In Finland there are two official languages: Finnish and Swedish. Most of the Finns speak Finnish as their first language, but even they don’t always sound quite the same. The main reason for this are the Finnish dialects.
If you travel in Finland, you might notice that the Finnish language sounds a bit different in different parts of the country. People pronounce words differently, and might use words and sayings which are not heard in other parts of the country. This is because Finnish language have developed differently in different parts of the country.
These different “versions” of Finnish language are called dialects. The Finnish dialects are divided into western and eastern dialects. In total there are eight main dialect groups in Finland, each with sub-dialects. The standard Finnish, which is taught in schools, is a mix of dialects.
Dialect is a Spoken Language
The dialect is mainly a spoken language, while the written language is usually standard Finnish. Some publications are written in dialects, but they are quite rare and made usually just for fun. But they also help to keep the dialect alive.
Although most of the Finns speak some dialect, they usually understand each other quite well. If there are words or sayings which are not so familiar, people can understand their meaning from the context.
Words Have Different Meanings
One thing that can be confusing even for Finns themselves, is the fact that some words have different meanings in different parts of the country. Luckily there aren’t many such words.
One funny example is the Finnish word “itikka”. For most of the Finns itikka is a small mosquito. But for some Finns, especially in the area of Ostrobothnia, itikka means cow.