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Lesson Transcript

Tiina: Welcome back to FinnishPod101.com’s Pronunciation Series! This is lesson 5, Common Finnish Pronunciation Mistakes. My name is Tiina.
Reeta: And I’m Reeta. We’re now at the last lesson in the series!
Tiina: That’s right! You’ve come such a long way, listeners. In this lesson, we’re going to teach you another important aspect of Finnish pronunciation.
Reeta: This one is a big one…so make sure you listen carefully!
Tiina: Once you’re done with this one, you’ll be on your way to having great Finnish pronunciation. So, what topic are we covering in this lesson?
Reeta: In this lesson, we’ll be going over the top five pronunciation mistakes in Finnish.
Tiina: Yes, and it’s important that you, our listeners, are familiar with them so that you can minimize them when you speak.
Reeta: That’s right! So what’s our first one?
Tiina: Tip number one is: remember to make your "-R" sound very strong.
Reeta: Remember that in Finnish, the letter "-R" is not pronounced in the same way as it is in English.
Tiina: Yeah, that’s right – you don’t want to end up sticking out like a sore thumb. And one of the ways that people can detect a foreign accent over the phone is by the way you pronounce this particular sound.
Reeta: For example, if you want some "ruisleipä”, meaning “ryebread”. You say “ruisleipä” not “rhuisleipä” (wrong pronunciation).
Tiina: Yeah – but if you aren’t that steady on the “trilling -r” you can use the “guttural -r” as we saw in our dialect lesson.
Reeta: The French sounding “-r” might be hard for some speakers, but easier for others. Try for example to pronounce “ravintola.”, which means “restaurant”
Reeta: Okay, so what’s our next pronunciation tip? 
Tiina: Tip number two is: use the correct vowels!
Reeta: Right – A common mistake foreigners make is that they apply their native vowel sounds to their Finnish pronunciation.
Tiina: Well, it’s because it might be hard to adapt to the Finnish vowels.
Reeta: Yes, but make sure you practice the Finnish vowels extra hard. Because it is highly unfortunate if you end up mispronouncing “bussi” (Finnish) like...
Tiina: “bus?”
Reeta: or “auto” meaning “car”...
Tiina: “metro” meaning “subway”?
Reeta: Exactly, there are numerous Finnish words that are spelled or look similar to English. Their meaning are often the same too. However speak Finnish with English vowels and you’ll end up speaking English all the same!
Tiina: (laughs) Tip number three is: mind your double consonants and vowels!
Reeta: Ah, yes.
Tiina: Although this might be somewhat familiar to native English speakers, it is an important point nonetheless.
Reeta: Especially in words with single consonants, the pronunciation can be quite tricky. “la-ki” as opposed to “lakki”.
Tiina: The first means “law” and the second means “hat”.
Reeta: Right. Or “tuli” and “tuuli”.
Tiina: which mean “fire” and “wind”, respectively.
Reeta: Right.
Tiina: So you pronounce the single ones short and the double ones longer and stronger.
Reeta: Exactly right! What’s the next tip we have?
Tiina: Tip number four is: learn to be comfortable with non-native sounds now!
Reeta: Remember that Finnish has many sounds that simply do not exist in the English language, and that’s a problem for most English speakers learning Finnish.
Tiina: Right. It took me a lot of practice before I managed to pronounce some of the sounds correctly.
Reeta: I know, they can be tricky.
Tiina: So it is very important that you, listeners, make sure to practice the sounds that aren’t familiar to you.
Reeta: Yeah, for example, the “ä” like in the word “äiti.” or the “ö” in “löyly.”
Tiina: I’m not sure all our listeners can actually hear the difference between ä and a or ö and o.
Reeta: Right. Other than the “ä and ö” sounds.
Tiina: As well sounds like “j” in järvi (“lake”) or “y” in yö (“night”) might be tricky ones. And we also have some diphthongs, like “ai” and “au” .
Tiina: Although they sound similar to the English diphthongs “ai” “au”, there are some fundamental differences.
Reeta: “Ai” and “au” both have clear ‘a’ and ‘i’ sounds, and ‘a’ and ‘u’ sounds.
Tiina: So for example aina meaning “always” or auto meaning “car”.
Reeta: Yes, so what is the last tip we have for everyone?
Tiina: Tip number five is: watch out for similar sounding words!
Tiina: Now this could happen in any language, but Finnish is full of seemingly similar words, and paired with pitch accent it makes it literally impossible to know how to pronounce a word correctly without having heard it first.
Reeta: Right.
Tiina: What about some examples?
Reeta: Well, for example we have the verb “tavata” which in first person singular conjugates to “tapaan”. This is very similar to “tapan” (infinitive “tappaa”) meaning “I kill”.
Tiina: Oh no! They sound really similar…So better be careful.
Reeta: Yes, please! Other similar words are “kuin”, which means “like, as” and “kun”, which means “when.” Sometimes Finnish people mix these up too, but the meaning is different, so let’s be careful with these.
Tiina: Oh, even Finns get confused?! Okay then, do you have any other samples in mind?
Reeta: Well, we have the “ulkomainen” word meaning “from abroad” when talking about imported goods for example, and “ulkomaalainen” which means “foreigner”, as a person.
Tiina: Ok, so they are very similar but have a different use. So if you didn’t get the difference in pronunciation just now, make sure you listen again.
Reeta: Yes, one more time “tapaan,” “tapan,” and “kuin”, “kun”!
Tiina: Alright, well there are our top five tips for avoiding pronunciation mistakes in Finnish.
Reeta: Remember to keep practicing!
Tiina: We can’t stress this enough. Listening and repeating is the quickest way to get these sounds down.
Reeta: Yes! That’s it for this lesson, and for this Pronunciation series.
Tiina: We hope we’ve given you a good introduction to the Finnish language and culture!
Reeta: Thanks for listening!
Tiina: See you again at FinnishPod101.com.
Reeta: Nähdään taas!