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Image Bar. Small Photos, Left to Right: Helsinki Cathedral; Movie Still from the Film Ambush (Rukajärven tie); Composer Kaija Saariaho; Vase by Architect Alvar Aalto from Iittala; Historical Photo of Composer Jean Sibelius; Wooden Houses in Old Porvoo; Sunset, Lake Haapavesi; Sanoma Building Interior, Helsinki; Full Copyright Information at bottom of page. All Photos Used with Permission or Understood to Be in the Public Domain.
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The Finnish Language

Helsinki Cathedral with Flowers, copyright 2005, Maria Haanpää
Helsinki Cathedral

UC-Berkeley is privileged to offer Finnish language studies through the Department of Scandinavian. Finnish is taught at only 11 universities in the United States on a consistent basis. The Finnish Studies Program at Berkeley is sponsored jointly by the Institute of European Studies and the Department of Scandinavian.

A Nordic country of 131,00 square miles and five million inhabitants, Finland is bordered by Sweden, Norway, and Russia. Geographically Finland is one of the largest countries in Western Europe and the one with the greatest percentage of natural, forested area.

Finnish is a supremely interesting language, a member of the Finno-Ugric language family (as distinct from neighboring Scandinavian, Slavic, and other Indo-European languages). The Finnish language has a long and ancient history — the distinctive cadence of its epic the Kalevala inspired Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in his American poem Hiawatha.

Though unusual in many aspects, Finnish is written phonetically and does not use gender. It is closely related to Estonian and distantly related to Hungarian. The primary stress of every Finnish word falls on the first syllable.

There are myriad reasons to learn Finnish. In the arts, Finland has a strong cultural history in classical and experimental music, opera, and 18th-20th century architecture and design. For those interested in politics and economics, Finland is a case study in modernization, having moved from an agrarian economy to a highly industrialized one in barely fifty years. Other areas of interest which inspire students to focus on Finland include contemporary economic systems and technological innovation, cinema, folklore and epic studies (the Kalevala), anthropology (Finnish minorities like the Lap — or Sámi (Saami) — people), politics and diplomacy (independence, European integration, and Soviet-Russian relations), ecology, etc.

Typical Finnish-language students include artists and designers, linguists, heritage learners, economists, computer scientists, political scientists, historians, and ecologists, among others.

Students are afforded many funding opportunities to continue their language studies in Finland during the summer or academic year, as well as through graduate studies and professional exchange programs. Click the links at left to learn more about opportunities to study Finnish and Finnish Culture at UC-Berkeley and in Finland.

Color Photograph: Helsinki Cathedral with Flowers © 2005 Maria Haanpää.
Used with Permission. All Rights Reserved.

Small Photos, Left to Right: Helsinki Cathedral by Maria Haanpää; Movie Still from the Film Ambush (Rukajärven tie) picturing Peter Franzén (Perkola) and Taisto Reimaluoto (Saarinen); Composer Kaija Saariaho by Maarit Kytoharju; Vase by Architect Alvar Aalto from Iittala; Historical Photo of Composer Jean Sibelius; Wooden Houses in Old Porvoo by Eric Kotila; Sunset, Lake Haapavesi by Eric Kotila; Sanoma Building Interior, Helsinki by Jussi Tiainen. All Photos Used with Permission or Understood to Be in the Public Domain. All Photos Copyright by their Respective Photographers. All Rights Reserved. Website Copyright © 2005 UC Regents. Last update January 30, 2005.