Michael Brown’s long hours of studying the exotic language of Finnish may seem like a pretty noble use of time.
An American international-relations major at the University of Washington in Seattle, he aims for a life in foreign service. Finland’s strategic role in the Arctic and as a vocal member of the euro zone means his investment in the language could be a good bet.
But, Mr. Brown’s interest has a much more casual origin.
“It was heavy metal, unmistakably,” Mr. Brown said when asked what inspired him to pursue a language spoken by a nation that has fewer people, at 5.4 million, than Washington state. Finnish bands perform with a “dark woodsy resonance” that he has come to love, he says, and “the poetic and obscure nature of the Finnish tongue really gave it a unique wave.”
Mr. Brown isn’t the only one to channel a love for the metal genre into the pursuit of learning an obscure tongue. A band of young metal heads—spanning Romania to Singapore—have taken up a Northern European language in order to better appreciate or even mimic their favorite metal bands.