Estonian language belongs to the group of Finno-Ugric languages, with the most similar language being Finnish. The language is the only official language of Estonia and spoken widely among the locals. While the locals love to practice English and at times other European languages while chatting to or serving visitors, a few native phrases are sure to bring a warm smile to the face to any Estonian. 

Useful phrases in Estonian language.

Estonian vowels

The role of vowels in Estonian is among the greatest in any European language, whereby a string of vowels can form meaningful words around the frame of a few consonants. Also, many foreign visitors are not accustomed to the vowels õ, ä, ö, ü.

Tongue twisters

How will an Estonian know you are a foreigner, no matter how hard you try? Well, no stranger seems to quite master the art of pronouncing the ‘õ’ letter.

  • ‘Õ’ sounds somewhat like the ‘o’ in words “lonely”, “cold” or “road” pronounced in a hill-billy manner.
  • Ä sounds a bit like “a” in the words of the sentence “sad cat had had a mad marriage”
  • Ö is most similar to the ‘ea’ combination in term “search” or ‘o’ in “word” or ‘e’ in “nerd”.
  • Ü is the closest to ‘u’ in word “super”.

What is the Estonian language all about?

Estonian, different from most spoken languages in Europe, does not belong to the Indo-European group; it belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family, which also includes Finnish and Hungarian. Thus, the difference between the Indo-European languages (pick one, pick any - German, Russian, French, English etc) is originally as distant as English is from Turkish.

Estonian dialects are divided into two groups, Northern and Southern, usually associated with biggest cities of those regions – Tallinn, the capital, in the north and Tartu, second largest city, in the south. In some of the southern regions, people speak Seto and Võro dialects, which are sometimes considered to be separate languages altogether. Dialects spoken in northern Estonia are more influenced by Swedish and Finnish, especially along the coast and on the islands.

The Estonian identity is closely connected to the language and the mother tongue of just under 1.1 million people in the world. Russian is spoken by about 25% of people in Estonia and is heard mostly near the capital Tallinn and Eastern Estonian regions (in towns like Narva, Narva-Jõesuu and Kohtla-Järve).