How to pronounce y in Finnish
This meme from the delightful Very Finnish Problems has been making the rounds in my social media feed lately:
Every time I see it I'm consumed by an urge to help that poor cat. I don't know this particular cat and don't know how to reach it, so I've decided to help you instead.
The Finnish y is actually not that difficult for speakers of most languages, it just needs a bit of attention and a bit of practice and feedback - ideally from a trained teacher, but in a pinch any Finnish speaker will do - before it starts coming naturally.
Let's look at the cat's mouth more closely:
You'll notice the cat's tongue is out of his mouth. This will not help you pronounce y. Your tongue must be inside your mouth! Otherwise the cat does have the right idea. Let's do this.
Start by saying uu, like in the Finnish word uusi 'new'. In English, u is often written with two o's, like in the words food, choose and booze. Here's me saying uu:
To go from uu to yy, simply move your tongue all the way to the front of your mouth. When you do this, your lips will also move slightly to the front, but it'll happen automatically when you move your tongue. But do not make the mistake the cat made, keep that tongue inside your mouth!
For those of you who prefer watching a video to reading instructions, here's a quick lesson of how to pronounce y! Make sure to turn the English subtitles on, the lesson should be easier to follow that way.
Post your y in the comments for feedback from me!
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Ask a Finnish Teacher / Toiminimi Mari Nikonen
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