Based on podcast interviews
The Estonian language is the official language of Estonia. It belongs to the Finno-Ugric language family. As locals can confirm it’s not the easiest language to learn. It’s hard to give an exact guide to the Estonian language, but if you are visiting Estonia, it’s good to know this. Namely, one easy thing about the Estonian language may be pronunciation!
Start by learning to pronounce the Estonian alphabet and after that reading sentences out loud becomes a lot easier! Just pronounce ALL the letters, that this word and sentence has, and keep in mind to put the emphasis on the second half of the word! And voilá, congrats! You already sound like an Estonian!
In the podcast Found in Estonia, we have talked with tens of different expats, who are living in Estonia. All of them have different backgrounds, regarding their home country and native language. Among talking about their experiences while living in Estonia and getting to know Estonians, we have always touched upon the topic of the Estonian language!
And it’s been surprisingly hilarious to find out which and why are their favorite words in the Estonian language.
Here’s an overview of what they’ve shared.
Turns out the word “keskus” (center) has been the favorite of multiple podcast guests. – Reason? “I love how you just add “keskus” to everything and it becomes a place.”
*indeed the word “center” is used in the context of “shopping center” and also together with most of our national institution names, for example with health, agriculture, arts, human rights, culture funds etc – when they add “keskus” to their names it usually shows, that this place is an institution of some sorts.
Another favorite add-on word turns out to be “öö” (night) – since you can connect with different things like “öötöö” (work at night, töö – “work”).
Spanish speakers pointed out, that the most common greeting phrase “tere tulemast” (Welcome!) sounds funny, because. “Tere” is actually a name in Spain. It’s short for Teresa.
Turns out Estonians love playing around with the words “mida” (what”) and “ei” (no).
One Found in Estonia podcast guest said: “mida” is a great word because you can just yell it. And for some reason, people think it’s funny. Especially if someone does something that’s annoying or it bugs you, you just yell “MIDAA?”.
Another person mentioned: “Usually you guys put a lot of emotions in the no-s”. I really like the way Estonians say “ei” – it usually makes you feel like the dumbest person. You say something and the person is just “eiiii, eiiiii, eiiii”
English speakers brought up the fact, that Estonians often make their compound words by slapping two words straight together. For example “poolsaar” (peninsula). “Pool” literally means half and “saar” island. So that just makes sense in the silliest way.
Yet not so fast, as another native English speaker pointed out: her favorite word “mesipuu” translates to “honey tree”, but means actually a beehive.
Her other tip for language learning expressions is connecting it with funny and similar-sounding things, in here: remember it sounds a lot like “messy poo”.
Two other expressions podcast guests shared were: “sigakallis” (pig+expensive) and “mine metsa” (go to the forest!). Two remarks, one expresses how extremely expensive something is and another is a soft insult for declining someone.
Depending on the guest, often one’s favorite word sticks with the person, thanks to the context, where and how often it is used. For example, one male guest shared, that 10 years ago he’s the favorite word was “meeletu” (insane)- and he always said: “sul on meeletult ilusad silmad!” (“you have insanely beautiful eyes!”
Talking about love for Estonian words and expressions – from one of our multilingual guests we heard the following: I love the word “armastus” – the word love. It is “Aşk” in Turkish, in Persian “Esgh”. And I find the word “armastus”, most suitable thing for love. I really love that word!
Next sweet sounding phrases for expressing love was also “musi, musi” (kiss on the cheek) and: “musi, kalli, pai” (peck, hug, pet).
Sometimes one chooses their favorite word, simply because another person said it once and for some reason it stuck to their head.
This is probably what happened with these random sounding words, that foreigners living in Estonia found dearest to them: “Maasikavaht” (strawberry foam), “puu” (tree), “natukene” (a little bit), “Kurat” (Shit), “Nonii..” (Alrighty..), “Uskumatu” (Unbelievable) and “Tigu” (snail).
Check out podcast Found in Estonia to hear more stories that the Estonian expat community has shared:
Listen episodes on: www.anchor.fm/foundinestonia
Share with us what is your favorite Estonian word!ld like foreigners to know before moving to Estonia?
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