It should be a relief that we use the Latin alphabet – not Cyrillic letters or hieroglyphs. 🙂 We write our words as they sound, i.e. phonetically – using the principle to have a letter for each distinct sound. So with a little practice of listening and reading, one should soon be able to pronounce Estonian words rather confidently.
We take pride in the melodic sound of Estonian due to abundant vowels. As a result of phonetic principle, we have variations of a, o, u to represent some distinct phonemes: ä, ö, ü familiar from the German alphabet and the letter õ which also exists in the Russian alphabet. We also have quite a selection of so-called sibilants: besides the regular s we have š, z, ž. The latter are mainly used in loanwords (šokolaad, for example). I have omitted the letters c, q, w, y that only come up with foreign names.
Below you’ll find an audio slideshow with 27 Estonian letters provided with a sample word. The video is slow enough for you to repeat the sounds and practice the words – your first Estonian words. Üks, kaks – läks!