Although there are many languages spoken in Estonia, Estonian has been the country’s official language since independence in 1991. Estonian is part of the Finnic subdivision of the Uralic language family. The Estonian alphabet contains 23 letters. Although Estonian is the official language, there are other regional languages present in the country. One of these languages is Võro. Võro speaking people are mainly located in the southeastern part of the country although there are others scattered in other sections of Estonia. The second regional language is Seto where the speakers are mainly found near the border of Estonia and Russia at a county called Setomaa. Other regional languages are Mulgi and Tartu.

The official language of Estonian is used by about 68.7% of the population. On the other hand, Russian is spoken by 29.7% which makes nearly a quarter of the population, and 22% of the country’s population are German speakers. Other minority languages used in Estonia include Ukrainian at 3%, Belarusian at 2%, and Hebrew at 1%.

Estonian is associated with Finnish because they belong to the same language family. In some cases, a Finnish speaker may understand some words or whole phrases in Estonian, and vice versa, both in their verbalized and written forms. However, sometimes one Estonian word could mean a different thing in Finnish. For example, appi in Estonia means help, but the same word means father-in-law in Finnish. The pronunciation of Estonian words in most cases tends to be congruent with the written form of the words. Common useful phrases in Estonian include Kuidas läheb which translates to how are you, tere tulemast which means welcome, and tervist for hello.

Estonia is home to a variety of other minority languages. One of them is Russian. There are several settlements with a huge population of Russians, and therefore the language is considered the most popular minority language in Estonia. In certain locations, the Russian speakers are more than those who speak Estonian. The second minority language in Estonia is Swedish. The Swedes in Estonia are mainly settled in the coastal regions in the north and west of Estonia. German is also one of the minority languages. Other minority languages include Hebrew, Ukrainian, Belarusian, and the Estonian sign language.

This page was last modified on May 1st, 2018

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