organized, doesn’t offer the type of curriculum that will give you a strong foundation in the grammar or syntax of the language. In addition, it does not appear to have a linked mobile app.

ILoveLanguages

At first glance, the Pashto lessons on ILoveLanguages.org may look much like those found on MyLanguages.org and Learn101.org: All three sites use a similar organizational interface, with left-hand sidebars and simple tables for navigation. Lessons on all three sites consist largely of Pashto word lists with English translations. (The ILoveLanguages’ site is a bit more colorful, with a cleaner, more striking aesthetic.)

However, ILoveLanguages offers something more, and it’s an important difference: For almost every word or phrase, there’s matching audio, recorded by a native speaker. While the other sites may provide some audio — MyLanguages.org, for example, has downloadable MP3s for the Afghani or Pakistani versions of their Pashto Audio Lessons — it’s unclear how these correspond to the written lessons on the site.

ILoveLanguages has nicely integrated the audio clips into the vocabulary and grammar tables of the lessons, so it’s very clear which clips match which words and phrases — all you have to do is click on the green “speaker” icon on the same line of the table with the vocab you’re studying.

The site lacks a lot of features, such as interactive exercises or a way to practice speaking. It can, however, help you with pronunciation and learning a lot of basic, useful words and phrases.

Other Pashto Learning Apps

There are a few Pashto learning apps for Android and iOS that don’t have corresponding web-based courses. They generally teach basic words, phrases, pronunciation, and a bit of grammar through the convenience of your mobile device.

Bluebird Languages is a language-learning app that boasts phrasebook-style lessons for over 160 languages, including Pashto. The Pashto curriculum only includes Core Vocabulary (by category) and Powerful Phrases. There appear to be no Daily Lessons, Creating Sentences, Conversations, or Essential Verbs units, as there are for other languages on the app. If you’re using the app on a free plan, the Powerful Phrases unit is locked.

Nonetheless, you can still learn some basic Pashto vocabulary with Bluebird Languages. There are images to illustrate words, which may appeal to visual learners. There’s also native-speaker audio to help you learn the proper pronunciations, in an approach that’s reminiscent of both Pimsleur and Mango Languages. While much of the lessons consist of learning phrases, some of the phrases you’ll memorize could be useful for tourists and travelers.

One minor learning impediment may be that the Pashto text is fairly tiny on a mobile device. Since there is currently no web version of Bluebird languages, you may have difficulty learning the spelling of the Pashto words if you’re still familiarizing yourself with the Perso-Arabic script.

Qvyshift LLC offers Learn Pashto: Pashto (Pak.) Basic Phrases for Android users, but it hasn’t been released for iOS yet. With a simple, white-on-black interface to teach Pashto as it’s spoken in Pakistan, the app focuses on military phrases. For those still learning the Pashto alphabet, phonetic versions of the words in the Latin alphabet are included, as well as audio to help with pronunciation. The emphasis seems to be more on speaking than reading, since the Perso-Arabic script is only about half the size of the English translations.

The Qvyshift app may not be the best pick for visual learners, since its rather plain presentation lacks images to represent any of the words.

A more colorful choice for Android users would be Learn Pashto by Maihan Nijat (Sunzala Technology). With words organized by categories, this app includes simple illustrations, audio, grammar, and quizzes to test your Pashto progress. It even breaks down the Pashto alphabet into its contextual forms, helping you to learn how letters look in different positions (initial, medial, and final).

There seem to be fewer Pashto learning apps for iOS users than for Android users, although there are numerous Pashto dictionary apps for the iPhone or iPad.

Learn Pashto by Cyber Designz claims that you can “learn Pashto in 7 days” with their iOS app. Not all users seem to agree. The featured content:

  • Vocabulary
  • Grammar
  • Phrases
  • Basic conversation
  • Numbers
  • Alphabets
  • Offline audio dictionary

Like many Pashto-learning apps, Cyber Designz’ efforts offer a phonetic version of Pashto words and phrases, written out in the Latin alphabet.

Those with Apple devices can take their Pashto learning on the road with Learn Pashto via Videos by GoLearningBus. This app organizes words and phrases into different “buses” for different levels, such as a “school bus” for beginners, and a “college bus” for more advanced students. It includes a visual dictionary, audio for pronunciation, flashcards, and quizzes.

One feature that particularly stands out in the GoLearningBus app is the writing practice, which helps you to learn to write Pashto by tracing individual letters with your finger or stylus. User reviews of this app were mixed, though, and much of the content is only accessible after you purchase the app. Another caveat is that the app does not appear to have been updated since 2016, and may not be compatible with your device.

Other Pashto Apps

The following apps do offer some Pashto curriculum. However, we did not feel that the quality of these programs was likely to make them good learning resources:

Language Exchange Apps

When you’re learning to speak another language, there’s really no substitute for a conversation partner.

Depending on where you live, though, it may not be easy to find people who speak the language you’re studying. This can be especially true for a language like Pashto, which doesn’t have a plethora of learning resources in the English-speaking world.

We’ve reviewed language exchange apps like Tandem, Hello Talk, and Speaky, all of which can help you find Pashto conversation partners online. The Tandem experience is particularly personalized; when you sign up, you’ll be asked about your favorite topics, your ideal language partner, and your learning goals. Similarly, Speaky will ask you to pick your personal interests from a list, with the goal of finding compatible conversation partners.

My Language Exchange doesn’t have a fancy interface — but it has plenty of Pashto speakers looking for conversation partners, so it’s worth checking out.

Since Pashto in Pakistan is spoken somewhat differently than the standard used in Afghanistan, you may wish to scan for speakers based in areas where your desired dialect is spoken.

Language Tutor Marketplaces

For more structured, one-on-one instruction, try a tutor. We’ve reviewed both italki and Verbling, two online marketplaces for finding language tutors.

You can find Pashto tutors on eithefr site. Verbling makes it especially easy to find a tutor who speaks the variety of Pashto you’re studying; just look for the globe icon with each teacher’s profile to see where they’re from. On italki, you’ll see a small flag icon overlapping each tutor’s avatar. The flag indicates the tutor’s country of origin.

Verbling offers a free trial lesson; a tutor trial on italki is usually presented at a discounted rate.

Other Pashto Learning Resources

In addition to language courses and learning apps, supplementary Pashto learning resources — such as dictionaries, typing tools, flashcards, and blogs — can enrich your language-learning experience.

Lists of Pashto Resources

You can find one of the more extensive lists of Pashto language resources on The Afghanistan Analyst website. It features various types of resources, including textbooks, dictionaries, television, radio, and university language programs. (As of this writing, it had last been updated in May 2017.)

The Lexilogos site also hosts a page with a list of Pashto language resources, such as dictionaries, essays, online lessons, and a few antique grammar textbooks.

Online Pashto Dictionaries and Dictionary Apps

Rely on a good Pashto dictionary to help you understand and learn new words. Many of these are free, so you might try a few to see which you like best.

Android users might enjoy the Pashto Dictionary app developed by Maihan Nijat. This app is customizable, allows you to keep a list of favorites, and has an integrated conversation feature for sending definitions to friends.

This English Pashto Dictionary app for Android can help you find word meanings while you’re out and about. It gives English meanings for Pashto words, and vice versa. The app includes automated pronunciations, a study plan, a word game, auto-suggestions for words, and an offline mode. Some users reported that a few of the definitions were incorrect; others felt that the word bank was limited in scope. Even so, most users seemed satisfied with this dictionary app.

iOS users can try this English Pashto Dictionary app, by a different developer. This iOS app has similar features to the Android app of the same name.

The Pashto Dictionary Pro app for your iPhone or iPad is another option. It allows user contributions, so you can add words and definitions to help other learners.

Qamosona.com is home to Pashto dictionaries providing translations for a multitude of languages — including Chinese, English, German, Japanese, Indonesian, French, Spanish, Swedish, Russian, and even Latin. Learners with an Android device can also enjoy the matching Qamosona app.

Part of a non-profit project, thePashto.com offers an online Pashto-English dictionary, as well as both an Android and iOS dictionary app.

Typing in Pashto

To type in Pashto, you’ll need a special keyboard. You can access a few Pashto keyboards online through your web browser, or use a Pashto keyboard app for your favorite mobile device.

Try several different keyboards to find the ones you like best. The more comfortable you feel with the keyboard interface, the more likely you’ll practice writing texts and emails in Pashto.

Web-based Pashto keyboards:

Various virtual Pashto keyboards are available for both Android users and those with iOS devices. Some of them incorporate emojis for the full texting experience. Many of them are free.

Blogs and Websites for Pashto Learners

Blogs are a casual way to learn about everything from common Pashto expressions to core cultural customs. They’ll bring flavor and nuance to your language learning.

The Pashto Language Blog from Transparent Language explores numerous topics, such as polite words and phrases, vocabulary words, verb conjugation, learning to read Pashto script. It also delves into Pashtun culture, particularly in Afghanistan. While you’re visiting the blog, check out the Pashto Word of the Day, complete with audio and an example sentence.

While no longer active, the Learn Pashto Language blog is an archive of dozens of articles. Learn Pashto words for computer and internet terms, ponder Pashto proverbs, and enjoy poetry. Bear in mind, though, that some of the links in this blog may have expired.

Intermediate and advanced learners may enjoy Pashto Zeray, a website providing access to spoken Pashto poetry, music, radio, television, and the Christian Bible in Pashto, in audio and written form. You can look at the site in either English or Pashto.

In addition to blogs, there are websites devoted to the study of the Pashto language. Advanced learners in particular might appreciate the efforts of the Pashto Academy. Based at Peshawar University in Pakistan, the Academy undertakes scholarly study of the Pashto language, and works to promote the study and use of the language. (Their site is viewable in both Pashto and English.)

The Pashto Academy publishes a Pashto language journal, appropriately called Pashto. It comes out twice a year, and is Pashto-English bilingual.

Pashto Language Exercises, Games and Flashcards

Here are a few interactive learning tools that will help you practice Pashto without pressure. They might even entertain and relax you, allowing your brain to absorb more.

Language Exercises and Games

Unfortunately, the Internet is not rife with Pashto language exercises. Even standby Clozemaster, which we’ve found to be a reliable source of intermediate vocab exercises, does not yet count Pashto among its dozens of languages.

One of the few sites to offer Pashto language games is Digital Dialects. These cover basics such as colors, days and months, fruits and vegetables, and numbers. The design is a bit ‘90s retro, but the games in this internet nostalgia trip are still useful for learning fundamentals.

Pashto Joke Collections

Jokes are an entertaining way to learn Pashto vocabulary and get more experience with sentence structure. They have the added benefit of showing you what Pashtun culture finds funny, which can give you insights into the mindsets of some Pashto speakers.

Pashto Jokes by Maihan Nijat is like a book in app form. It’s available for both iOS and Android, and would be a good choice for intermediate learners.

Want to tickle your funny bone some more? Try the Pashto Jokes پښتو ټوکې app, from developer Khoshal Saidy, on your Android device.

Flashcard Apps

Both Anki and Brainscape have a small handful of Pashto flashcard desks. Brainscape’s interface has many features in common with Anki, but with sleeker aesthetics. Anki is extremely customizable, but has a more utilitarian interface and a steeper learning curve for new users.

These flashcards can be helpful for learners trying to memorize written Pashto. However, none of the Pashto decks for either app seem to have any audio. If you need any help pronouncing these words, you might consider using Forvo, which currently has audio files for over 1,500 Pashto words.

The good news is that both applications give you the tools to make your own multimedia flashcards. So, if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, you can create your own Pashto flashcard decks with audio clips and images. Sources like the aforementioned Forvo can supply native audio. Use your imagination and a royalty-free image site like Pixabay or Pexels to find pictures to go with your new words.

To put your flashcard vocabulary into context, you can try a site like Tatoeba, which has crowd-sourced sentences that are then translated into multiple languages. Currently, the site brings you a few dozen sentences in Pashto.

Pashto Media

When you’re learning any language, it’s a good idea to round out your studies with other kinds of media besides courses and apps.

By incorporating media such as books, news, radio, and television into your routine, you will learn more about Pashto as it’s used every day by native speakers.

Your Pashto vocabulary will broaden and become more nuanced. You will grow to understand more about Pashtun culture.

Perhaps equally as important, your interest in learning the language will be regularly stimulated — especially if you focus on topics that you enjoy.

Pashto Books

For a light-hearted approach to learning the Pashto alphabet, try My First Pashto Alphabets. It’s illustrated, with an example for each Pashto letter. Contrasting colors highlight the letter being taught.

Textbooks

Dr. Rahmon Inomkhojayev, from Indiana University, has written a series of Pashto textbooks based upon the Afghan standard of Pashto. There’s an elementary-level textbook in two volumes, followed by an intermediate textbook. (Inomkhojayev’s elementary-level textbook is the required text for the Online Pashto Course hosted by the Center for Languages of the Central Asian Region at Indiana University, Bloomington.)

A reprint of an older text, Introduction to Pushtu: An Official Language of Afghanistan by Qazi Rahimullah Khan, gets mixed reviews. As it was originally published in the 1930s, some learners feel that a lot of the language and examples are outdated. However, it can still provide a fairly solid — albeit somewhat stilted — introduction to the language. Logical-mathematical learners, who prefer to learn in a structured manner, might appreciate the systematic approach this volume takes.

Bilingual Books

Bilingual books are a great choice, especially for beginning and intermediate Pashto learners. The Hoopoe Teaching-Stories series, largely based on traditional tales and authored by Idries Shah, can ease you into reading Pashto while entertaining you with folk stories such as The Lion Who Saw Himself in the Water, The Stranger’s Farewell, and The Boy Without a Name.

Pashto Readers

The Pashto Reader, published by the Center for Applied Linguistics in 1992, may be read online via the Internet Archive, or downloaded as a free PDF or ebook in the Kindle, ePub, DAISY, or plain text formats. Intermediate learners may find this reader a particularly helpful and convenient resource, as it includes vocabulary lists, tips on language usage, historical and cultural information, and analytical notes for detailed reading. There are also jokes and poetry, which were primarily sourced in Pakistan. All of these features will assist learners in reading Pashto more thoroughly, as well as getting a better grasp on Pashto language and Pashtun culture in both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Books of Pashto Poetry, Short Stories, and Novels

Pashto Stories presents Old and New Testament stories from a Pashto perspective. There are downloadable audio and video versions accompanying the texts. In addition, you can download PDF versions of short books, such as A Treasury of Knowledge and Daily Strength.

For intermediate and advanced learners, Bookmaza presents free PDFs of scanned Pashto books. (Many of these appear to be older, public-domain-type texts.)

Additional Pashto novels, poetry, and short stories can be found on Pukhto.net. Like the texts on Bookmaza, these can also be read online or downloaded as PDFs.

Advanced learners may appreciate the opportunity to learn other subjects through Pashto, using these Pashto school textbooks from the Afghan Ministry of Education.

Pashto News Online

The BBC hosts a Pashto news page, with information about events in both Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as international news.

The Daily Wahdat is based in Peshawar, Pakistan. It appears to be Pakistan’s primary written news source in Pashto.

There are a few Pashto-language news publications in Afghanistan; most of them also have an English version, which can be helpful for learners:

Khyber News TV, branded as “the only Pashto news and current affairs TV channel in Pakistan,” is a good choice for intermediate Pakistani Pashto learners. In addition to its YouTube channel, it presents video and written content in both an English version and a Pashto version on its website.

Pashto Music and Radio

Streaming Pashto radio stations are limited in number. There are a few, though. Some broadcast news exclusively; others are dedicated to Pashto music.

Radio Free Afghanistan has a news site on which you can stream current broadcasts live — just look for the “speaker” icon at the top of the site. You can also read articles and watch news videos. In addition, the site hosts a few podcasts.

Voice of America broadcasting has a similar setup to the Radio Free Afghanistan site.

Pashto Radio, a music station based in Toronto, Canada, is streamable through TuneIn.com. (Recently, an update to the Google Chrome web browser made it incompatible with TuneIn, but you can still listen on TuneIn’s “pop-out player” on Chrome — or you can use the Firefox or Microsoft Edge browsers.)

A few different archives of Pashto music reside on Soundcloud, including Surspeen’s Best Music Best Pashto Tapy, Waya Waya Pashto – PTI Songs, and salman buledi baloch. These are largely Electronica and dance.

Spotify has a small selection of Pashto music, including a playlist of about 100 songs from Pakistan. These songs are largely adult contemporary, with a combination of traditional and electronic instruments accompanying the vocals.

Pandora hosts Pashto radio and music, including Zakir Hussain’s Pashto Radio. The search for “Pashto” can be a little fuzzy, though, resulting in hits that have nothing to do with Pashto language or culture.

You can find hundreds of Pashto songs on YouTube, in a variety of styles.

Patari claims to have the “biggest collection of Pakistani audio.” Some of this is in Pashto; it includes both music and podcasts. You’ll need to create an account to sign in and explore the collection.

Pashto Podcasts

Podcasts in Pashto give intermediate and advanced learners the opportunity to focus on listening comprehension. They deal with many topics and come from a variety of sources.

SBS Australia streams an extensive and frequently updated Pashto podcast series. It includes news from both Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Both BBC Pashto and Voice of America Pashto have archived some older podcasts on Soundcloud. While these no longer provide current news, they might still be good practice for intermediate or advanced learners, who might already have some knowledge of the events discussed.

On Spotify, the Islam Pukhto k podcast explores Islam.

Faisal Khan and Shafeeq Gigyani produced a limited, eleven-episode podcast series: Pashto Podcast on Education & Economy.

YouTube for Pashto Learners

YouTube is one of the richest sources of Pashto learning materials for English speakers. Videos tend to be a dynamic learning modality. They can appeal particularly to both auditory and visual learners. Most of the Pashto-learning videos on YouTube are intended for beginner and intermediate learners.

Intermediate and advanced learners, though, have a lot of Pashto music and other content to explore.

Alliance Bay Realty hosts an older YouTube channel for the now-defunct American Pashto Academy. It features a tremendous number of videos for beginning Pashto learners to acquire the Pashto alphabet, basic vocabulary, and grammar. Most of the Pashto is paired with an English translation, as well as a phonetic (Romanized) version of the Pashto words.

The series also includes cultural notes, a group of videos to help you read newspapers in Afghani-standard Pashto, and even a playlist of Pashto music videos. The singers in these videos are largely accompanied by acoustic and traditional instruments. (Unfortunately, several of these are marked “deleted” or “private” at this time, probably due to copyright issues.)

MilitaryLinguist presents about a dozen no-nonsense lessons for learning Pashto. Pashto words are presented in both romanized phonetic versions and Perso-Arabic script. The phonetic versions of the words use acute accent marks to show word stress, and the Perso-Arabic script has been annotated with the diacritics to indicate the short vowels. There’s also an English translation for each word. The audio is only in Pashto.

A newer channel with fairly frequent updates, English to Pashto Learning eschews the phonetic representations of Pashto words, and only displays them in the Pashto alphabet. Presenter Kashif Momand includes English translations, although there are noticeable errors in some of the English used.

Since much of the commentary in the videos is in Pashto, rather than English, this might be a better channel for intermediate learners — absolute beginners would probably be very quickly lost.

The channel has particularly rich content for learning grammar, with a special focus on verb tenses and modal verbs (such as should, will, and might.)

For intermediate and advanced learners, PB (“Pashto Beats”) Studio Music, based in Pakistan, has a wealth of Pashto songs — many from Pakistan, with a few from Afghanistan. They also post about one high-def, full-length Pashto film each year, such as Ilzaam (2017) and Gandageer (2018).

LemarTV is a particularly good find, in that it’s one of the few exclusively Pashto broadcast channels, based in Afghanistan. It may be best to enjoy the content through YouTube. (If you’re using the Chrome web browser, the station’s website will automatically push out an Adobe FlashPlayer install, which you might want to avoid. This appears not to be an issue in the Microsoft Edge or Firefox browsers, however.)

1TVNewsAF, from Afghanistan, has literally hundreds of videos from news broadcasts and the station’s morning magazine. There are political programs, news reports, sports coverage, and debates. Much of the content is in Pashto, but there is also some in Dari. The channel has an app for both Android and iOS, so you can watch videos whenever you have a few spare moments.

The Nabil Miskinyar channel hosts an archive of Afghani Pashto programming, mostly news. At least some of these videos originate from California-based Ariana Afghanistan television.

Pashto Television and Movies

When it comes to finding Pashto films and TV programs on streaming channels, you might need to go beyond more mainstream options like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime. While all three of these services — Netflix in particular — are known for carrying some international programming, Pashto learners may be disappointed by the lack of Pashto fare. In addition, searches for “Pashto” and “Pashtun” shows on these platforms can be misleading. Often, such searches will yield a list of programs with English, Arabic, Urdu, or Hindi language options — but little, if any, Pashto.

Similarly, Sling, AT&T/DirecTV, and DISH Network, all of which have a plethora of international television packages, aren’t offering Pashto packages at this time.

Roku, a popular streaming device with hundreds of channels you can add, comes through with multiple possibilities for Pashto learners:

  • Northbay TV caters to an Afghani audience, with content in Pashto, Dari, and Farsi
  • Almahdi TV hosts religious programming in Pashto
  • PakistanTV likely has local programming, possibly with some in Pashto

As with many international channels on Roku, additional monthly fees may apply for each channel you add. That said, the fees are usually in the neighborhood of a dollar per month, per channel. So, depending on your Pashto level and your learning goals, you may find such channels a worthwhile investment.

Ariana Afghanistan International Television can be streamed live online. Some content will be in Dari or Farsi, but some is in Pashto.

Darya is a movie and television channel featuring programming in Pashto, as well as Farsi and Dari. There’s content from Afghanistan, Korea, Turkey, India, and other countries. These shows include cartoons for kids, sports, documentaries, music and talent shows like Afghan Star (similar to Pop Idol or America’s Got Talent), and news broadcasts. You can watch Darya on both Roku and Amazon Fire TV devices.

The Afghan Live TV website is a streaming gateway for various Afghani channels. There are a few television channels and radio stations with Pashto programming, normally mixed with shows in other languages. You may run into streaming restrictions for certain channels, based on your location.

Pashto Movies: Welcome to Pollywood

Pollywood has been used to refer to Pashto films that are from Pakistan — specifically, from the province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, where Pashto is most spoken in that country. Confusingly, “Pollywood” can also mean Punjabi cinema, as you might discover when searching for that term on Amazon or other video sources.

Afghanistan has its own Pashto cinema, which — largely due to changes in the country’s political climate — has grown considerably since 2001.

At this time, it can be hard to find Pashto films outside of Afghanistan or Pakistan, although you may find a few films on YouTube channels like the aforementioned Pashto Beats.

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As the Pashto saying goes, که غر لوړدی په سرلارلري (“Even if a mountain is very high, there is a path to the top.”). Keep climbing, take the road less traveled, and it can make all the difference in your quest to learn Pashto.

How to Learn Danish: A Deep Dive Into Studying Dansk

Dreaming of traveling through picturesque Denmark, breezily ordering smørrebrød and making friends with locals? Or perhaps you’re hooked on gritty Danish TV shows and want to understand what that glowering detective is really saying.

Regardless of why you want to learn Danish, you’re in for a fun and rewarding experience. It won’t take long until you’re humming along with Danish music, coming out with those ironic jokes the Danes are famous for, and making (virtual or real-life) Danish-speaking friends.

Let’s take a look at some of the Danish courses, apps, and other resources available to you. We’ll also talk about how to create your Danish study schedule and whether Danish is really as difficult as it sounds.

A Quick Introduction to the Danish Language

Love history? Adventurous epics? The Vikings? You’ll love studying Danish. The oldest written examples of it in existence are runic inscriptions. It’s also the closest existing language to Old Scandinavian, the language of the Vikings.

Even today, there’s some degree of mutual intelligibility between Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish (although this can be overstated). This is in part thanks to the powerful fourteenth-century Queen Margaret I of Denmark. She defied gender-based norms for her period to unite most of Scandinavia – although she then had to make herself regent and appoint her male relatives as rulers. After all, it was the Middle Ages.

Danish also boasts some fascinating linguistic features. For example, while it has two grammatical genders, these are called common and neuter. This might come as a relief to language learners exasperated by the idea that a screwdriver is inherently masculine or feminine.

You also count in twenties rather than tens in Danish, something that might sound familiar to speakers of French, Basque, Cornish, and Yoruba. If it seems confusing to you, however, just think of the archaic method of counting in scores, with “three score and ten” adding up to 70. Voilà, you have the vigesimal counting system used in Danish.

Today, Danish is spoken by over 5 million people throughout not only Denmark, but also parts of northern Germany, Iceland, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands. And that’s not to mention Danish diaspora communities around the globe.

Although you might assume that everyone speaks Danish in Denmark, don’t be surprised if you also overhear Polish, Syrian, or Turkish. Despite tightening immigration policies, people from all over the world live in Denmark.

Oh, and expect to hear quite a bit of English, too. Danes are impressively good at speaking it.

How Difficult Is Danish?

According to the FSI, Danish is one of the most approachable languages for English speakers to learn. They estimate that it would take 24 weeks of 25-hour-a-week intensive study to achieve “professional working proficiency” (which has been compared to both B2 and C1 on the CEFR scale).

Of course, that still adds up to 600 hours – and besides which, learning a language via intensive courses is different from learning it in evenings and on weekends.

Still, whether you’re a full-time student, a Roskilde-based expat immersed in the Danish language, or a hobbyist learner squeezing your studies in during your commute, one thing’s for certain: Danish has quite a bit in common with English. In fact, even words that don’t look like English often sound like it. Take hej, meaning “hello” and pronounced “hi.” And these similarities could help you out as you learn this Nordic language.

If you speak some German, you’ll also come across words that look pretty familiar to you: gerne, at arbejde, nummer…

However, there is one thing that you might find quite different when learning Danish: the pronunciation. There’s a reason Scandinavians joke that speaking Danish is like talking with a potato in your mouth. For people who aren’t fluent in the language, it can be hard to distinguish the different sounds and work out exactly what word is being said.

What’s more, some phonemes are particularly tricky for Danish learners, such as the soft d. Add some homophones, 20 different vowel sounds, and silent consonants to the mix, and it’s easy to end up tripping over your own tongue.

Even though Danish has a lot of similarities with English, the truth is that no language is “easy.” No matter if your goal is to become fluent or simply to learn survival phrases ahead of a holiday in Copenhagen, you’ll need hard work and some patience to see success.

There are some things that can make it easier, though. Let’s take a look at how to learn Danish – without getting too stressed out or demotivated.

How to Learn Danish

We can’t give you a one-size-fits-all Danish study plan, because there are so many factors to consider: where you live, what you want to do with your Danish language skills, how you like to study, how much spare time you have…

However, what we can do is give you some advice for building a study schedule and choosing the right resources for you, so that your Danish studies are more fun, interesting, and effective.

1. Outline Your Goals

Knowing what you want to achieve won’t just keep you on track. It will also help you decide what to study.

Just travelling through the country? You’ll want to spend extra time on topics like directions, hotels, and numbers.

Want to keep in touch with a Danish exchange student via social media? Reading and writing will be important for you, and you can probably skip the business jargon in favor of slang and hobby-based topics.

Moving to Denmark? You’re going to have a longer list of topics to learn. Don’t forget to study immigration-related vocabulary! On the plus side, your trial-by-fire experience of living in the country will give you lots of opportunities to practice speaking Danish.

Regardless of your individual goals, you’ll probably want to build in time for all the main language skills – reading, writing, listening, and speaking – as well as vocabulary, grammar, and pronunciation. Let’s be honest: it would be frustrating if, after six months of messaging a friend in Danish, they suddenly rang you and you couldn’t understand a word they said.

2. Decide How Often and How Long You’ll Study For

You’ll come across blog posts saying that you should study for an hour, 90 minutes, or even three hours a day. That’s not always realistic, though.

Some people have a relatively free schedule and can easily make time for studying. Others have to fit Danish studies in between different jobs, studying, social and family obligations, and more. So, forget the “golden rules” about how many minutes or hours a day you should spend studying.

It might sound counterintuitive, but don’t study too much. By too much, we mean: don’t study so much that you exhaust yourself, feel guilty about being too busy to practice Danish, or start to resent the time spent drilling vocabulary. Be realistic about how much time you have spare.

That said, it’s good to study more days than you don’t. If you’re struggling to find time for Danish, aim to study for shorter periods but more frequently. It will be more effective than one long, weekly study session, especially if your aim is spoken or written fluency.

3. Decide on Your Study Materials and Resources

In this article, we’ll share dozens of Danish courses, apps, textbooks, grammar guides, YouTube channels, podcasts, movies, novels, news sites and more. You might also like to:

  • Keep a journal, write short stories, or start a Danish-language blog
  • Create an audio diary: record yourself speaking about your day (and remember that nobody has to listen to it – not even you)
  • Follow influencers and Danish-language hashtags (and not just #hygge) on social media
  • Set your search engine, phone, and social media accounts to Danish
  • Find forums, Facebook groups, and hobby-based blogs in Danish
  • Take an interest in Danish history, politics, and culture; you’ll soon find yourself reading Danish-language websites and books to find out more than would be possible in English
  • Label things in your flat or house with Danish words
  • Start doing Danish crosswords
  • Write your shopping or to-do list in Danish
  • Try to create Danish puns and rhymes

Bear in mind that someone else’s ideal study method might not work for you. Maybe they love Duolingo and you hate it. Or perhaps they love watching movies and you get bored 20 minutes in. We all have our preferred study methods (and interests!), so try a few things out to see what works best for you.

And remember: the best resources for you could change over time. You might eventually need to drop your once-favorite course, or perhaps you’ll find you get on better with a resource once you’ve reached a conversational level of Danish.

Some Extra Danish Study Tips

  • Learn Fillers: Since most Danes have a high level of English, you might find one of your biggest challenges is getting people to speak Danish with you. While they think they’re doing you a favor by switching to English, you should try to talk in Danish as frequently as possible. To subtly signal that you don’t need them to change languages, try brushing up on Danish fillers. They will help you exude linguistic confidence, even while you’re searching for the right word.
  • Do Pronunciation Drills: Given how tricky Danish pronunciation can be, it’s worth spending some time on this. Even though you don’t need a perfect Danish accent, learning correct pronunciation early on will save you time later and perhaps help convince Danes that you don’t need them to switch to English.
  • Be Patient and Celebrate Successes: Learning a language is hard and takes time. Instead of fixating on what you can’t do, focus on your successes – whether that’s successfully purchasing a train ticket, having an hour-long conversation in Danish, or navigating the Danish healthcare system.

Resources for Learning Danish

Textbooks, courses, podcasts, and classes: there are plenty of ways to learn Danish, even if you’re thousands of miles away from Copenhagen.

Online Danish Classes and Language Exchanges

There’s no better way to learn a language than to put it into practice. And since actually speaking Danish might be one of the most challenging parts of learning the language, classes and language exchanges can be invaluable.

Online Classes Where You Can Go at Your Own Pace

italki is one of the oldest and most well-known language-learning marketplace, which gives it a significant advantage: it has the most teachers. It also tends to be slightly cheaper than competitor companies. And while quality isn’t its selling point, if you search enough, you’re bound to find a teacher you get on with.

Plus, we’re a fan of its community features, which you can access via the app. These include a forum and the chance to publish your writing or audio recordings for community corrections.

Alternatively, you might like Verbling. Although it has fewer teachers, we like its payment processing options as well as its online classroom. Teachers are also vetted before they’re allowed to join the platform.

Verbal Planet also has a handful of reasonably priced and well reviewed Danish teachers. If you’re looking for plenty of feedback, it might be a good choice for you: the teachers will evaluate your speaking, listening, reading, and writing after each class. If that sounds stressful, though, you might be better off skipping this platform.

Preply also has several Danish teachers. However, we feel that teachers aren’t always fairly compensated for their time or work and, when you purchase classes, you have to commit to at least five with the same teacher. While we liked their classroom technology, it’s not our favorite platform for finding teachers.

Amazing Talker, at the time of this article’s publication, has just one Danish tutor – but hopefully that number will keep on growing.

Group Online Classes

You can book online private and group classes with Danskbureauet. It doesn’t give you the flexibility and range of choice that websites like italki and Verbling offer; in fact, after your free trial, you have to sign up for a minimum of 12 weeks. However, you’ll benefit from a structured syllabus, and the teachers have many years of experience.

With Copenhagen Language Center, you won’t have to make quite such a long commitment. Their group courses last for 7–8 weeks and go from complete beginner up to B2/“pre-advanced.” As well as the video classes, you’ll be expected to do two to five hours of private study every week.

Laerdansk Online/Netdansk is also designed for long-term, online learning, although you only have to commit to four weeks at a time. They estimate that it will take you 12 weeks to reach A1, 16 to reach A2, and so on. Their courses should take you up to C1.

Community Feedback

Sometimes, you don’t want an hour-long class or Danish pronunciation drills. You just want feedback about whether or not you’re saying something right or an answer to a quick question. You can turn to forums and community-feedback apps for this.

The HiNative app will let you ask questions and also answer other people’s queries. We think it offers a lot of value for any language learner, even if not all questions or answers are entirely useful.

On Langcorrect, you can share Danish writing and essays in order to receive feedback from other learners. Don’t forget to help out the community by correcting someone else’s writing, too.

The WordReference forums are another place to post questions and receive answers. And while Reddit’s Danish Language sub isn’t very active, it’s still worth searching for past posts.

Language Exchanges

Ready to not just study Danish but actually use it? It’s time for a language exchange.

There are plenty of apps you can use, such as HelloTalk (reviewed here), Speaky (reviewed here), and Tandem (reviewed here). While they all work in a fairly similar way, there are some differences, so make sure to check out the reviews as well as our HelloTalk vs Tandem showdown.

If you want to move from app-based to real-world exchanges, MeetUp has 25 different Danish-language groups around the world. Can’t find one near you? Try a general language exchange to see if any Danes come along, or start your own group. Alternatively, you could browse local Facebook groups for options.

If meeting up with strangers, however, remember to stay safe: meet up in public spaces, don’t feel pressured to give out your contact details, and leave if you feel uncomfortable.

Online, App-Based, and Audio Danish Language Courses

Taking a language course, whether you go at your own pace or follow a fixed schedule, can add structure to your studies. They can also be motivating, since you can measure your progress in modules and levels. And even though you won’t find Danish on Rosetta Stone or Busuu, you’ve got plenty of language courses to choose from.

Depending on your learning style, you might find you prefer an audio course (great for improving your listening and keeping your hands free for other tasks), an app (easy to squeeze in a few minutes here and there), or one with a wide mixture of activities. We’ve included a variety of course styles to help you pick the right one for you.

Mango Languages has a heavy focus on speaking Danish and will quickly get you to build your own sentences. We think it’s best for beginner-level learners, and we like how you can compare recordings of yourself speaking Danish to native speakers. It helps you see where your pronunciation isn’t quite right, and you can pause the lesson to practice it as many (or few) times as you wish.

Speakdanish is a popular course with a heavy focus on pronunciation. However, we felt it was unengaging and hard work compared to other courses, so try out the free content before you commit.

If you’re an aural learner, or simply like to learn on the go, Pimsleur might be a good fit for you. We find it fairly effective, and it gives you lots of listening and speaking practice, although we would have liked more grammar explanations. Bear in mind that each lesson is 30 minutes long.

For something more bite-sized and with more grammatical explanations, try Babbel. We also like its speech-recognition technology that gives you feedback on your pronunciation, although we found it occasionally didn’t work as we had hoped.

While we wouldn’t use DanishClass101 as a standalone course, we think it makes for an excellent supplementary resource. It has a huge range of audio and video lessons on Danish vocabulary, grammar, and culture.

Dansk Her&Nu/Dansk her og nu is a free online course supported by the Danish government. If you already know some basic Danish, it’s a great resource. However, we wouldn’t recommend it for complete beginners studying alone. Not only does it not use any English, but you start off with some fairly long texts.

Strokes International’s Danish course might seem a little old-fashioned – and we’re not talking about the vocabulary. You’ll need to download it onto your computer before you can use it. Despite that, it seems to be a fairly thorough and effective course.

Lower-intermediate learners might like Glossika. Although it can be buggy and we found several language errors, it could be a good option if you’re learning additional languages alongside Danish.

Bluebird Languages has several short, free video clips you can watch. It has a strong focus on speaking and listening, but we found some mistranslations and the occasional grammatical error.

Sundhedsdansk is designed to help people new to Denmark understand the healthcare system and learn extremely basic medical vocabulary and phrases. It seems too superficial and is all in Danish, so we’d recommend pairing it with further word lists, a dictionary, and flash cards. Be warned that at times it seems more concerned with teaching you to wash your hands and use a handkerchief than with how to communicate with a medical professional.

You’ll also find some Danish courses on Udemy. Since Udemy is just a marketplace, the depth, teaching style, and quality of the courses can vary greatly. Make sure to read the syllabus and reviews before you sign up for one.

Danish Courses Like Duolingo

Duolingo gets a bad rap, but don’t write it off without trying it. We think it can be a fun (and free!) additional resource that will add a touch of gamification to your studies.

That being said, if you’re looking for a quick, fun, gamified language app, you’ve got a lot to choose from – and some of these Duolingo competitors, while less well-known, might be a better choice for you.

When we compared Memrise and Duolingo, we felt Memrise was slightly better for more serious students while still being fun for beginners. It also has community-made Danish courses on everything from numbers to grammar. In fact, you’ll even find a couple on Duolingo’s Danish course.

Looking for another Duolingo-esque option, but with a few more features? Try Ling. We’re a fan of the native audio (unlike Duolingo’s text-to-speech automated audio), as well as its slightly more well-rounded approach to learning a language. Even so, we think it’s probably best suited to beginners.

Mondly, on the other hand, left us disappointed. There’s nothing outright bad about it, but it feels slightly disorganized and we just think there are better options available.

Danish Language Courses You Should (Probably) Avoid

Once upon a time, DanskABC was probably a great resource. It’s reasonably priced, designed for students with some basic Danish knowledge, and has a wide range of materials. However, it relies completely on Adobe Flash Player. If you’ve already got some basic Danish knowledge, we think you’ll be better off trying out some of the other upper-beginner courses we’ve mentioned, such as Danish Her&Nu or DanishClass101.

The same goes for Online Dansk. It looks fairly promising, and despite being Danish-only, it’s still beginner-appropriate. Hopefully, they’ll redo the course without Adobe Flash Player in the near future. Until that happens, we’d choose one of the other courses on our list.

Moving on from courses that are just technologically outdated, there are some that we can’t recommend because they have a poor educational foundation, contain numerous errors, and in our opinion, are more likely to leave you frustrated and demotivated than speaking Danish.

17 Minute Languages promises to teach you Danish in just 17 minutes a day, but we found it dull and full of bad translations or misleading explanations.

Transparent Language is low on explanations, and we’re not convinced you’ll be able to create your own sentences or communicate in Danish after using it.

When we tried Cudoo, we felt that the course was superficial, lacked explanations, and had almost zero effective exercises for drilling material. It seemed like a waste of our time.

As for Language101, it’s eye-wateringly expensive and left us frustrated and overwhelmed. It’s also set up in such a way that beginners have to start off by constantly marking their attempts to speak Danish as “wrong” – something that seems masochistic and extremely demotivating to us.

Danish Vocabulary Builders and Word Games

Ever found yourself ordering toast for breakfast, even though you don’t really like toast, just because it’s the only word on the menu that you understand?

That’s where flash cards, world lists, and vocabulary games can come in handy. They’ll soon get you saying grød (porridge), blødkogte æg (soft-boiled egg), and appelsinjuice (orange juice, not apple) instead.

Drops is a fun app that will remind you to memorize words for a few minutes every day. We were impressed with the amount of vocabulary you can learn.

You might also like the Simply Learn app from Simya Solutions. We think it’s a pretty good app, but it probably wouldn’t be our first choice. Firstly, it only has half as many words as Drops for you to learn. Secondly, it’s from the same team who built Ling, which we mentioned above. Since Ling also teaches some basic grammar, reading, and writing, we’d probably pick that above Simply Learn.

Looking to also test your reading comprehension and word recall? Try Clozemaster. It will show you a series of Danish sentences, and you’ll have to fill in the gap with the correct word. If you understand Danish pretty well but can’t remember words when speaking, this could be helpful. Bear in mind that there’s no structure, so the sentence difficulty will vary. We’ve reviewed it in detail here.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re learning Danish through English, Somalian, or Vietnamese: Lexin Billedtema has themed vocabulary for you. The only requirement is that you know the name of your language in Danish, as the initial page is Danish only.

Once you’ve clicked on the right language, you’ll be taken to a table of contents in your own language. Click on a theme to see labeled illustrations. You can then switch the labels between Danish and your own language, and listen to audio recordings. There’s no inbuilt way to practice output or drill the language, so you’re best off making your own flash cards.

If you’re vacationing in Denmark or going on a business trip, and not actually looking to master the language, uTalk could be a good option. It contains phrases on topics ranging from shopping and directions to military peace and going skiing. We like that all the phrases have been recorded by native speakers. However, if you’re the type of person who gets frustrated at not scoring 100%, this might not be the app for you – some of the memory games are pretty hard.

Loecsen contains 17 themed word lists. We like how much control it gives you over how you drill them, not to mention the way it tracks which words you struggle with.

LingQ might appeal to you if you’ve already mastered a lot of the basic vocabulary, or you’re regularly reading a lot in Danish. You can look up words while reading texts, and the app will automatically add them to a list and nudge you to review them. While we think it’s a helpful reading tool, we find the review system slightly disorganized.

Sometimes the best flash cards and word games, however, are the ones you’ve made yourself. And while some people might find pen-and-paper versions are the most effective ones, more aural learners – or people who simply don’t want to carry a large pack of flash cards around with them – might prefer to use an app.

Anki will let you create your own flash cards or download someone else’s shared deck. For example, this one is well rated and has over 8,000 cards. We like that you can add audio and pictures to the flash cards, as well as how Anki adjusts to how difficult you find a particular word or phrase.

Alternatively, try Brainscape. It’s similar, but with a slightly more modern interface.

Danish Grammar Guides and Exercises

For many students, grammar is the most frustrating, confusing, and fiddly part of studying a language. And while studying just grammar can be a boring way to learn a language, sometimes, you need to review a grammatical concept or do some exercises to check that you’ve understood it correctly.

Try Basby. Whether it’s word order, declension, or any other aspect of grammar, this website contains English-language explanations along with some brief exercises.

Still struggling? Vores Fællessprog is more superficial than Basby. However, we found the explanations to be more accessible. Click the buttons at the bottom of the screen to be quizzed on the content in a pop-up window.

Looking for some more in-depth exercises? Drill your conjugations with The Danish Study. We think it’s a useful supplementary tool.

Danish Textbooks and Reference Books

A textbook can give structure to your studies and will normally include plenty of exercises. Whether you study alone or with a teacher, it can also help you measure your progress and stay motivated. We would recommend getting some additional speaking practice, however, and it’s worth bearing in mind that most textbooks teach slightly formal language.

If you like a lot of exercises, Complete Danish: Beginner to Intermediate might be a good starting place for you. The audio files are available from their website.

Colloquial Danish is another decent option if you’re just looking to learn the basics. Don’t forget to download the audio recordings.

Despite its name, Beginner’s Danish can be a bit challenging if you’re starting from zero. This might be a better option if you’ve been studying Danish for a little while, perhaps with apps and podcasts, and are now looking for something to give you structure.

For upper beginner and intermediate students, Danish Tutor: Grammar and Vocabulary Workbook is a highly praised textbook with plenty of exercises.

The Ultimate Danish Phrasebook is designed to teach you more natural Danish than most phrasebooks, with lines like “it was fashionable when my mother was young” and “let’s take it easy.” Whether you find it useful or a gimmick will likely depend on your level of Danish.

Learn Danish on YouTube

When it comes to learning Danish, YouTube has one very big advantage: you’ll get plenty of practice at listening to how words are pronounced. Here are some of the ones that most impressed us.

The YouTube channel Mic’s Languages has a playlist dedicated to learning Danish. Mic also has a handy blog post on Danish pronunciation.

On Danish Mastery, you’ll find over 300 videos. A lot of them are members-only content, but there are still enough free ones that it’s worth checking out. Besides, the premium packages are affordably priced, so if you really like these videos, it could be worth the investment.

David Jørgensen has a wide range of videos teaching you Danish. Bear in mind that almost no English is used, not even for the video names.

You’ll also find some of the courses and apps we’ve already mentioned have their own YouTube channels. DanishClass101, for example, has playlists dedicated to level-appropriate listening comprehension exercises, as well as themed playlists and their quick-and-simple Danish in Three Minutes series.

Danish Fiction Books and Poetry

What’s the first Danish author you can think of? If you said anyone other than Hans Christian Andersen, we’re impressed. Yet while Den lille havfrue (The Little Mermaid) isn’t a bad choice for your first book, there’s plenty more to Danish literature than this sad little love story.

You can legally download free children’s books in Danish from Children’s Books Forever. Alternatively, if you’re looking for something accessible yet still designed for adults, try bilingual readers.

Learn Danish with Starter Stories: Interlinear Danish to English contains literal word-by-word translations of six different stories. The authors have also published Learn Danish with Beginner Stories, Learn Danish with Short Stories, and Learn Danish with The Little Mermaid.

Short Stories in Danish for Beginners is a slicker option than Interlinear Books. You won’t get the literal word-by-word translation, but rather a short story, summary (in Danish), word list, and set of comprehension-based questions.

Manga Method isn’t a typical bilingual reader, but it’s a fun addition to your studies. This website contains manga and comic books translated into multiple languages. Double click on the text to read the translation, or click once to hear an audio recording of the speech.

Ready to challenge yourself with books designed for fluent, adult speakers?

Fans of Nordic noir and detective novels will probably like Jussi Adler-Olsen. Plus, you’ll find reading his novels gives you a good conversation-starter – he was voted “Favorite Author of the Danes” three years running, after all.

For a more literary (and slightly spooky) novel, try Celestine by Olga Ravn. This unsettling novel about a woman obsessed with a ghost has been praised for its beautiful metaphors and language.

Jakob Ejersbo is considered one of Denmark’s modern literary giants, known for his gritty and realistic novels. Try Eksil, which explores the relation between European expats and locals in Tanzania, or Nordkraft.

If you’d like something a little more escapist, it’s worth giving the historical novel Vi, de druknede by Carsten Jensen a read.

Podcasts in Danish

Podcasts are a win-win option: you get to practice your listening with material that you find interesting. And you can do it while you’re jogging, commuting, cooking, or doing whatever you want to.

If you’re a foodie, Så længe det kan spises might be a good choice for you. Each episode is short – or “bite-sized,” as the podcast’s creators like to say – and takes place in a different Danish restaurant.

Third Ear is a Danish podcast so popular that one of its episodes was signed up for a cinema adaptation. Its serialised stories and cliffhangers make it an entertaining option. Bear in mind that even though the podcast is in Danish, one of the co-hosts is famous for his British accent.

Love debates, ethics, and philosophy? Try Mads & Monopolet. Since they cover a wide variety of topics, you’re bound to find something interesting.

Harddisken is no longer updated, but techies might find its back catalogue of episodes interesting.

If none of these podcasts appeal to you (or you’ve already binge-listened to them all), try searching for something more to your tastes on DR. There are plenty of podcasts to choose from.

Danish TV and Movies

From natural phrasing to Danish culture, there’s a lot you can pick up from watching a TV show or movie. Plus, it will simultaneously challenge your listening skills and give you a chance to unwind.

You can watch Danish-language TV shows via DR or, of course, Netflix. If you’re using Netflix, try combining it with the Chrome plugin Language Learning With Netflix. It gives you greater control over the subtitles, which we think is particularly helpful when you’re ready for Danish-language ones.

If you’re a fan of the crime genre, try Broen or Forbrydelsen. The political drama Borgen has great characterization and a gripping plot. Applaus explores an actress’ relationship with addiction and her children. Looking for something more lighthearted? Watch the romantic comedy Italiensk for begyndere.

News, Music, and Other Resources for Learning Danish

Listening to Danish-language music will get you spending more time immersed in Danish and introduce you to additional vocabulary. Plus, whether you’re into electronic music or metal, you’ll find something you like in Denmark’s eclectic music scene.

The quickest way to find artists you’ll like is probably to listen to playlists. Try this Danish Hits playlist on Spotify. Alternatively, search for a genre-specific one, such as Danish Rap or The Sounds of Danish Pop.

Reading the news in Danish will also get you learning new vocabulary. Perhaps even more importantly, it will help you make small talk, stay up to date on current affairs in Denmark, and understand how new policies affect you.

DR Ligetil intentionally uses easy-to-understand Danish, so it’s a great place to start. As you become more confident with Danish, you can then try other news sites, such as Berlingske, Ekstra Bladet, Politiken, BT, News, and SN. You can also listen to Danish radio.

When you come across new words, look them up in a dictionary like Den Danske Ordbog. And, to make sure you’re pronouncing them right, use Forvo or Adgang for alle.

Danish might sound challenging. The pronunciation can seem incomprehensible. And the lack of Danish learning resources could be off-putting. Yet once you get started learning Danish, you’ll discover that not only are there many opportunities to practice it, but it’s a surprisingly rewarding language to learn.

Nothing beats the feeling of making a new Danish-speaking friend, reading a Danish-language book, or making Danes laugh with your witty jokes for the very first time.

Held og lykke! Best of luck.

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