Estonian vs Finnish. Will I sound ridiculous?

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Estonian vs Finnish. Will I sound ridiculous?

Postby maxcrylov » 2006-11-12, 20:54

Hi everybody!
I've got a question and really I need your help. Would you be so kind?

I've decided to spend a weekend in Estonia (if I'm ever to get a visa) which I've been longing to do for years. I'm nearly in love with Estonian language (which is strange for a Russian), but, unfortunately, there are too few sources to learn it here...
Everytime I think of the trip I ask myself a question what language should I speak. Russian must be ruled out for sure (I know, I know :) ). I'm fluent in English and used to speak some Finnish (though it was long ago). Now I'm starting to revise my Finnish in order to have at least some basic conversational skills...

The problem is that I don't know what will be better "accepted" by Estonians - English or my efforts to transfigure my poor Finnish into a poorer Estonian :D How many people speak English well, say, in Tallinn?
If you start asking people in English in Moscow you're (er... how to put it)... you're highly unlikely to get an answer :D

And if I try to speak Finnish, won't it sound simply ridiculous for Estonians? Will they understand it? (I really don't hope that I will understand a single word, but that's not that important :) ).

Thanks for your attention!
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Postby Loiks » 2006-11-14, 18:19

Hi again and welcome!

You will find it quite problemless to communicate with young people in English and with older people in Russian (especially if you say that you are not some local homo soveticus but a Russian from Russia). I don't suggest you to start creating some Finno-Estonian mixed language, spoken with Russian accent :). People would ask then where do you come from and then go on in English or Russian anyway. And not everybody speaks Finnish here, it needs knowledge to understand and speak it, the vocabulary can be very different.

Btw, at the end of the year Tallinn is a popular destination for 'novyje russkije' from Moscow and St. Petersburg. On new year's eve all the hotels are reserved by them, there are Russian singers and other artists and Ded Morozes and Snegurochkas etc. Anne Veski gives at least 3 concerts in one night.

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Postby maxcrylov » 2006-11-14, 18:57

Damn Anne Veski, damn Ded Morozs, damn Snegurochkas and "novye russkie"! I'm fed up with this here in Moscow :lol:

Hi, Loiks!

Thanks for your piece of advice, that's what I suspected. Though I expected Finnish is going to be better understood than you say. I was in Finland three years ago with an Estonian guide. Even my poor level told me his Finnish was rather odd. But for Finnish people it was (I do believe) at least comprehensible. Still, I don't know to which extent it was Estonian since I don't know the language.

I'm not a homo soveticus :D
Though I like Jaak Joala. I've heard he's not that much admired by Estonians.

Honestly, you've discouraged me a bit from visiting Tallinn... I wanted to go to a real European country I think Estonia is, to listen to people speaking their own language and not to see my compatriots spending money and singing "kalinka" and "we'll be back, you'll see" :shock:

:D

Thanks a lot anyway!
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Postby maxcrylov » 2006-11-14, 19:00

Yet again I'm underestimated *indignantly* :evil:
"With Russian accent" :D

My Arabic tutor says I'm speaking Arabic with an Estonian accent... Is it good, I wonder... :D
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Postby Loiks » 2006-11-14, 21:19

maxcrylov wrote:Though I expected Finnish is going to be better understood than you say. I was in Finland three years ago with an Estonian guide. Even my poor level told me his Finnish was rather odd. But for Finnish people it was (I do believe) at least comprehensible. Still, I don't know to which extent it was Estonian since I don't know the language.


I mean also that Finnish is not so popular neither any more unfortunately than it was is 1980's and early 90's as the only medium of free world in tv. People watch other channels more now (there are 3 in Estonian and all the ones that come via satellite). Finnish vodka-and-sex-tourists have also managed to pull down the status of Finnish amongst Estonians. This oddness of your guide's Finnish is the different accent. Estonian is spoken quickly and in front, Finnish slowly and backward. Estonians tend to palatalize and forget the vowel harmony in Finnish, they can't say d-sound properly etc.

maxcrylov wrote:I'm not a homo soveticus :D
Though I like Jaak Joala. I've heard he's not that much admired by Estonians.


Jaak Joala was called 'Kremli ööbik' - 'Kremlin's nightingale' :). Singing in Russian and being popular in Moscow was looked as some kind of betraial, yes.

maxcrylov wrote:Honestly, you've discouraged me a bit from visiting Tallinn... I wanted to go to a real European country I think Estonia is, to listen to people speaking their own language and not to see my compatriots spending money and singing "kalinka" and "we'll be back, you'll see" :shock:

:D

Thanks a lot anyway!


Well, the fact is that some 40% of Tallinn's population doesn't speak Estonian as their mother tongue anyway.

Is your Arabic teacher Estonian in Moscow? :). I can't possibly immagine what would an Estonian accent be like in Arabic :? I remember Arnold Rüütel's speech in Russian at some old-school party congresses in Moscow, his stiff accent; if I now immagine that Arnold Rüütel had a speech at some summit of Arab states in Arabic - :lol: terrible!

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Postby Zorba » 2006-11-14, 22:11

Tere

I'm a native English speaker - I only speak a few words of Estonian, but I have spent a bit of some there (I was based in Riga for a year and took a few trips up to Eesti). My Russian isn't bad so I had the choice of communicating in "good English" / "mediocre Russian" / "elementary Estonian" when in Estonia.

I found that people are very happy to speak English and the standard of English is pretty impressive, especially in Tallinn. Indeed, among young people, nearly everyone speaks good English. So that can always be an option. (Tallinn is much easier for English-speakers than Moscow, I know *all* about trying to communicate in Moscow)

As you know, there are lots of Russians in Estonia, especially in Tallinn and the north-east. (Indeed, in Narva I hardly heard Estonian spoken.) Russian Estonians will be happiest if you speak Russian, and generally older Estonian will understand and reply in Russian, so if you're stuck you can use that (Their English may not be as good). I found younger Estonians could be a bit weird about speaking Russian, but that's understandable considering the country's history. But even then, you probably won't encounter any open hostility, just a few evil glances.

As for the Finnish, I don't know so much about that. As Loiks says, most people probably speak better English than Finnish nowadays, so it's probably easier just to use English. If you want to practise your Finnish, look for Finns drinking in the bars down-town. :D Or, better still, hop over on the ferry to Helsinki. It only takes an hour (though I guess it probably means another visa).

I don't know if Loiks would agree with me, but to see the 'real' Estonia, I'd recommend a day-trip to Tartu. Tallinn is lovely but very touristy and sometimes you can hear more Russian / English / German spoken there than Estonian. Tartu is a very Estonian-speaking city and you can pick up the vibe of the city easier because there's less tourists... oh, when I was there and this really cute Estonian guy just came up and started talking to me when I was reading under a tree. Apart from that, it's got an excellent museum, the Museum of Estonian History, that's definitely worth seeing.

Good luck with organizing your trip - let us know if you want any more suggestions of where to go.

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Postby Loiks » 2006-11-15, 17:13

Yes, the idea of visiting Tartu is a very good one. Btw, also the Tallinn-Moscow train has a stop there. I lived in Tartu couple of years when I studied in the university there. It might seem very quiet and almost dead though, as it deed to me as a native Tallinner.

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Postby maeng » 2006-11-15, 17:17

Finnish vodka-and-sex-tourists have also managed to pull down the status of Finnish amongst Estonians.


Indeed, unfortunately ridiculous amounts of Finns travel to Estonia just to buy cheaper booze and usually get pretty hammered while doing it. They've effectively ruined our reputation in Tallinn. Dunno what is it with Finns and alcohol ;_;

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Postby Loiks » 2006-11-15, 17:32

maeng wrote:
Finnish vodka-and-sex-tourists have also managed to pull down the status of Finnish amongst Estonians.


Indeed, unfortunately ridiculous amounts of Finns travel to Estonia just to buy cheaper booze and usually get pretty hammered while doing it. They've effectively ruined our reputation in Tallinn. Dunno what is it with Finns and alcohol ;_;


Don't worry, the English bachelors' parties are in now. Even a very hammered Finn is quite a pleasant guy compared to many of those lads from good old England who think that the whole city is one big pub and brothel for them.

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Postby maxcrylov » 2006-11-17, 18:28

Oh, you haven't seen Russians being drunk I daresay... :D

What can save my English from degrading? Dunno.

Actually, my teacher is no more Estonian than I am. But he likes mocking this famous "Estonian accent", a subject for lots of jokes in Russia (sorry guys :) ).

Okay, I won't try speaking Finnish. Or I'm dead :)

ARRGH! There is nothing, ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about Estonian in this country. It drives me crazy...
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Postby Loiks » 2006-11-17, 21:53

Eesti foorumisse peaks natuke eesti keeles ka kirjutama! :) Proovin edaspidi kõik oma kommentaarid kakskeelseks muuta.

Tead, võibolla ma olin liiga järsk soome keele kasutamise kohta siin. Lihtsalt oleks nagu imelik, kui keegi mittesoomlane pöörduks minu poole soome keeles, ma arvan. See pole ju mingi 'rahvusvaheline' keel.

Mõned aastad tagasi ma kohtasin soome keele üliõpilasi Ungaris ja siis me rääkisime soome keeles. See oli natuke problemaatiline, sest nemad kasutasid väga standardset ja akadeemilist soome keelt, samas kui mina kaldun rääkima nagu slängi moodi soome keelt koos oma eestipärasustega, mis paraku aeg-ajalt ikka ette tulevad. See ei ole eriline probleem sünnipärase soomlase jaoks, aga neile ungarlastele tekitas see raskusi.

Veel üks asi on see, et ma üritan mõelda nagu 'tüüpiline' Tallinna eestlane selles mõttes. Ma söandan öelda, et ma räägin soome keelt üsna soravalt ja mul pole probleeme sellest aru saamisega, aga ma tunnen paljusid inimesi, kellel on.



Something should be written in Estonian forum in Estonian too! :) I try to change all my comments bilingual from now on.

Look, maybe I was too strict about this using of Finnish here. It would just be kind of weird if anyone not Finnish would turn to me in Finnish I guess. It isn't an 'international' language, is it?

Couple of years ago I met some students of Finnish in Hungary and then we spoke in Finnish. It was a little bit problematic because they used very standard and academic Finnish while I rather tend to use kind of slangish Finnish with my estonianisms that unfortunately occur occasionally. That is not a big problem for a native Finn but for those Hungarians it made difficulties.

Another thing is that I try to think as a 'typical' Estonian from Tallinn in that sense. I dare to say that I speak Finnish quite fluently and have no problems to understand it but I know many people who don't.

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Postby Sergei » 2006-11-18, 21:46

Loiks, of course it´s a well known fact that in Estonia there are many people whose native language is Russian. I wonder how do they usually speak with native Estonians -- in Russian, Estonian or maybe English? BTW, regarding the knowledge of English of the young Estonians, how they know it so well? Just learning at school or you got subtitles on TV as in many other countries? Don't you have fear that because of English spreading, Estonian may die out somewhere in the fiture>?

Maxcrylov, is it really so problematic to find English-speaking people in Moscow? I guess young educated people should know it quite well. At least I know some people from Moscow who told me that now most Moscow residents are able speak English..

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Postby Zorba » 2006-11-19, 1:24

At least I know some people from Moscow who told me that now most Moscow residents are able speak English..


I think I reading once about what percentage of different nationalities could speak a foreign language. If I remember correctly, somewhere that about 10% of Russians can communicate in a foreign language. Of course, that percentage is probably higher in Moscow itself. It's a lot better than England, where I think the figure was about 5% (excluding bilingual immigrants and their descendants etc.). Still, many European countries are above 50% and somewhere like Netherlands or Sweden is probably about 80%+. They are only rough statistics and I can't remember my source, so argue all you like about them!!! :D

My own experience in Moscow is that there is a small minority who speak very good English, staffing the five-star international hotels and their restaurants. Additionally, there is a sizeable population who can speak functional English, especially if they are trying to sell you something (on the tourist markets for example).

Many Muscovites expect the tourists to stay to these areas, and outside the major tourist attractions, Muscovites are still quite surprised to seeing tourists and aren't used to speaking English to them. If you want to experience the 'real' Moscow (go to a restaurant or bar that doesn't charge Western prices or visit somewhere off the beaten track), Russian is really a must. I think this comes as a shock to many English speakers, who are used to being able to conduct their daily lifes in English when abroad.

While we Unilangers learn languages for pleasure, the vast majority of the people learn languages for economic reasons. Estonia is a tiny country with a booming economy, where they speak an impenetrable non-Indo-European language. For Estonia to keep its economy growing and to gain a place in European and world markets, Estonians need to be able to speak English. That's why they can. The same is true for many other 'smaller' European languages, such as Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. Larger countries like France and Spain have a worse record on language learning because they don't need to.

Until 1991, Russia was effectively closed off to the West and only diplomats, spies and government ministers had an economic motivation to learn English. Even now, tourism is stifled by the bureaucratic visa regulations. International companies are starting to move in, but there is still lots of red tape and corruption. Much of Russia's trade is still conducted within the former Soviet Union, and Russian has survived (at least until recently) as a lingua franca in Eastern Europe. There hasn't been much need for them to speak English, that's why they generally don't.

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Postby Sergei » 2006-11-19, 8:33

There hasn't been much need for them to speak English, that's why they generally don't.


Yeah, here in Belarus it´s basically the same, even the younger generation is generally not so good in English. But

Estonians need to be able to speak English. That's why they can. The same is true for many other 'smaller' European languages, such as Netherlands and the Scandinavian countries. Larger countries like France and Spain have a worse record on language learning because they don't need to.


As far as I understand, when it comes to Netherlands, Scandinavian countries etc... most of their English knowledge comes from watching subtitled American films.
I don´t think that their school programmes are so good or that every, say, Swede or Dutchman really needs English so much for work. In France, Spain and Russia (and Belarus) dubbing is used on TV, that's why only those speak English who need it (like me, but I even speak Dutch and some Swedish which I don't need at all but just i like them).
That's why I was wondering if subtitles were also used in Estonia. Or maybe younger generation is trying to get as close to the West as possible and distance themselves from the "colonial" Soviet time..Anyway do fears exist that Estonian may die out? especially given Estonia's bilingual Russian-Estonian nature, when in the next generation English may be used as a lingua franca WITHIN the country.

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Postby maxcrylov » 2006-11-19, 9:56

So the discussion shifts towards the topic "English in Russia. Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it?" :D

Folks, I've got nothing to add to Zorba's explanation why Russians are so reluctant to learning foreign languages. A very profound impartial analysis, I must admit.

Far from criticizing my compatriots, I simply regret that they can't speak English well. Even "young educated people".
That's why I consider Sergei's statement "... now most Moscow residents are able to speak English..." highly optimistic. I wish it was so.

I have experienced myself, how young Muscovites employed in some prestigious trade-centers speak English. Sometimes I play pretend that I'm an American and try asking them something. No response... Only scared glances and miserable attempts to say at least something (the first thing usually is "not speak English", the second "Gitler Kaput" and finally "yankee go home"). Russian is a must. Too true.

But it's not that gloomy after all 8)

By the way, two best speaking English young Muscovites I know come from Belarus. How come I wonder? :?
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Postby Sergei » 2006-11-19, 10:10

By the way, two best speaking English young Muscovites I know come from Belarus. How come I wonder?


He-he, deep inside we Belarussians are good linguists, just many of us don't know it:)))


Far from criticizing my compatriots, I simply regret that they can't speak English well. Even "young educated people


But why do you regret? If I were you I'd be happy for two reasons. First is practical -- with your good knowledge of English you'll always have an advantage! Second is theoretical -- if all Russians spoke English it'd be a first step for Russian to die out. Do you want it?:)
As for me I'm absolutely happy that my countrymen mostly are not good in English. Luckily enough we don't have subtitled TV. Ok, it's just my antiglobalist point of view...

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Postby Zorba » 2006-11-19, 17:32

As far as I understand, when it comes to Netherlands, Scandinavian countries etc... most of their English knowledge comes from watching subtitled American films.


I'm not sure if this is true. Certainly they show American films and TV shows subtitled rather than dubbed in these countries. But I wonder if this is really the cause of why they speak English so well, or simply a consequence of the fact that they have already embraced English as a global language for other (economic) reasons.

It is also, of course, a cultural decision to show/watch programmes and films subtitled rather than dubbed, so these countries show a cultural interest in Anglo-American norms.

That's why I was wondering if subtitles were also used in Estonia.


I think subtitles are used in both Estonian cinemas and TV, but you'd need to ask Loiks to be sure. In Latvia, films in cinemas are shown subtitled rather than dubbed, but TV shows are dubbed rather than subtitled.

Or maybe younger generation is trying to get as close to the West as possible and distance themselves from the "colonial" Soviet time.


Yes, this is both an economic and cultural decision.

Anyway do fears exist that Estonian may die out? especially given Estonia's bilingual Russian-Estonian nature, when in the next generation English may be used as a lingua franca WITHIN the country.


Whatever you think of the Estonian language laws (a whole other debate), the consequence of them will be that you need a good knowledge of Estonian to gain citizenship. Education is increasingly provided in Estonian, so the new generation of ethnic Russians will most likely speak Estonian whether they like it or not!

As to Estonian dying out, I think your predictions are too gloomy. A language only dies out when people stop teaching it to their children. For example, Dutch shows no signs of dying out, although many subjects are now taught in English and most young Dutch people are bilingual. So English could easily be a language for business communication and education in Estonia, while Estonian would be the language for everyday and the home.

On an unrelated note, do you speak Belarussian? Are you thinking of opening a Belarussian forum here on Unilang? There are almost no resources :?

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Postby Sergei » 2006-11-19, 19:42

I'm not sure if this is true. Certainly they show American films and TV shows subtitled rather than dubbed in these countries. But I wonder if this is really the cause of why they speak English so well, or simply a consequence of the fact that they have already embraced English as a global language for other (economic) reasons.


I don't know, maybe we should ask them. But from what I heard, their English proficiency is mostly down to watching subtitled TV. For example these year in Minsk I spoke to 2 young Norwegians who spoke quite good English. They told me that they use English very rarely in their country, only sometimes with the tourists. But they often hear it spoken on TV, and read it in internet, that's why they don't have problems with it.



For example, Dutch shows no signs of dying out, although many subjects are now taught in English and most young Dutch people are bilingual.


Who knows? As I said bilingualism is maybe just the first step... For me it'd be very sad if Dutch and Scandinavian languages died out. Estonian as well -- I don't speak it but it's a cute, unusual language! In any case I'm happy I will not live to see them dying out:) And I am hoping to live long, of course!!:)

On an unrelated note, do you speak Belarussian? Are you thinking of opening a Belarussian forum here on Unilang? There are almost no resources


Of course I learned it at school and I can speak some of it. But as I don't use it in everyday life I wouldn't say I am really fluent. So I'm not sure I could be a good instructor.
Unfortunately enough , the situation with the Belarussian language is in many ways similar to that with Irish Gaelic, so it's a sad story. We've been raised in Russian, though some young people seem to have lots of interest to Belarussian.

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Postby Loiks » 2006-11-19, 20:17

Jah, kõigepealt, Sergei, kui sa oled valgevenelane, kas su nimi ei peaks siis olema Siarhej, mitte Sergei?! Kas see on su Lukašenko propaganda, mis on pannud su niimoodi mõtlema?

Las ma seletan. Pole olemas mingit eesti-vene kakskeelsust! Kui teie Valgevenes olete oma keele kaotanud, ärge arvake, et meie nii teeksime. Siin on kaks kogukonda, mis tegelikult praktiliselt omavahel ei suhtle, keskmine eesti noor ei ole võimeline suhtlema oma vene kaaslasega ja nad tavaliselt ei tahagi seda teha, on liiga palju kultuurilisi erimeelsusi. Vene keel on ja on alati olnud meie jaoks võõras keel, isegi tähestik on erinev, erinevalt mõnedest teistest endise NL-i osadest, polnud see Baltimaades isegi prestiižne, see oli ja on endiselt okupantide ja kolonistide keel, küüditamiste ja terrori keel. Ma ei taha öelda, et ma vihkan venelasi ja nende keelt, aga ma vihkan imperialismi, šovinismi jms.* Inglise keelt on meie koolides alati õpetatud ja ma arvan, et kui me võtaksime noore hollandlase, rootslase või eestlase, oleks nende inglise keele oskus võrdsel tasemel.

Mis puudutab subtiitreid: me oskame lugeda! Ma ei vaataks iialgi dubleeritud filmi, ma tahan kuulata originaalkeelt ja lugeda vajadusel eesti, soome, inglise või isegi vene subtiitreid, kui vaja. See on traditsioon!

Me oleme väga väike rahvas ja peame ennast kaitsma mõnel viisil, mida mõnikord nimetatakse natsionalismiks. Kui kõik venelased mõtleksid nagu Max, oleksin ma nende suurim fänn.

*Minu isiklikud vaated meie ühiskonna vaatlemise põhjal




Yes, first of all, Sergei, if you are a Belorussian, shouldn't your name be Siarhej not Sergei?! Is it your Lukašenko propaganda that has made you think that way?

Let me explain. There is no Estonian-Russian bilingualism whatsoever! If you have lost your language in Belarus, don't think, we'd do so! There are two communities here that don't practically actually interact at all, an average Estonian youngster is not able to communicate with his/her Russian counterpart and they usually even don't want to, there are too much cultural disagreements. Russian is and has always been a foreign language for us, even alphabet is different, unlike some other parts of former SU it wasn't even prestigious in the Baltics, it was and still is a language of occupiers and colonialists, a language of deportations and terror. I don't mean that I hate Russians and their language, but I hate imperialism, chauvinism, etc.* English has been taught at our schools always and I guess, if we'd take a young Dutch, Swede or Estonian, their skills of English would be equal.

What concerns subtitles: we can read! I'd never want to watch a dubbed film, I wanna hear the original language and read Estonian, Finnish, English or even Russian subtitles if needed. It's a tradition!

We are a very small nation and have to protect ourselves in some ways that are sometimes called nationalism.

If all the Russians thought like Max does, I'd be their biggest fan!

*my very own opinions based on observing our society

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Postby Sergei » 2006-11-20, 7:53

Yes, first of all, Sergei, if you are a Belorussian, shouldn't your name be Siarhej not Sergei?! Is it your Lukašenko propaganda that has made you think that way?


Actually in my passport, it's really Siarhei in Latin version:) But I call myself Sergei because my first language is Russian and everyone calls me like this. No, Lukashenko propaganda has nothing to do with it. I don't really follow this propaganda, however I am not strongly against Lukashenko, I feel pretty much comfortable with him. Well, basically he's a jerk, but all politics are like that. I guess your Estonian officials are not much better. Just they are pro-Western and Luka loves his own power too much..

There is no Estonian-Russian bilingualism whatsoever! If you have lost your language in Belarus, don't think, we'd do so!


Oh no , I don't want you to lose your language, by no means!

There are two communities here that don't practically actually interact at all, an average Estonian youngster is not able to communicate with his/her Russian counterpart and they usually even don't want to, there are too much cultural disagreements


So, Estonian youngsters don't speak Russian and the other way round? But how do you communicate? In English? You can't separate from Russian-speaking guys completely.
BTW funny enough, after my countrymen communicate with Russians living in Estonia/Latvia, they often say: "Oh, these are not real Russians, living in Baltic states change them a lot, they are not "ours":)



English has been taught at our schools always and I guess, if we'd take a young Dutch, Swede or Estonian, their skills of English would be equal.


And if you take a young Estonian, a young Latvian and Lithuanian? Will it be the same again? And do Russian-speaking Estonian residents also speak good English I wonder?
As for Estonians and Dutch, yeah, just I remembered, you know, Belarus had a friendy football game in Estonia last week (and we lost 1-2). So before the match I had to talk to Jelle Goes, a Dutchman who's a coach of Estonia. His words were the same as yours, regarding young EStonians and their proficiency in English.
bTW if you can read russian and interested in soccer I can give you the link for my interview with Jelle:
http://www.championat.ru/article-7258.html


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