Estonian - interesting facts


Estonian is a fascinating language, carrying the heritage of about 1.2 million people, a modest yet significant 0.015% of the world's population. Recognized as the official language of Estonia, it's also spoken among Estonian minority communities in Sweden, Finland, Germany, Latvia, and various other countries.

Originating from the Finno-Ugric group within the Uralic language family, Estonian began to form around the 12th and 13th centuries distinctively. The language's roots are nestled in several Baltic-Finnish languages, with the closest modern relative being Finnish. As it evolved, the Estonian vocabulary was notably influenced by Baltic, Slavic, and predominantly Germanic languages, which account for around 30% of its lexicon. It adopted standardized orthographic principles in the late 19th century, modelled on Finnish orthography.

The modern Estonian language branches into two primary dialectal groups: northern and southern. The northern group's central dialect shaped the standard Estonian variety. Today, the Estonian Language Institute in Tallinn maintains the stewardship of standard Estonian.

Interestingly, Estonian is one of the agglutinative languages where meaning is conveyed by attaching suffixes to word roots. In comparison, Indo-European languages would typically require multiple words to express the same content. The longest Estonian word, "sünnipäevanädalalõpupeopärastlõunaväsimatus," consisting of 43 letters, perfectly exemplifies this. It translates to "fatigue felt after lunch during a weekend birthday party."

The grammar of Estonian features intriguing characteristics, such as the presence of 14 noun cases, though the exact number can be a point of debate. Interestingly, Estonian has no gender and only two grammatical tenses: present and past. The future is expressed using special forms of the verb.

Phonetically, Estonian distinguishes three lengths of vowels and consonants: short, medium, and long, which can alter the meaning of words. Furthermore, the language is known for its frequent use of vowels, even in sequences, as demonstrated in words like "kõueöö" (storm night) and "jäääär" (ice edge).

Among its many distinctions, Estonian proudly stands as one of the official languages of the European Union.


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Number of cases in Estonian

Estonian has 14 cases, making it one of the most complex languages in Europe. Thanks to the fact that the language has many cases, it is possible to express many more meanings and shades. A variety of cases can be difficult for language learners, but it is also a key element for understanding and learning the language.

No grammatical types

Estonian has no grammatical types, meaning that each word is considered gender-neutral. There are also no personal pronouns, which can be difficult for language learners. However, the lack of grammatical types can also make it easier to learn the language and not require learners to memorize gender words.

Unique letters in Estonian

The Estonian language has several unique letters, including "õ", which is not found in other languages. This letter indicates a nasal sound that is emitted by the mouth and nose at the same time. Unique letters in Estonian can be a challenge for language learners, but at the same time, they are a key element characteristic of the Estonian language.

Similarities to the Finnish language

It is worth noting that Estonian has many words similar to Finnish. Thanks to this, people who learn Finnish can have an easier time understanding and learning Estonian. However, despite the similarities, the Estonian language has its own unique features and requires learning separately.

Serial numbers in Estonian

The Estonian language has its own ordinal numbers, which differ from those in other languages. For example, in Estonian, the second is "teine", and the third is "kolmas". It is worth noting that knowledge of ordinal numbers is an important language element and helps in everyday communication.

Estonian Literature

Estonian literature has a long and rich tradition dating back to the Middle Ages. The first monuments written in the Estonian language date from the fourteenth century, including manuscript prayer books and religious songs. One of the most important works of Estonian literature is the national epic "Kalevipoeg" by Friedrich Reinhold Kreutzwald, published in 1857-1861. It tells the story of the mythical hero Kalevipoega and forms an essential part of Estonian culture and national identity.

In the 20th century, Estonian literature gained new forms and styles thanks to modernism and expressionist poetry. In the 1950s and 1960s, In the 20th century, the poetic movement "Respublika" was born in Estonia, which brought together many talented poets, such as Jaan Kaplinski and Hando Runnel. Their poetry was innovative and experimental, touching on social and political themes.

In 1970, a literary trend called "Young Estonia" appeared in Estonia, which brought together young writers, poets and literary critics. Linguistic and cultural experiments and references to literary traditions characterized their work.

Contemporary Estonian literature focuses on various topics, from history and politics to culture and society. Notable writers include Andrus Kivirähka, Tõnu Õnnepalu, Viivi Luik, Jaan Kross, A.H. Tammsaare and Mehis Heinsaare.


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Essential Estonian




yes jah
no ei
please palun
thank you aitäh
I'm sorry vabandust
good morning tere hommikust
good evening tere õhtust
goodbye head ööd
good night nägemiseni
hi tere
how are you?  Kuidas sul läheb?
well Aitäh, hästi.
My name is... Minu nimi on...
I don't understand Ma ei saa aru.



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