Tere-tere, kallid lugejad! Hello there, dear readers! It’s always a pleasure to be back here with you. To be perfectly honest, though, I had absolutely no idea what I was going to write about today. I’ve been working full time (from home) throughout lockdown, and because of a huge increase in life admin, I’ve not really had much time for languages (or really, anything else I enjoy). But every spare moment I’ve had, I’ve either been reading for the book club I set up at work, or using the online course I found for Estonian.
Now, when I asked Twitter what I should write about, I got a couple of suggestions – all of which were language progress updates for languages I was no longer actively learning. It was a bit of an eye-opener, but I’ve always been an incorrigible dabbler. It’s part of my somewhat oblique charm. But the thing that made me realise most of all was that I hadn’t actually made a big deal of the fact that I’m back on the Estonian train – in fact, I’d barely mentioned it.
I think not being as vocal about my learning has made it easier to concentrate on one level, because I’ve felt no pressure to provide ‘evidence’ of my learning. Not that there’s ever been any external pressure at all, for any language I’ve been learning, it’s all entirely my own problem, but it’s been nice to have a break from it. But on the other hand, it’s also been quite lonely, and I’ve been lacking that sense of togetherness that the online language learning community provides. So I think I need to find a balance between… getting validation for my efforts from Twitter and Instagram, and just genuinely talking about the subject because it interests me. That’s going to be part of my goal, going forward.
So, moving on to Estonian – or eesti keel, for those of you in the know. I discovered a website called Keeleklikk, which is an online Estonian course starting at beginner level, so in the interest of setting realistic goals for myself, I’ve been trying to do maybe half an hour every day. I haven’t managed to do it every single day, but I’ve stuck to it most days and I’ve nearly finished the first chapter of the course, which feels like an achievement – even though I’d struggle to string a sentence together. Even though I’ve studied Estonian before, I really wanted to go into it with fresh eyes and try and get a sense of it from the ground up. Last time I tried to learn Estonian I got trapped in a cage made of ÕS paradigms, and it all got a bit too rigid and logical for my brain to deal with. ÕS refers to Eesti Õigekeelsussõnaraamat, the Estonian answer to the Oxford English Dictionary – they produced a set of numbered paradigms (38 in total, with some variations – for example, you can have 18, 18e or 18u) into which you can fit every noun or verb in the Estonian language, and predict how they’ll decline or conjugate. So I thought… that’s handy, all I need to do is to learn these, and then I’ll be golden! When actually, this is a much more complicated way of doing it – Estonians don’t learn it this way, and neither should you – doing it in a much more fluid, natural way is always best. But if you are interested in looking at these paradigms, you can find them all by clicking the number next to the headword after searching on Eesti Keele Instituut’s online dictionary (circled in the picture above).
It did help a little though, to get deep under the bonnet of Estonian grammar… to find out what really makes it tick. I’ve still not worked out how to use all 14 (yes, count them, 14) cases – I know that most of them are locative, but there are some which carry other meanings too… which can be quite confusing, if you’re not used to cases (in general). I’ve provided the full list to the left – some of which you might have seen before if you’ve studied Finnish or Hungarian. I don’t think I’ll ever get my head around the partitive, and will most definitely use it incorrectly for a couple of years before it clicks properly. But to really boil it down, I’ve learned that all you really need to know for Estonian declension is to remember the singular nominative, genitive, and partitive – and all of the other cases are easy to construct using the singular genitive. So that’s quite heartening!
Another thing I’ve found interesting about Estonian so far is the amount of Germanic loanwords. I don’t know enough about Estonian history and prestige languages to say whether these came from Swedish or German, but I know that there was an Swedish-speaking minority in Estonia, so it isn’t so far-fetched to assume that words like püksid (‘trousers’, Swedish byx- with the Estonian plural suffix -id) and tõlk (‘translator’, Swedish tolk) have the same origins. I do love me some etymology, so I’m looking forward to discovering more of these little gems as I continue my journey into Estonian.
I am loving it so far. I’ve always loved Estonian, I love the way it sounds, I love the way it looks… I love õ (even if I’m still not sure I’m pronouncing it properly. I promise I’ll try and stick to this one, and that I’ll keep you updated as I go… though perhaps not as frequently as I have done in the past. But don’t worry, there’ll still be monthly blog posts from me, so you won’t be missing out entirely! As always, I want to say suur aitäh (thanks a lot) for reading, it’s always appreciated. If you want to get in touch you can always leave a comment below, or reach out on Twitter and Instagram, I’m @sprakskatan on both. It’s always lovely to hear from you guys. So, until next month… nägemiseni!