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Heavy metal bands spur interest in learning Finnish

Groups such as HIM, Stratovarius and Children of Bodom have inspired students in Austria to try their hand at a challenging northern language.

HIM Ruisrockin lavalla.
HIM was among the headliners of last month's Ruisrock festival in Turku. Image: Tomi Palsa / Ruisrock

Interest in studying Finnish abroad has risen since Finland joined the European Union in 1995. It has also blossomed through the popularity of Finnish artists.

When students at the University of Vienna were asked why they chose to study Finnish, their primary answer surprised their teachers.

“For 97 percent of them, the primary target of interest was heavy metal music. This somewhat surprised us,” says Marjut Vehkanen, Secretary General of the Helsinki-based Centre for International Mobility (CIMO).

Finnish hard rock groups such as HIM, Nightwish, Stratovarius, Lordi and Children of Bodom have particularly fervid followings in Central Europe.

Students’ interest in Finland’s culture and thereby its language may also be piqued by architecture or films such as those of the Kaurismäki brothers.

"A very logical language"

Vehkanen spoke to Yle at the University of Vaasa on the west coast, where teachers of Finnish from around the globe are now gathering for their annual conference and workshops.

Studies in Finnish are now available at more than 100 universities in some 30 countries.

According to Vehkanen, learning Finnish is not particularly tough. However Finnish is different from nearly all other languages, and is therefore challenging.

“There’s a lot to memorise at first,” she says. “But if you study hard in the beginning, then you’ll find it’s a very logical language.”

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