Sunday, 26 February 2012

Underthtanding Finnith Kidth

When you are learning a language, there are a few greater challenges than understanding young children.

In theory, it should be easy, as their vocabulary and their sentences are relatively simple. The problem however is their pronunciation.

I remember being informed in no uncertain terms by a confident 2 year old that the Finnish word for "cat" was "kitta". I believed her after all the young lady was a native speaker. Only much later did I find out that she couldn't pronounce the letter "s" and that in fact the word for cat is "kissa".

The letter "s" does seem to be a challenge for some Finnish kids. A colleague of mine once told me a story about his young daughter, in which her difficulty with the letter "s" took a completely new dimension.

My colleague, who lives in the suburbs of Helsinki had taken his young daughter to the "big" city.  The little girl was clearly in awe of the large buildings there. As my colleague pushed his daughter through the city in her pushchair, she pointed at every single big house ("iso talo" in Finnish), and at the top of her voice she announced: "ilotalo, ilotalo, ilotalo..."

And that story, ladies and gentlemen, is how came to learn the Finnish word for brothel.


  1. Ah ah ah that's one word I'm gonna remember, thanks for this :)

  2. LOL LOL LOOOOLLLLLLLL...I've found also some kids who have trouble pronouncing "y" - it becomes "u" instead.

  3. Thanks for the vocab lesson! And, as an aside, I think it's impossible not to love Finnish compound words. So literal. So utilitarian. :)

  4. I had rhotacism or "ärrävika", as it is called in finnish, when I was younger. It led to several amusing pronounciations, as I pronounced R as L.
    One word I struggled the most I remember being "murkku" (short for "muurahainen", an ant) as it came out as "mulkku" (dick, penis...).
    Funny enough, there was this rather famous Finnish icehockey player, Jari Kurri, whose name I pronounced "Jari Kulli" (kulli is again, rude term for male genitalia).

    I'm certain the language and names were designed to embarras kids with "ärrävika" :P