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Estonian Language Course

Estonian Language Course



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Published by Mithridates
As far as I know, this is the first Estonian course / grammar made on the internet, created by me back in 1998 after I came back from a month in Tallinn. I'm hoping to expand on this sometime, or that somebody else will want to expand on this. In the meantime it's a good introduction to the grammar.

Attribution: an obvious link to my blog at http://mithridates.blogspot.com will suffice.
As far as I know, this is the first Estonian course / grammar made on the internet, created by me back in 1998 after I came back from a month in Tallinn. I'm hoping to expand on this sometime, or that somebody else will want to expand on this. In the meantime it's a good introduction to the grammar.

Attribution: an obvious link to my blog at http://mithridates.blogspot.com will suffice.

More info:

Published by: Mithridates on May 02, 2008
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Estonian Language Course
Created October 1998; Last updated May 16/2000.
kalev.bmp (51304 bytes)
Update May 2 2008: I've decided to upload this to scribd.com in order to make itavailable to the public (up to now it's just been on my computer and on GoogleDocs). If you have any questions, contact me on my Wikipedia user page here:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:MithridatesEverything below this line is as it was back in May 2000 when I last looked at it.
----------As far as I know this is the first Estonian language course to be found on the web, andshould fill a large void in internet-based Estonian language resources. It is strange that Ihave created this, though, for my Estonian is most definately not perfect. My experiencesconsist of three months of study, and then living for a month in Tallinn. Nevertheless, Iconsider myself a good teacher, and can convey what I know. I have written this page upwith the help of a few grammatical books I own, and so as far as I know this page is mostlyaccurate.There are no sound files here, but one may find them attravlang.com.(select foreignlanguages for travellers, and then click on the Estonian flag.) Travlang has pages with basicphrases for a large number of languages, but no resources for forming one's own sentences,which is what this page is for. I really can't recommend learning Estonian without hearing itas well, and hopefully this should help.Also, some of the individual vocabulary here may be lacking in an explanation; if unsure asto the meaning of a word, try theOn-line English-Estonian-English Dictionary by TheInstitue of Baltic Studies.Besides my experiences in Estonia, I have used a book calledColloquial Estonianto learnwhat I know.The whole course is contained on this one page. In this format it can easily be saved andprinted out in its entirety.Lastly, even after completion I may make changes and improvements to this page. As well,since I am not a native speaker there will be a few (or perhaps more) errors to the Estonianon this page, so if you are one I urge you tomail meand help me out. In this regard, manythanks toAndrus Varnikand alsoMadis Remmikfor their corrections, ideas and suggestions which have improved the accuracy of this course dramatically. Many others havecontributed as well, and I have included many of their comments. In most cases I haveintegrated them into the course, but at times their comments seem to stand on their own,in which case I have differentiated them from the rest of the course by converting them tofixed width fonts, inside a block quote.
"To give you an example of what the comments from others look like- they appear in this form. This is a fixed width font inside ablock quote."
1. Basics
About EstonianPronunciationBasic Phrases
2. Grammar
PronounsNumbersVerb ConjugationNoun CasesAdjectives
About Estonian
Estonian, as some know, is a Finno-Ugric tongue with close ties to Finnish, both outside thebetter known Indo-European language family. Finnish is the main language on the Finnoside, while Hungarian is the main language on the Ugric side. It may be assumed then thatlearning Estonian will give on some knowledge of Hungarian. Unfortunately, this is not true(but it is with Finnish - more on that in a bit). Apparently Hungarian is similar to Estonianonly in its grammatical structure, such as the usage of noun cases on the ends of words,and so on. However, the two languages barely sound alike at all. Finnish and Estonian,however, sound very much alike and one usually has to listen to the words to learn which isactually being spoken or sung.Finnish, however, is another story. Many words in Finnish are similar or identical to those inEstonian. The difference lies in the fact that Finland has had more of a Swedish influence onits language, while Estonia's influences have been linked more closely to German andRussian. The Estonian
is pronounced the same as the Finnish
, and Finnish has no letter
. Also, Finnish words tend to be much longer than Estonian ones. Here are a fewexamples.
forestmetsmetsäschoolkoolkoulugodjumaljumalaseamerimeripurplepurpurnepurppuranpunainenDecemberdetsemberjoulukuuThe last example is a slightly hidden similarity. There is an Estonian word,
, whichmeans Christmas, and the word
means month or moon. Therefore the Finnish word
would look somewhat like 'Christmas Month' to an Estonian.But some words are not at all alike:
miseryõnnetuskurjuus...and so on. But sometimes seemingly identical words can have drastically differentmeanings. The Finnish word
(government), is the exact same as the Estonian word
(mould). One should not make assumptions.And then there are the possibilities for gross misunderstandings: The Estonian word fortercel (hawk) is kull, which is also a fairly common family name in Estonia. In Finnish,however, it is slang for testicle(s).So, in short: 1) Most Finns and Estonians are unable to understand each other (but maywith some effort), and 2) They easily could with a few months of study. But this does notseem to be the case. However, Estonians do tend to be more inclined to know Finnish thanvice versa, as Estonia receives a few Finnish TV channels. During the Soviet occupationFinnish TV provided a window to the West and the western lifestyle, which motivated theEstonians to learn Finnish. Also, it gave the people a chance to hear the Finnish nationalanthem, the same music as that of free Estonia’s. Finland does not receive Estonian TVthough, and so have less opportunity to learn Estonian. There is quite a bit of interchangebetween the two, however. Finns often go to Tallinn for a day or two to enjoy the lowerprices, as well as to drink (and also enjoy marginally warmer weather?), and Estonianscommonly go to Helsinki to see shows or cultural exhibits, (Helsinki is about 20% largerthan Tallinn).Lastly, Estonian has no similarity to the Indo-European languages of the other countries itborders on. Though it has had some Russian influence, Russian is a Slavic language, not aFinno-Ugric tongue, and is quite different. Estonian also has no similarity to Latvian (Latvianis similar to Lithuanian, though).Although Estonian as a language has existed for a long time, the language was not codified(i.e., the rules of grammar and spelling established) until the late 19th century. Manyregional dialects still survive.
Once again, I urge you to find a way to hear spoken Estonian as well, such as Travlang'spage above.Also, to hear Estonian radio you may also clickhere.This is the news section of an Estonianradio station, called (I believe) simply Eesti raadio. For beginners of course it's quite fastbut nevertheless it gives a good idea of how Estonian is actually spoken.There are others as well, and it is not too difficult to find. But I will also add specifics here,and tips on pronouncing that may go unnoticed by the casual listener.
Estonian vowels, in general, are not changed by doubling like in English. A doubled
sounds like the o in tone, while the short
sounds like the o in moment. It is somewhatsubtle, but all too important.
As with vowels, the doubling of consonants is noticeable. For example, the double s of theword
(import), is pronounced more like as in 'Miss something' than as in'Mystery'. Say it as if it were two words, but do not pause.In general, the stress in Estonian is always on the first syllable of a word and thus wordsusually begin with a hard consonant (p, t, k) as opposed to a soft consonant (b, d, g). Thisdoes not carry over into syllabication, but has some impact in pronunciation; e.g., Jaakobi ispronounced as if it were written Jaakopi.
The Estonian lettersa.
Pronounced like the a in f 
Pronounced like the a in h
Pronounced like the o in m
Pronounced somewhat like in c

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ah! but you're supposed to say "Mu sõber on noor", NOT "mu sõbra on noor" :) Also, technically, "ma tahaksin sind oma teenijaks" is more correct, though in any case all you can get with this sentence (in any way) is a puzzled glare...
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