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Photo by: Krõõt Tarkmeel

Photo by: Krõõt Tarkmeel

How Estonian language can win you local friends

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By Noora Karppi  •  16.08.2019

Estonians can be the kindest and warmest of friends. Even though Estonians may seem a bit distant and cold at first it is nothing personal, they are like that towards one another too! Once you have gained their trust and given them some time, you have trustworthy friends for a lifetime and beyond. And one of the most effective ways to steal the hearts of Estonians is to learn a little bit of their language.

The official language in Estonia is Estonian. It belongs to the Uralic language family and is closely related to the Finnish language. Estonian is a relatively small language, spoken by less than a million people natively.

When making plans to visit Tallinn, one usual question on people’s minds is “Do Estonians speak English?”. Well, there’s no need to worry as most Estonians understand and speak English - and are pretty good at it as well. Russian, German and Finnish are also widely spoken. But, as mentioned before, learn a bit of Estonian and you are guaranteed to gain new local Estonian friends.

To help you get started, we have created an Estonian phrasebook with strategically chosen phrases that will melt any seemingly cold-hearted Estonian at once. Make sure to use it while you're in Tallinn!

Estonian phrasebook for travellers

Hi! Tere!
My name is... Minu nimi on...
Nice to meet you

Meeldiv tutvuda

How are you? Kuidas läheb?
 good  hästi

 väga hästi / suurepäraselt

Thank you Aitäh


Congratulations! Palju õnne!

I like... Mulle meeldib...
 Tallinn  Tallinn
 Estonia  Eesti

 Sa meeldid mulle

It is really... See on väga...
 pretty  kena
 good  hea
 nice  tore
 beautiful  kaunis
 tasty  maitsev
 unique  ainulaadne

Mulgikapsad is my new favourite food Mulgikapsad on mu uus lemmiktoit 
I would eat kiluvõileib every day if I could Ma sööks iga päev kiluvõileiba kui ma saaks
Kama is so delicious! Kama on nii maitsev!
Can I have some more black bread Kas ma saaksin veel musta leiba, palun
Tallinn is like a fairytale Tallinn on nagu muinasjutulinn

There’s so many... Siin on nii palju...
 great museums  häid muuseume
 good restaurants  häid restorane
 nice people

 toredaid inimesi

I love... Ma armastan...
 you  sind
 Old Town  vanalinna
 Tallinn  Tallinna


I would like to live here Ma tahaksin siin elada

How to learn a language like an Estonian?

The answer is simple: online. Here are two (locally developed) digital solutions to help you get started with your Estonian studies: 
▪   TalkLocal is a location-based language app that lets you practice on the spot: in a café, grocery store, bus stop... Just switch it on to get the phrases you need for a specific situation and make language learning an interesting social activity. You can also learn how to pronounce each specific phrase. The TalkLocal app is availabe in four different languages: Estonian, English, Russian, and German. 

▪   Speakly teaches you the most relevant words first to help you to get started with real-life conversations in a matter of months (and thus keep you motivated). You can use it on your laptop as well as on your phone (languages: Estonian, Russian, Spanish, French, Italian, German). 

Happy learning! Head õppimist!