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Estonian: A difficult language to learn

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10 facts about the Estonian language


Estonian is a native language for approximately 1.1 million people, with 922,000 speakers in Estonia and 160,000 speakers outside the country.


The first known book in the Estonian language was published in 1525, but it never reached the readers and was destroyed soon after its publication.


There are two categories of Estonian dialects; the northern and the southern, respectively associated with the cities of Tallinn in the north and Tartu in the south.


Nouns and pronouns in the Estonian language are not gendered.


Several relative terms are found in both Estonian and English.


The language is most renowned for its unique dichotomy of three consonants and vowels. This can be seen in vowel lengths, for example, in koli with a short “o” (junk), kool with a long “o” (of school), and kooli with a long “o” (to school) and is pronounced with an extra-long “o” but spelled the same as the previous form.


A vowel is removed from the end of Estonian words with a long beginning syllable.


In terms of difficulty, the Estonian language has 14 case endings, making mastering the grammar difficult.


You can find people in Estonia who are more fluent English than in Estonian.


Almost one-third of the vocabulary in the Estonian language comes from Germanic languages, primarily Low Saxon.


Origin of the language

Estonian originated in Estonia.


History of the language

It is thought that Estonian originated during the 13th century.


Learning the language

For an English speaker, 1100 hours are necessary to learn Estonian.

Estonian for beginners

Ten essential words to start learning in Estonian:
Hello: Tere
Goodbye: Hüvasti
Sky: taevas
Rain: vihma
Love: armastus
Beautiful: ilus
Father: isa
Family: pere
Mother: ema
Happy: õnnelik


There are moments in the life of nations, just like those of an individual, that suddenly change their whole nature.

Jaan Kross

Author and novelist

If geography is prose, maps are iconography.

Lennart Meri

Writer and Politician

Silence is the pause in me when I am near to God.

Arvo Part


Fun facts about the Estonian language

Greater range than Latin

The Estonian language has a more extensive range of tones than Latin.

Spoken language in Russia

The Estonian language is spoken in many parts of Russia.

Finno-Ugric language

The Estonian language belongs to the Uralic language family, which is a grouping of Finno-Ugric languages.


There are eight dialects and 117 sub-dialects in Estonian. The dialect borders became more significant as Estonia's population grew due to the agreements.

Infinite compounds

The Estonian language allows for any number of synthetics to be used in a phrase. A phrase in Estonian can include an infinite number of compounds.

Difficult for English speakers

For English speakers, Estonian is one of the most challenging languages to learn.

Impact of German language

The German language has had a significant impact on the Estonian language.

Hardest language

Estonian is the fifth most difficult language to learn in the world while Finnish is the sixth most difficult. As a result, the speakers of both languages have an easier time learning the other language.


Several Estonians are multilingual, and they are generally considered to be some of the best English speakers in Europe.

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