Published: Feb. 17, 2016 By

The Program in Nordic Studies has begun offering Finnish-language courses at the University of Colorado Boulder.

It’s noteworthy because it’s such a rare language, and the university is offering the courses for full credit, which means the courses can satisfy a foreign-language requirement, says Benjamin Teitelbaum, instructor and head of Nordic studies.

The courses are being supported by a Finnish company, Vaisala, which manufactures environmental-measurement instruments and which has offices in Louisville, Colo. Teitelbaum said the partnership promotes Nordic and Finnish culture in Colorado.

“Finnish interests in the Denver-Boulder area are growing, and CU is a part of that,” he says.

Tanner Coon, a third-year computer-science major at CU-Boulder, is among the students taking Finnish this year. After graduation, he’d like to work at Google programming Android applications or join a video-gaming company.

Benjamin Teitelbaum

Benjamin Teitelbaum

But Coon is also interested Finland. His grandmother was born there. His parents met while going on missions for their church in Finland. “I just have a lot of ties to Finland, despite never being there myself, so I was excited when I got the opportunity to learn the language.”

Coon is among a relatively small group of students in the inaugural year of Finnish courses. About 10 are enrolled, Teitelbaum said.

“For a language like Finnish, we’re actually quite happy about that,” Teitelbaum says. “If experience is a guide, interest and enrollment will grow.”

The program introduced Swedish in 2013, and the first Swedish classes were about the same size. Since then, Swedish has become a fully rostered course and is taught in three levels per semester.

Teitelbaum identified several reasons underlying student interest in the program. “The Nordic region is often named in the media as being one of the most prosperous, the most secure. It’s also a laboratory for cultural change,” and it has been a destination for migration, Teitelbaum says.

Finland has gotten special recognition in this respect. In 2010, Newsweek named Finland “the best country in the world” as measured by education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness and political environment.

Apart from being drawn to the study of Finnish for those reasons, some students are interested in contemporary Finnish culture. “We have a couple students who want to study Finnish because their favorite band is from Finland, and they sing in Finnish,” Teitelbaum says.

Additionally, some linguistic students are interested because Finnish is a Uralic language, without roots in Latin or Indo-European languages. “It’s so far removed from all the languages around it in Europe that it really makes it a gold mine for academics who are interested in the study of language.”

To learn more about the CU-Boulder Nordic Studies, click here.

Clint Talbott is director of communications and external relations for the College of Arts and Sciences and editor of the College of Arts and Sciences Magazine.