The first words that you will hear at your arrival in Estonia are “Tere Tulemast”, which means “Welcome”. I’m pretty sure that you will get enveloped by this fascinating culture faster than you can imagine, and that’s why I will help you with some basic phrases that you must know before coming to Estonia and also help you to be more culturally aware.
“Tere”, “Tsau”, “Aitäh” seem to be the magical words in Estonia, even when Estonians seem to be quiet people, but if you try to say some words in the local language, they always smile. As soon as you get in contact with the environment it’s impossible not to learn some Estonian words. I know that feeling, when you visit a totally unknown place, you begin to explore and fascinate with each detail, enjoying the scenery, new sounds call your attention and inevitably you’re dying to know what people are talking about, and it’s true you cannot stop smiling to everyone.
As is the case for every international student, the first weeks of adaptation are the most exciting and interesting, the mere fact of taking a taxi, taking a walk around the old town, having a beer in a pub and going shopping, is an amazing new experience, however what if you get lost? If you have an emergency? Or just want to be empathetic with Estonians? I hope you won’t have embarrassing situations like me, (better not to tell you how many times I got lost in Tallinn during the first month), that’s when you have to handle some basic vocabulary.
1.1 million people speak Estonian, this peculiar language belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family; keep also in mind that 15% of the population speaks Russian, nowadays English is also spoken by a smaller percentage of the local population, mainly by young people.
In the country there are many schools that offer Estonian language courses for beginners. Tallinn University of Technology offers this as part of the optional courses in the curriculum, “Estonian Language and Culture” lecture for any level of study, all you need is the willingness to learn and make Estonian friends to help you to perfect it.
Here, I present some useful phrases in everyday life:
- Tere !: Hello!
- Tere hommikust!: Good morning!
- Tere õhtust!: Good evening!
- Tere päevast!: Good day!
- Aitäh!: Thank you! / Suur aitäh!: Thank you very much!
- Head aega!: Good bye!
- Tsau!/Nägemist!: Bye!
- Vabandage!: Excuse me!
- Pole midagi!: It’s nothing!
- Palun!: Please!
- Ma ei oska eesti keelt: I cannot speak Estonian.
- Ma ei saa aru: I don’t understand.
You can also take your language skills into a higher level by learning these phrases:
- Minu nimi on Andrea. Mis sinu nimi on?: My name is Andrea. What is your name?
- Väga meeldiv!: Nice to meet you!
- Kuidas läheb?: How are you?
- Väga hästi!: Very good!
- Head isu!: Enjoy your food!
- Ma õpin eesti keelt: I’m learning Estonian.
- Ma oskan eesti keelt, inglise keelt ja hispaania keelt.: I can speak Estonian, English and Spanish.
- Kus on tualett?: Where is the bathroom?
- Kus on väljapääs?: Where is the exit?
- Kas sa saad mind aidata palun?: Can you help me, please?
- Tallinna Tehnikaülikool: Tallinn University of Technology.
- Üks, kaks, kolm, neli, viis, kuus, seitse, kaheksa, ükehsa, kümme: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten.
Estonian language can be difficult at the beginning but practice makes perfect, so don’t give up, I recommend you to speak as much as you can, challenge your brain and have fun learning a new language. Always remember that if you need help with your coming to TUT, don’t hesitate to contact the group of Student Ambassadors.
P.S Check out these Online Estonian language courses: