Is it hard?

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heslop01
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Is it hard?

Postby heslop01 » 2008-08-23, 23:03

Terve all.

I was just wondering to myself, is Estonian a hard language? I have a passion for languages not popular with people learning and I wanted to ask your opinions about it. I know very very basic words, like hello, goodbye etc. Other than that is the pronunciation hard? the grammar? etc.



tänan.

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Levo
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Re: Is it hard?

Postby Levo » 2008-08-24, 10:46

heslop01 wrote:Terve all.

I was just wondering to myself, is Estonian a hard language? I have a passion for languages not popular with people learning and I wanted to ask your opinions about it. I know very very basic words, like hello, goodbye etc. Other than that is the pronunciation hard? the grammar? etc.



tänan.


Well, I would tell my experiments on learning Estonian, but since my mother-tongue is also an agglutinative language with a similar case-system to Estonian, maybe none of what I could say about my experiences about the grammar would be useful for a native English-speaker. For me Estonian is like a language which doesn't have enough cases :) So sometimes it sounds primitive, like English.
All I can say that if you find a book - or any source - which teaches Estonian words with their 4 forms, then you will feel success in a short while when you look at an Estonian text.

As for the pronounciation, I don't think Estonian one would be closer to Hungarian than to English, so maybe I can be useful with saying my experience: I think if you listen to Estonian TV broadcastings on the net, you can get to used to it in a short time, even if you don't understand the words they say.

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby s4nder » 2008-08-25, 10:08

There are 14 cases in Estonian which is a lot for most indo-european language speakers. There are no articles, just 14 different endings for each noun. So that's something to get used to.

Estonian seems to be a difficult language as I rarely hear foreigners speaking it properly while most people master English in a couple of years. However, it should be quite rewarding as Estonians are very appreciative of anyone learning their language, I sure am. You'll meet plenty of friendly faces if you ever happen to travel here and speak Estonian, no matter how badly.

Pronunciation is very different from English, similar to Finnish. The vowel Õ is difficult to pronounce for foreigners. I suggest you watch some youtube videos that are in Estonian. To get a picture about how it's written, I'll repeat this text in Estonian.


Eesti keeles on 14 käänet, mis on paljude indo-euroopa keelte rääkijate jaoks päris palju. Artiklid puuduvad, aga igal nimisõnal on 14 erinevat lõppu. See on midagi, millega peab harjuma.

Eesti keel tundub olevat raske keel, sest kuulen harva välismaalasi seda õigesti rääkimas, inglise keele saavad suurem osa inimesi aga selgeks paari aastaga. Siiski on see üsna tulutoov, kuna eestlased on väga tänulikud kõigile nende keelt õppivatele välismaalastele, vähemalt ma olen. Kui juhtud kunagi siia reisima ning räägid eesti keelt, ükskõik kui halvasti, võtavad sind vastu paljud sõbralikud näod.

Hääldus on inglise keelest väga erinev, sarnane soome keelele. Täishäälik Õ on välismaalastele raske hääldada. Soovitan sul vaadata eestikeelseid youtube'ivideosid. Et saada ülevaade kirjapildist, kordan seda teksti eesti keeles.

This is a nice music video in Estonian in which you can probably see that it's a very vowel-rich language. Thanks for taking interest in our language.

Also, in Estonian, hello is "tere." "Terve" is Finnish :P.

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby heslop01 » 2008-08-30, 17:41

Tänan all :)

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby DaveL » 2008-09-18, 12:39

Heslop. As a Brit, I have found Estonian hard to learn. I would not say that I have any kind of gift for learning languages but have tried with varying success to learn French, German and Italian over the years. Estonian is MUCH harder because of its 14 case endings and vocabulary of words which bear little relation to those from our family of languages. These languages have many similarities and there are linguistics experts on here who can explain the historical reasons for that.

The good news is that the Estonian alphabet is very similar (it isnt Cyrillic and tat least the letters are recognisable) although the vowels can be accented. The only one I have trouble with is the õ - I tend to say it more like the ö which apparently is the way it is said on Saaremaa. I would say my Estonian is at an intermediate standard because I have slogged away at it - if languages come easily to you it might not be such hard work.

As I have found with other languages, reading and understanding is one thing - speaking it correctly is another and that requires confidence and practise. I do find it rewarding though when I am out and about and meet an Estonian and am able to surprise them by saying a few words in their language.

As an aside there was a full page article on Estonia in The Times today (about vodka smuggling). I try to read the Estonian newspaper Postimees on line but I find it hard to follow, I guess because it is written in 'journalese' which is almost a dialect in itself (well it certainly is in the UK tabloid press).

Anyway, if you are going to try and learn it good luck and this forum is very helpful. I have a couple of study book references which might be helpful if you are intereseted.

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby SRoger » 2008-09-21, 8:44

DaveL, I wouldn't suggest Postimees, I'd rather pick Eesti Päevaleht (http://www.epl.ee), although they are quite the same. One could find plenty of typos and mistakes of meaning from them, and there are too much criminal news. It's better to read a book written in Estonian. 8-)

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby DaveL » 2008-09-22, 8:21

Thanks Roger. I try to read my 6 year old's Estonian books but find even them hard (and learning the Estonian words for dragons and monsters probably doesnt help me!). I will start looking at the other on line newspaper you suggested. Mind you, the criminal news in Postimees is interesting when the lead story carries a photo of the apartment block in Tallinn where you have an apartment and read that a flat was raided and a big pile of explosives was found (on the same floor as well so nearly neighbours).

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby Levo » 2008-09-22, 19:01

DaveL wrote:Thanks Roger. I try to read my 6 year old's Estonian books but find even them hard (and learning the Estonian words for dragons and monsters probably doesnt help me!). I will start looking at the other on line newspaper you suggested. Mind you, the criminal news in Postimees is interesting when the lead story carries a photo of the apartment block in Tallinn where you have an apartment and read that a flat was raided and a big pile of explosives was found (on the same floor as well so nearly neighbours).

:D "Ilus, ilus, ilusad maad..."

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby Loiks » 2008-09-27, 16:30

Levo wrote::D "Ilus, ilus, ilusad maad..."


If you refer to the song it would be "Ilus, ilus, ilus on maa..."

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby Levo » 2008-09-27, 17:42

Loiks wrote:
Levo wrote::D "Ilus, ilus, ilusad maad..."


If you refer to the song it would be "Ilus, ilus, ilus on maa..."

I refer to a song, but I saw it written like that. But it makes more sense with ilus on maa, so it was probably a mistyping.

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby tunguuz » 2008-12-30, 14:21

Yes, it will be hard for most of you. However, keep reading, don't fly away yet ;)

Mastering Estonian is a pure gift, almost like mastering Navajo (remember that WWII crypto game at the Japanese war theater). It is easy enough to choose root words outside of normal Greek/Latin heritance and the language will sound like Italian but nothing will be understood by the enemy :mrgreen: Even more. The intonation mostly carries no information in Estonian. You can ask questions or command to kill someone - the intonation will not betray your mood. Your enemy will still think you are singing or nursing your baby :mrgreen: Actually Finnish sounds like lazily axing the firewood and Hungarian sounds like singing mixed together with the occasional hiss of the attacking snake but all these languages share their cryptic capabilities ;)

Last but not least, a Fenno-Ugric language will make you more close with the Nature and Earth and non-violent living principles - a high claim you cannot verify just now but please remember it ... you will see it in the future.

Did I mention that there is still no automatic translation for the Estonian language. It means that NSA could well overhear your voice conversations (and believe me, it will), but the cost of human translation for Estonian remains prohibitively high. Oops, I hope no extremists use the advice ;)

:arrow: :arrow: :arrow:

I am not aware of any ready-made languages typology cross-tables, thus I'll describe, what are the real difficulties while learning Estonian. Estonian is a SVO language (subject-verb-object). Thus, the word order in your native language is the most important issue here. Provided it is SVO, too, you probably are on the safe side.

Some 30 yrs ago a Russian magazine "Наука и Жизнь" published an estimation, WHICH languages are easy and which are hard to learn for a native Russian. They separated all world languages into 5 categories (I'll cite it from memory, sorry for possible mistakes):

1) hardest - Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc - completely foreign alphabet and a foreign way of thinking
2) hard enough - Fenno-Ugric - due to the incompatibility of the languge logic (but not only for this)
3) English - as an analytical language with a very nasty phonology
4) German, Swedish - Indo-European languages with only certain difficulties.
5) easy enough - Slavic languages

And please note - Russians are Indo-Europeans. They estimate Fenno-Ugric languages the second hard thing to learn despite the similar or known alphabet and similar SVO order.

Another extremely good source of languages typology I am aware of, is the course "EXFAC03-AAS - Linguistics for Students of Asian and African Languages" from Halvor Eifring and Rolf Theil. It is available here:
http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/hf/ikos/EXFAC03-AAS/h05/larestoff/linguistics/index.html Considering the Languages Typology, the Chapter 4 is the most valuable one.

However, let's distinguish these grades:
* understand Estonian in oral or written - it is actually even easy
* be capable to express yourself in Estonian - it is not so tough, too. But it needs diving into the real language environment with the goal your first big mistakes be corrected as soon as possible.
* master the language at the level an average Estonian will not disclose you as the enemy's spy - better do stop dreaming about it. It takes 10 years or so within an educated Estonian environment.

:arrow: :arrow: :arrow:


Now I am listing the most difficult problems while (you, not me) learning the Estonian language.

1. specific vocals
the vowels can be accented.


Huh. This is the Mother of All Lies :roll: . The Estonian language has 9 pure vocals - A E I O U Õ Ä Ö Ü. These are not accents ever. ÕÄÖÜ are independent vocals. The actual problem with the Latin alphabet that it is not capable to reflect these sounds. I become wild every time someone is speaking about the accents or diacritical marks regarding the Estonian language ;) Let's reiterate it -- no umlauts but NINE pure vocals.

2. The logic of the language itself. I call it "exceeding the boundaries of Indo-European logic".

2.1. This is often overlooked but these are POSTPOSITIONS which form the way of thinking. Not "after it" but "thereafter". Not "come with me" but "come me with". Nothing like "he took it off the table" but "he took it the table from". Well, the truth is more complex as always - some adpositions could equally reside before or after the main word. And remember, the inflection is synchronised to these postpositions. Each postposition demands a certain case out of 14.

2.2. Up to five infinitives (official Estonian grammar denies three of these while Finnish grammar is well accepting the concept of 5 infinitives). This is almost impossible to grasp for an indo-european logic - basically it is like you can inclinate the verb like a noun. Official grammar nevertheless states us having two infinitives but linguists fail to produce strict rules to distinguish even between these two. This way, almost all non-native speakers are making constant mistakes while using these two infinitives ... to the extent where the Director of the Institute of Estonian Literature&Language said the integration (with Russians) is the sure death to the Estonian language. The inablity to make the difference between 2 infinitives is a sure giveaway of a foreigner ... together with unpuristically pronounced õäöü.

2.3 Although the official grammar is not yet accepting the fact, there are some prohibited word combinations in Estonian syntax. It is often impossible to decide upon a form or the position of a word in sentence, whether the word is an adverb on an adjective! Weird? See the classic example - Vajatakse kiiresti koristajat. Actually the advertisment means that the die PutzFrau is needed. The problem is with the word kiiresti (fast) that could be either ADVERB or ADJECTIVE. There is no problem in English, because a mandatory article will rectify the situation well. But here - what or how you need? A fast cleaner? Or you need it fast?

Let's say this in another way. The syntax has some deeply hidden limitations. There are great difficulties when translating from some "exact" languages like French. There is no gender, there are no articles. If you want to retain the exact meaning, you cannot translate it directly, you have to retell or narrate it. And vice versa, if Estonian is not your mother tongue, you are unable to catch the precise context and you will mistake with the adjective/adverb translation...sometimes with fatal consequenses.

Saying the same even in third way is like looking at the full matrices of pre-conjugated Estonian verbs or inflection tables for nouns, and then you are suddenly discovering that for rather distant words, certain forms could match (=be similar) with each other. Let's call it a paradox. Then, the word itself could be reckognized well but it is not clear what part of speech it is. Let's call it a fork like in chess. The fundamental problem is that while morphologically analyzing the Estonian sentence, sometimes an ambiguity remains that is in principle unsolvable at the morphological level. I am not sure but I suspect it is a rather unique capability for a language. Well it is actually my favourite thematics and now I still have to stop with it :mrgreen: .

3. The changes in word roots

This is officially called "gradations". There are two types of gradation:

3.1 quantitative gradation - (välde). Phonetically, the meaning of a word is different depending how long you pronounce the key syllable. You will say lehma (Genitive) when the discussion slightly considers your cow but you will rather say lehhhhhhhhmma (Accusative) when your cow will being referenced heavily. It is one of these remarkable things never marked in writing. Go and figure out while studing by the book ;)
3.2 qualitative gradation. This is more like English irregular verbs with the exception that both nouns and verbs are changing themselves this way. There are some hundred or so MASTER TYPES according to which all other root words accordingly are conjugated or inclined . You want an example: some forms for "to eat": sööma, sõin, süüa. Have seen it? Root is completely changing except the very first letter ;) And, in this example, all these forms are with "difficult" wowels. Well, the real life is a bit of easier because most words still vary between TWO not THREE variants. However, you have to first learn all master types (so-called example words) to be able to conjugate or inclinate at all. I have seen some simplification among the master types (tüüpkond) over last years so I fail to say even how much of these we have - three hundred or only around fifty. However here is the riff most foreigners will wreckle their ships.

4. There indeed are 14 cases. And no such things like in Finnish where only a half of these are used in real life. All 14 cases are in active use. The good news is that due to NO GENDER the endings are approximately the same all the time. The bad news is that some cases have very irregular SHORT FORMS. And the WORST news is that it the meaning is sometimes shifted depending on which form you use for the particular case - the short or long.

5. Well, beside the DIRECT reasons there are some more obstacles why Estonian language is so hard to learn. First - there is no FULL description of the language available even in Estonian language, not speaking about English or Suahili. Indeed, some 98% of things are structurized and described in grammar books. But the silence is well kept and nobody (except me) will even tell you the remaining 2% is not (and that sometimes the linguists cannot even agree about these categories). The short abstract is - it is even teoretically impossible to master Estonian by books only. You have to be in contact with the the live language environment. A good thing is that Estonian radio broadcasts are freely available at the Internet. Start from http://www.kuku.ee or http://www.er.ee.


:arrow: :arrow: :arrow:

Now about things that are simple and easy ... sometimes even so easy that it becomes irritant:

1. A modified Latin alphabet. Vowels ÕÄÖÜ added which are the most difficult vowels for some nations. However, e.g. for Türkish people, ÕÄÖÜ are the easiest thing to say. Thus it depends where are you from.

2. No gender at all. He? She? It? Who cares! The conjugation and the inclination does not involve any concept of gender. Let's compare to Russian or Latvian or probably Spain and you will bless God for the genderlessness. However, simple sentences like "he kissed her" "she kissed him" are indistinguishable. You have to retell the sentence in another fashion so that the gender of the persons become more visible. A male it kissed the female it. :hmm:

3. WYSIWYG - What you see is what you get. Except a very small quantity of well known exceptions, the Estonian is written exactly as pronounced. It effectively means that Estonian women won't need to pronounce English TH or enything silmilar and accordingly, the skin of their face will remain more elastic even at high ages ;) Nevertheless, it does't mean that all Estonian phonetical combinations are easy for you to pronounce. It again depends, what limitations your own language has. Russians although have vowel Õ they are unable to pronounce "Jõhvi" (a city in SE Estonia).

4. The word stress is rather stable - at least not more complex as e.g. Latin has.

5. Characteristic to Fenno-Ugric languages, the Future times are completely missing. There is even no such concept as the Future. You don't need it. You are living in pace with the Nature and with your neighbours, your future is always the same as your present, nothing will ever change. Leave it or take it! :lol: The Past times are pirated from Germans that once conquered Estonia - if you know German, you will miss nothing in Past.


:arrow: :arrow: :arrow:
Let's make the summary:

* Do learn the vowels ÕÄÖÜ or you won't be capable to pronounce a good 1/3 of Estonian words.
* Do learn case endings. These are constant for 10 last cases, they work very much like the prepositions and when done, you will start to understand a little - at least the spacial movements of things.
* Study the master words for tüüpkonnad. Learn these FULLY!!! If not, you are not able to use any noun case or verb form.
* Have practice! On certain aspects of the language, no theory at all is available in your language.
* Be prepared not to give up with the dictionaries. Most difficult is to find the basic form of a word to even look it up.
* The last difficult thing are idioms - only reading and guessing will help you come over these ancient idioms.

And last but not least - a horror story from real life:
Kas (sa) said nõksu kätte? means - Did (you) learned out this trick? But the literal translation will be quite different. Nõks is a click or trick - a sudden change in a state - possibly even with the relevant sound heard :lol: . Saama is a very universal verb like to receive/get/become, also noting the status change (there previously wasn't, and now it is). Käsi is the hand with short (irregular) Illative being kätte (into what?). But kätte saama occurs to be a compound verb with one (but not the main) meaning as to acquire, to learn out. This way, in dictionary, both käsi and saama are to be consulted in your dictionary and before you can look these up, you have to transform kätte :arrow: käsi and said :arrow: saama. As you see, to properly decipher this short sentence you have to procceed with 3-4 scientific steps and error at one stage will ruin your chances at the next. Btw, some German knowledge is very helpful for the purpose - ancient Estonians probably learned compound verbs from Germans. Did you acquired the trick?
Last edited by tunguuz on 2008-12-31, 12:02, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby Arvi » 2008-12-30, 20:46

tunguuz wrote:Even more. The intonation mostly carries no information in Estonian. You can ask questions or command to kill someone - the intonation will not betray your mood.


Here I don't agree. In estonian, intonation isn't required when the type of sententce is giving enough information about it (p.e. "Kas sa oled täna kodus?" - 'kas' idetifies the sentence as a question infallingly). But p.e. sentence "Sa lähed välja?/!/." can be pronounced as question, exclamation, or simple satement, and only way to differ is intonation and the voice rising/sinking . Moreover, the intonation can make same sentence accusing or despising.

I am not aware of any ready-made languages typology cross-tables, thus I'll describe, what are the real difficulties while learning Estonian. Estonian is a SVO language (subject-verb-object). Thus, the word order in your native language is the most important issue here. Provided it is SVO, too, you probably are on the safe side.


To make it more confusing, those basic components may be composed from several words or even contain partial sentences. And sometimes some of them may be missing. And generally you can guite freely change the order of them, but you can't mix words from different basic components.

And please note - Russians are Indo-Europeans. They estimate Fenno-Ugric languages the second hard thing to learn despite the similar or known alphabet and similar SVO order.


And at same time Russian has borrowed a lot from fenno-ugric languages :whistle:

3. WYSIWYG - What you see is what you get. Except a very small quantity of well known exceptions, the Estonian is written exactly as pronounced.


OK. You have to take it with a grain of salt :) There are palatization and 3. välde.

Characteristic to Fenno-Ugric languages, the Future times are completely missing. There is even no such concept as the Future.


Myself beeing completly ignorant about official grammatic (at my schooltime I was able to learn exactly one grammatic rule :whistle: , and the only time I did obey my teacher and tried to write an exercise following grammatic rules I managed to make mor errors as in rest of my schooltime summarily :lol: ), I have always felt that those German sholars who tried to write first Estonian grammatics, did completly mess up with it. It will make a lot more of sense to assume, that we have Future, and no Present at all.

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Re: Is it hard?

Postby aaakknu » 2015-12-10, 20:17

tunguuz wrote:Yes, it will be hard for most of you. However, keep reading, don't fly away yet ;)

Mastering Estonian is a pure gift, almost like mastering Navajo (remember that WWII crypto game at the Japanese war theater). It is easy enough to choose root words outside of normal Greek/Latin heritance and the language will sound like Italian but nothing will be understood by the enemy :mrgreen: Even more. The intonation mostly carries no information in Estonian. You can ask questions or command to kill someone - the intonation will not betray your mood. Your enemy will still think you are singing or nursing your baby :mrgreen: Actually Finnish sounds like lazily axing the firewood and Hungarian sounds like singing mixed together with the occasional hiss of the attacking snake but all these languages share their cryptic capabilities ;)

Last but not least, a Fenno-Ugric language will make you more close with the Nature and Earth and non-violent living principles - a high claim you cannot verify just now but please remember it ... you will see it in the future.

Did I mention that there is still no automatic translation for the Estonian language. It means that NSA could well overhear your voice conversations (and believe me, it will), but the cost of human translation for Estonian remains prohibitively high. Oops, I hope no extremists use the advice ;)

:arrow: :arrow: :arrow:

I am not aware of any ready-made languages typology cross-tables, thus I'll describe, what are the real difficulties while learning Estonian. Estonian is a SVO language (subject-verb-object). Thus, the word order in your native language is the most important issue here. Provided it is SVO, too, you probably are on the safe side.

Some 30 yrs ago a Russian magazine "Наука и Жизнь" published an estimation, WHICH languages are easy and which are hard to learn for a native Russian. They separated all world languages into 5 categories (I'll cite it from memory, sorry for possible mistakes):

1) hardest - Chinese, Japanese, Korean etc - completely foreign alphabet and a foreign way of thinking
2) hard enough - Fenno-Ugric - due to the incompatibility of the languge logic (but not only for this)
3) English - as an analytical language with a very nasty phonology
4) German, Swedish - Indo-European languages with only certain difficulties.
5) easy enough - Slavic languages

And please note - Russians are Indo-Europeans. They estimate Fenno-Ugric languages the second hard thing to learn despite the similar or known alphabet and similar SVO order.

Another extremely good source of languages typology I am aware of, is the course "EXFAC03-AAS - Linguistics for Students of Asian and African Languages" from Halvor Eifring and Rolf Theil. It is available here:
http://www.uio.no/studier/emner/hf/ikos/EXFAC03-AAS/h05/larestoff/linguistics/index.html Considering the Languages Typology, the Chapter 4 is the most valuable one.

However, let's distinguish these grades:
* understand Estonian in oral or written - it is actually even easy
* be capable to express yourself in Estonian - it is not so tough, too. But it needs diving into the real language environment with the goal your first big mistakes be corrected as soon as possible.
* master the language at the level an average Estonian will not disclose you as the enemy's spy - better do stop dreaming about it. It takes 10 years or so within an educated Estonian environment.

:arrow: :arrow: :arrow:


Now I am listing the most difficult problems while (you, not me) learning the Estonian language.

1. specific vocals
the vowels can be accented.


Huh. This is the Mother of All Lies :roll: . The Estonian language has 9 pure vocals - A E I O U Õ Ä Ö Ü. These are not accents ever. ÕÄÖÜ are independent vocals. The actual problem with the Latin alphabet that it is not capable to reflect these sounds. I become wild every time someone is speaking about the accents or diacritical marks regarding the Estonian language ;) Let's reiterate it -- no umlauts but NINE pure vocals.

2. The logic of the language itself. I call it "exceeding the boundaries of Indo-European logic".

2.1. This is often overlooked but these are POSTPOSITIONS which form the way of thinking. Not "after it" but "thereafter". Not "come with me" but "come me with". Nothing like "he took it off the table" but "he took it the table from". Well, the truth is more complex as always - some adpositions could equally reside before or after the main word. And remember, the inflection is synchronised to these postpositions. Each postposition demands a certain case out of 14.

2.2. Up to five infinitives (official Estonian grammar denies three of these while Finnish grammar is well accepting the concept of 5 infinitives). This is almost impossible to grasp for an indo-european logic - basically it is like you can inclinate the verb like a noun. Official grammar nevertheless states us having two infinitives but linguists fail to produce strict rules to distinguish even between these two. This way, almost all non-native speakers are making constant mistakes while using these two infinitives ... to the extent where the Director of the Institute of Estonian Literature&Language said the integration (with Russians) is the sure death to the Estonian language. The inablity to make the difference between 2 infinitives is a sure giveaway of a foreigner ... together with unpuristically pronounced õäöü.

2.3 Although the official grammar is not yet accepting the fact, there are some prohibited word combinations in Estonian syntax. It is often impossible to decide upon a form or the position of a word in sentence, whether the word is an adverb on an adjective! Weird? See the classic example - Vajatakse kiiresti koristajat. Actually the advertisment means that the die PutzFrau is needed. The problem is with the word kiiresti (fast) that could be either ADVERB or ADJECTIVE. There is no problem in English, because a mandatory article will rectify the situation well. But here - what or how you need? A fast cleaner? Or you need it fast?

Let's say this in another way. The syntax has some deeply hidden limitations. There are great difficulties when translating from some "exact" languages like French. There is no gender, there are no articles. If you want to retain the exact meaning, you cannot translate it directly, you have to retell or narrate it. And vice versa, if Estonian is not your mother tongue, you are unable to catch the precise context and you will mistake with the adjective/adverb translation...sometimes with fatal consequenses.

Saying the same even in third way is like looking at the full matrices of pre-conjugated Estonian verbs or inflection tables for nouns, and then you are suddenly discovering that for rather distant words, certain forms could match (=be similar) with each other. Let's call it a paradox. Then, the word itself could be reckognized well but it is not clear what part of speech it is. Let's call it a fork like in chess. The fundamental problem is that while morphologically analyzing the Estonian sentence, sometimes an ambiguity remains that is in principle unsolvable at the morphological level. I am not sure but I suspect it is a rather unique capability for a language. Well it is actually my favourite thematics and now I still have to stop with it :mrgreen: .

3. The changes in word roots

This is officially called "gradations". There are two types of gradation:

3.1 quantitative gradation - (välde). Phonetically, the meaning of a word is different depending how long you pronounce the key syllable. You will say lehma (Genitive) when the discussion slightly considers your cow but you will rather say lehhhhhhhhmma (Accusative) when your cow will being referenced heavily. It is one of these remarkable things never marked in writing. Go and figure out while studing by the book ;)
3.2 qualitative gradation. This is more like English irregular verbs with the exception that both nouns and verbs are changing themselves this way. There are some hundred or so MASTER TYPES according to which all other root words accordingly are conjugated or inclined . You want an example: some forms for "to eat": sööma, sõin, süüa. Have seen it? Root is completely changing except the very first letter ;) And, in this example, all these forms are with "difficult" wowels. Well, the real life is a bit of easier because most words still vary between TWO not THREE variants. However, you have to first learn all master types (so-called example words) to be able to conjugate or inclinate at all. I have seen some simplification among the master types (tüüpkond) over last years so I fail to say even how much of these we have - three hundred or only around fifty. However here is the riff most foreigners will wreckle their ships.

4. There indeed are 14 cases. And no such things like in Finnish where only a half of these are used in real life. All 14 cases are in active use. The good news is that due to NO GENDER the endings are approximately the same all the time. The bad news is that some cases have very irregular SHORT FORMS. And the WORST news is that it the meaning is sometimes shifted depending on which form you use for the particular case - the short or long.

5. Well, beside the DIRECT reasons there are some more obstacles why Estonian language is so hard to learn. First - there is no FULL description of the language available even in Estonian language, not speaking about English or Suahili. Indeed, some 98% of things are structurized and described in grammar books. But the silence is well kept and nobody (except me) will even tell you the remaining 2% is not (and that sometimes the linguists cannot even agree about these categories). The short abstract is - it is even teoretically impossible to master Estonian by books only. You have to be in contact with the the live language environment. A good thing is that Estonian radio broadcasts are freely available at the Internet. Start from http://www.kuku.ee or http://www.er.ee.


:arrow: :arrow: :arrow:

Now about things that are simple and easy ... sometimes even so easy that it becomes irritant:

1. A modified Latin alphabet. Vowels ÕÄÖÜ added which are the most difficult vowels for some nations. However, e.g. for Türkish people, ÕÄÖÜ are the easiest thing to say. Thus it depends where are you from.

2. No gender at all. He? She? It? Who cares! The conjugation and the inclination does not involve any concept of gender. Let's compare to Russian or Latvian or probably Spain and you will bless God for the genderlessness. However, simple sentences like "he kissed her" "she kissed him" are indistinguishable. You have to retell the sentence in another fashion so that the gender of the persons become more visible. A male it kissed the female it. :hmm:

3. WYSIWYG - What you see is what you get. Except a very small quantity of well known exceptions, the Estonian is written exactly as pronounced. It effectively means that Estonian women won't need to pronounce English TH or enything silmilar and accordingly, the skin of their face will remain more elastic even at high ages ;) Nevertheless, it does't mean that all Estonian phonetical combinations are easy for you to pronounce. It again depends, what limitations your own language has. Russians although have vowel Õ they are unable to pronounce "Jõhvi" (a city in SE Estonia).

4. The word stress is rather stable - at least not more complex as e.g. Latin has.

5. Characteristic to Fenno-Ugric languages, the Future times are completely missing. There is even no such concept as the Future. You don't need it. You are living in pace with the Nature and with your neighbours, your future is always the same as your present, nothing will ever change. Leave it or take it! :lol: The Past times are pirated from Germans that once conquered Estonia - if you know German, you will miss nothing in Past.


:arrow: :arrow: :arrow:
Let's make the summary:

* Do learn the vowels ÕÄÖÜ or you won't be capable to pronounce a good 1/3 of Estonian words.
* Do learn case endings. These are constant for 10 last cases, they work very much like the prepositions and when done, you will start to understand a little - at least the spacial movements of things.
* Study the master words for tüüpkonnad. Learn these FULLY!!! If not, you are not able to use any noun case or verb form.
* Have practice! On certain aspects of the language, no theory at all is available in your language.
* Be prepared not to give up with the dictionaries. Most difficult is to find the basic form of a word to even look it up.
* The last difficult thing are idioms - only reading and guessing will help you come over these ancient idioms.

And last but not least - a horror story from real life:
Kas (sa) said nõksu kätte? means - Did (you) learned out this trick? But the literal translation will be quite different. Nõks is a click or trick - a sudden change in a state - possibly even with the relevant sound heard :lol: . Saama is a very universal verb like to receive/get/become, also noting the status change (there previously wasn't, and now it is). Käsi is the hand with short (irregular) Illative being kätte (into what?). But kätte saama occurs to be a compound verb with one (but not the main) meaning as to acquire, to learn out. This way, in dictionary, both käsi and saama are to be consulted in your dictionary and before you can look these up, you have to transform kätte :arrow: käsi and said :arrow: saama. As you see, to properly decipher this short sentence you have to procceed with 3-4 scientific steps and error at one stage will ruin your chances at the next. Btw, some German knowledge is very helpful for the purpose - ancient Estonians probably learned compound verbs from Germans. Did you acquired the trick?

Thank you)
Здайся на Господа у твоїх справах, і задуми твої здійсняться. (Приповідки 16, 3)
TAC 2019


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