Tere, mina olen Airi, meeldiv tutvuda!
“Hello, I am Airi, pleased to meet you!” I said in the first sentence, using my native language – Estonian or eesti keel, as we Estonians say.
Being able to speak Estonian makes me feel like a special person as I am one in a million, well one in 1.1 million people worldwide speaking it. Why not to become special yourself and learn about this a rather rare language?!
Looking at the bigger picture of language groups, Estonian is similar to Finnish spoken in neighbouring Finland. It is believed that these two along with 14 other languages trace back to the Finno-Ugric proto-language spoken in the area of central and northern Russia west to the Ural Mountains. Well of course, it was not Russia then, yet. On arrival of Slavic tribes, peoples speaking Finno-Ugric proto-language were slowly scattered into various corners of Europe.
There are about 24 million people speaking 16 different Finno-Ugric languages, among which, Finnish and Hungarian are the best known. Language families are not as much about a similar vocabulary as much a similar structure and features.
Compared to Indo-European language family – the one of English, German, and French among many others – the Finno-Ugric languages lack the gender, a future tense, articles and the verb have.
As you would learn from Estonian history, our small country has been for centuries subjected to foreign powers. So for a long time being an Estonian didn’t mean statehood, but sticking to our native language and age-old traditions. As true survivors, we have been successful in both preserving our language and achieving our statehood.
Characteristically to a small nation, Estonians are well-versed in other languages, and the visitors speaking either English, Russian, German or Finnish would have hardly any trouble getting by in Estonia. Nevertheless, there is no surer way to the hearts of Estonian people than being able to use some Estonian words or phrases.
If you are looking for a private Estonian tutor, I will gladly help you. Tutoring is available on Skype, Zoom or any other digital platform. Please write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.