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HomeNewsLatestEstonian Remains Notoriously Difficult To Learn, But The Language Is Here To Stay
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Those who are learning Estonian as a second language should take comfort, knowing that not even Estonians have mastered the Estonian language. In celebration of Estonian Language Day on March 14, ERR held a dictation contest similar to that held in Lithuania a few weeks prior. Of the 2,910 entries received (with many more lost due to busy servers), only 37 were entirely correct.

Martin Ehala, one of the event organisers, said this year’s text was more difficult than last year’s. “There were many minor errors, but the general skill level of Estonian is very good,“ Ehala said.

There are 40,500 fewer Estonians than there were 12 years ago, with the language being upheld through the Language Inspectorate who ensures public use of language must be in Estonian and must meet good practices. All employees, officials, police, professionals and teachers in Estonia who don’t have an Estonian language education must pass a language proficiency test.

In a recent interview, Language Inspectorate Ilmar Tomusk spoke to ETV about his work and the future of Estonian. He said the threats to the language are similar concerns to that of the Germans, Spanish, or Italians, ” English is making strong inroads and starting to affect Estonian sentence structure. We use expressions that are direct, word-for-word translations from English.”

With many Estonian inhabitants speaking English at home and school, and getting most of their media in English, it is hard to avoid the language. But Mr Tomusk maintains that “There is nothing that can’t be expressed in Estonian!” Books by Pushkin and Shakespeare have been “translated brilliantly into Estonian.” Last year alone there were one hundred new children’s books published in Estonian. Many say the fact that there is IT support for the language shows its staying power. “Microsoft has support for 40 languages and Estonian is one of them,” said Mr Tomusk.

When Estonia became free of Soviet rule in 1991 Russian was still prominent and one goal of the newly Independent nation was to make Estonian the only official language. Mr Tomusk says “We were able to preserve our national language quite well compared with other Soviet republics.”

Stating that Estonian is in the top percentile of the world’s 7,000 languages Mr Tomusk concluded by saying “Estonian’s fate ultimately depend[s] on how we cherish and use the language.”

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Photo courtesy: ERR

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