How Hard is Estonian to Learn?

Learning a new language is a great way to pass the time and better yourself. Languages are essential in our globalized world, significantly rarer or more challenging to learn.

Learning Estonian can be very challenging for English speakers because of its complicated grammatical structure. In addition, the pronunciation of certain words can be challenging because of an alphabet difference.

Whether you are just starting on your foreign language journey or wanting to brush up on your Estonian, there are resources for every level of learning! Read on to learn more about learning the Estonia language.

What To Know About Estonian

The Estonian language is part of the larger Uralic language family, including Finnish, Hungarian, and Sami. These languages are theorized to have come from the Ural mountains and then split off after moving into other regions. They are widely spoken across Northern Eurasia and are most commonly associated with Scandinavian countries.

Estonian, like Finnish and Hungarian, uses a linguistic form called agglutination. This is when similar or linked words are pulled together in one long word form that means the same thing. They also change the suffixes on various terms and adjust the case to fit the rest of the word. Agglutination is not used in English, so you may have difficulty mastering it. 

Estonian is essential to learn if you will be immigrating to Estonia or even if you are going to visit. There aren’t many opportunities for English speakers for immigrants unless you work within a high-priority field, like IT or sales work. It is crucial to learn Estonian to gain Estonian citizenship as well.

Estonian specifically borrows a significant portion of its vocabulary from early German words that now make up the German language. If you feel intimidated by jumping right into Estonian, you could pick up German and dive in with higher proficiency. This would make the learning process even more accessible!

You could also try your hand at learning Finnish. Since Estonian and Finnish are part of the same language family, they have similar grammar and shared vocabulary. This makes it even easier to pick up! Vice versa, if you know Estonian, you’ll have a much easier time learning Finnish!

German does not use agglutination, so you will need to learn how to agglutinate when you turn to the Uralic languages. You should also remember that German is a member of a different language family than Estonian, so it may be more challenging to pull knowledge other than vocabulary over.

However, German is also a much easier language to learn for an English user. This makes it a great starter language for English speakers who want to eventually move to another, more challenging language.

Tools To Learn Estonian

You can use many niche tools to learn a new language in the modern world. There’s everything from apps to workbooks and courses. 

No matter what your learning style or preferences, there’s a way to learn!

Apps and Websites

Language apps are top-rated these days and provide a simple way to learn languages on the go. They focus on small exercises that challenge learners while also not intimidating them.

Unfortunately, since the population of Estonia is so low, there are few resources available. 

For example, most people would think of turning to Rosetta Stone or Duolingo to learn a new language. But Estonian is not offered on either platform.

However, for expats new to the country, it is possible to take a free course where you can learn Estonian from the very beginning. 

Also, the Estonian Ministry of Education and Science recommend using Keeleklikk, a website for learning Estonian. 

It offers an intuitive course map that you can pick right up, offering vocal pronunciations and explanations of specific linguistics.

The great thing about learning a language through a digital format is that you can easily access your learning tools from anywhere you have a WiFi connection. You could do your daily work from an airport or on the road!

You can also pace yourself differently and take a moment to collect your thoughts or look up something troubling you. This isn’t the case with other, more structured courses, such as college classes or tutoring.


Sometimes, what you need to learn a language is hands-on classroom experience. This is where language classes and courses come into play. These come in many different forms and can even be hosted in other languages, especially if the teacher isn’t a native English speaker.

One of the best tools for English speakers who want to learn Estonian is the United States State Department. They have over 70 languages represented, and the courses are designed for US diplomats who have to understand their hosts’ language as quickly as humanly possible. 

PDFs of their teaching materials are in the public domain.

Another great online course was from Lingvist, which had a comprehensive program for learning this Uralic language. However, it is currently defunct as Lingvist updates their other language programs. 

They announced that they are going to bring it back once those languages have been updated.

You could also look into tutoring in your area. Many large cities will have people from all over the world, including Estonia. You should look up if there are tutoring opportunities where you can learn from a native speaker. 

Sometimes, they will work with a tutoring agency; other times, you may hire them privately.

Informal learning has been cited as one of the best ways to learn a foreign language. Immersion requires you to pick skills up for your survival. 

Native speakers may also give you some tips that would help you understand and get around common pitfalls. They can also correct your pronunciation.

Final Thoughts

Though many people see Estonian as a complex language to learn, it is only hard because of differences in language families and grammatical rules. First-time speakers could use other, related languages to start their journey, such as German or Finnish. There are plenty of learning resources out there to help you on your way to becoming fluent in Estonian!

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