All about the Estonian language – and how to learn it

If you’re looking for an interesting and unique language to learn, Estonian may be perfect for you! This Baltic language is spoken by about 1.1 million people, mainly in Estonia.

It’s a fascinating language with a rich history – and it’s not too difficult to learn either. In this blog post, we will discuss everything you need to know about the Estonian language, including how to get started learning it yourself. We’ll also provide some helpful resources to make the process easier. Let’s get started!

What is the history and origin of the Estonian language?

The Estonian language has its roots in the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family. It is closely related to Finnish, and both languages are considered quite unique within the Uralic family.

Early Estonian used to be written in a Latin alphabet called Estonian Runic, which was used from the 13th century until the 18th century. The first book to be printed in Estonian was a catechism in 1535.

In the 19th century, many different dialects of Estonian were spoken throughout the country. However, these began to be standardized and Estonian began to be used widely in print and literature.

Today, Estonian is the official language of Estonia and one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. It is also spoken by small minorities in Latvia, Finland, and Russia.

How difficult is it to learn Estonian?

How difficult is it to learn Estonian?

Estonian is not a particularly easy language to learn, but it’s also not impossible. If you already know another Slavic or Finnic language, such as Russian or Finnish, you’ll likely find Estonian easier to pick up than someone who doesn’t have any prior experience with these language families.

That being said, Estonian does have some features that make it challenging for learners. For example, its grammar is quite complex, and there are a lot of irregular verbs. There is also a unique system of vowel harmony which governs which vowels can be used together in a word.

Where is Estonian spoken?

Estonian is mainly spoken in Estonia, where it is the official language. However, there are also small communities of Estonian speakers in Latvia, Finland, and Russia.

In Estonia, Estonian is used in all official contexts, including government, education, and media. It is also the language of choice for many everyday situations, such as socializing with friends or going to the store.

How many people speak Estonian?

It is estimated that about 1.1 million people speak Estonian as their first language. The vast majority of these speakers live in Estonia, but there are also small communities of Estonian speakers in Latvia, Finland, and Russia.

In addition to native speakers, there are also many people who have some knowledge of Estonian but don’t use it as their primary language. For example, many people in Estonia learn Estonian as a second language in school. As a result, the actual number of people who can speak Estonian is much higher than million.

Are there any dialects of Estonian?

There are two main dialects of Estonian: northern and southern. These dialects are not mutually intelligible, meaning that speakers of one dialect cannot understand speakers of the other.

The northern dialect is spoken in Estonia, while the southern dialect is spoken in Latvia. There is also a third dialect, called the Tartu dialect, which is used mainly in literature and poetry.

What does Estonian sound like when spoken?

Estonian has a reputation for being a difficult language to learn, in part because of its unique sound. Estonian is what linguists call a “fricative-rich language,” which means that it has a lot of consonants that are produced by forcing air through a narrow opening in the mouth. This can make Estonian words sound very harsh to speakers of other languages.

In addition, Estonian has a lot of vowel sounds that are unusual for English speakers. For example, there are two extra vowels, õ and ä, which can change the meaning of a word when used instead of the more common e and a.

How does the Estonian alphabet work?

The Estonian alphabet consists of 27 letters, including the three extra vowels mentioned above. The alphabet is very phonetic, which means that each letter corresponds to a specific sound. This makes it relatively easy to learn to read and write Estonian, even for people who are not familiar with the language.

What is Estonian grammar like?

Estonian grammar is quite complex, with a number of unique features. For example, there are 14 cases in the Estonian language, as opposed to the more common six or seven. This means that there are many different ways to inflect (change the form of) a word depending on its role in a sentence.

In addition, there are a lot of irregular verbs in Estonian. This means that the conjugation (the way the verb changes to indicate person, number, tense, etc.) of a given verb can’t be predicted by its ending.

Finally, there is a unique system of vowel harmony which governs which vowels can be used together in a word. This system is based on the principle that words can only have vowels from a single “vowel class.”

What are some common Estonian words and phrases?

Here are some common Estonian words and phrases that you might find useful:

– Hello = Tere

– Goodbye = Head aega

– Thank you = Tänan teid/Tänan sind

– Yes = Jah

– No = Ei

– Please = Palun

– Excuse me = Vabandust

– I don’t understand = Ma ei saa aru

– I don’t speak Estonian = Ma ei räägi eesti keelt

– Do you speak English? = Kas te räägite inglise keelt?

– What’s your name? = Mis on su nimi?

– My name is _____ = Mu nimi on _____

– Nice to meet you = Rõõm teid tunda

– Where are you from? = Kus te olete pärit?

– I’m from _____ = Ma olen pärit _____

– How are you? = Kuidas läheb?

– I’m good, thank you = Mul on hästi, tänan teid/Mul on hästi, tänan sind

– And you? = Ja teie/sina?

– Excuse me, where is the bathroom? = Vabandust

Top online resources for learning Estonian

Most of these websites are slightly older and not as user-friendly as the paid options, but if you’re looking to simply get acquainted with Estonian, they’re a good place to start.

The basics

Get started learning Estonian with these websites that will teach you the most basic vocabulary and phrases you need to start communicating.

Omniglot Estonian phrases

This is a good place for your first contact with Estonian. Omniglot provides a useful overview and common phrases (with audio) for everyday speech. Get your Hellos and Thank yous from here and move on.

Colanguage Estonian vocabulary and grammar

Going a bit farther than Omniglot, this website provides additional vocabulary, although it doesn’t put it into much context. It’s also a solid introduction to Estonian grammar if you’re interested in that sort of thing. You do have to create an account and put up with some annoying pop-ups to use the site.

Moving on

Once you’ve got past the very basics, it’s time to move on. You’ve surely heard horror stories of Estonian grammar, but these apps and websites will help you acquire more of the language with less of the terror.

Oneness Estonian

This Lithuanian website provides fully thought-out and useful language lessons. It starts from the very basics but incorporates a lot of real-life materials and ties that annoying grammar into the mix without you even noticing. However, it is an older website that requires Flash to run and occasionally misbehaves.


A government-run course with plenty of video content. Supposedly one of the top online Estonian courses, despite the videos feeling rather wooden. It also doesn’t work very well on Chrome.


The content on this website takes a big step forward in complexity. It’s intended to be used by Russian-speaking trade schools in Estonia but if you’re past the “My name is..” and “How old are you?” stage, it provides a great next step. There’s an interactive workbook and a lot of audio content for you to use. The whole website is in Estonian, however!


A mobile browser application, this is another publicly funded tool for learning Estonian. You need to create a free account to use it but, for a free app, it works rather well. Focusing on real-world communication and phrases, it uses geolocation to see what type of phrases might be the handiest.


For ten euros a month, you get access to a well-built system for increasing your vocabulary. For the money, you get an algorithm that adapts to your learning speed and actually makes acquiring new vocabulary fun. It’s very user-friendly, although it doesn’t create much context around the words you’re learning.


A new option to the table, Speakly’s prices start at six euros a month (if you pay for a year in advance). However, for the cash, you get an app developed using excellent methodology. You’ll focus on learning the most important vocabulary in context – something absolutely vital to language learning success.