Speaking Estonian – a cornerstone for adapting to life in Estonia

Speaking Estonian, even at the beginner level, will help one adapt faster and find new acquaintances. Svetlana Savchenko, a teacher of the Estonian language module of the programme Settle in Estonia, confirm that her students are highly motivated, and it is not uncommon for new acquaintances and even friendships to emerge in every language course group.

Svetlana Savchenko has been teaching Estonian in the language module of the programme, using the Russian language of instruction, for four years now. Every group consists of approximately 20 students, and it is the language learning groups that are generally full first.  “The students who come to learn the language with me have very strong interior motivation and want to better understand life in Estonia and become full members of society.”

Svetlana, a teacher of Estonian, says opportunities to practice the language are important for acquiring language skills: “In every lesson, we pronounce words together, read sentences and practice conversation. Every student must get to practice the language as much as possible: this is what gives the best results.”

As students work in pairs and teams during language lessons and have plenty of opportunities to practice dialogue, they become well-acquainted really fast as they learn. Sometimes they stay friends even after the course is over. For example, the group that started in spring had to change to distance learning via conference calls because of the state of emergency in the country.  Still, its participants decided to meet and celebrate completing the course in the summer. Svetlana says the students were incredibly happy to see one another again, and one of them decided to film a video of the meeting so that everyone would have something to remember.

For privacy reasons YouTube needs your permission to be loaded. For more details, please see our Andmekaitse.
I Accept

Foreigners come to Estonia to work, study, or accompany their families. The people who start learning Estonian in the groups with the Russian language of instruction come from a great variety of backgrounds: there have been students from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, and also Kazakhstan. Svetlana is fascinated with her students and believes many of them will continue studying to further improve their language skills. “It is namely understanding the Estonian language that determined how fast and easily a newcomer will adapt in Estonia, so my students are very much interested in learning the language. Many have told me that they would immediately sign up for my course if there happened to be an opportunity to study for the next level of language command,” Svetlana notes.

The students who have taken part in the language module say they could put what they had learnt to good use pretty fast. Even some beginner-level understanding of Estonian allows them to understand signs in shops, take part in simple interactions, run everyday errands and understand news in Estonian. This is what course participants say about the language module:

“At the end of last year, my children and I moved to Estonia to live with my husband. I could start the language course of the programme as early as in February. I am very happy to have had such luck with our teacher and groupmates. Learning Estonian is fun in such a friendly and pleasant environment!

Sometimes I had no opportunity to leave the kids with anyone for the day when I had lessons, so I took them with me, and Svetlana as well as the whole group gave them a warm welcome. The lesson was fun and productive, as usual!

After completing the course, I feel more confident in the Estonian-speaking environment. When I am around people who are speaking Estonian, I can already distinguish some words and phrases and can sometimes answer a question. I will certainly keep learning the language because speaking it will help me adapt better here.”

– Alena

“I liked the methods Svetlana, our Estonian teacher, used and how simple the presentation of materials was. She has a special gift of being able to explain complicated things in a simple way. For me, the most surprising aspect of Estonian was that there are very few prepositions.

Unfortunately, I use Estonian less than I would like to in daily life.  I can mostly do it in the playground, talking to kids and their parents. But I am very glad that I can already use Estonian to get acquainted with people and have simple conversations. I am certainly going to continue learning Estonian as soon as there is an opportunity.”

– Aleksandra

“I am very grateful for having a better understanding of the local information environment now. Svetlana is a very good teacher, and our entire group was great fun to be with. The most difficult thing for me was learning to pronounce the words with many vowels. But now I can handle such daily situations as speaking in a shop or in the street. I am planning to keep studying Estonian up to level B1 at least.”

– Oleksandr

The courses of the language module to take place in Tallinn have been fully booked until the end of the Year, but there still are some places in the groups to start learning in Tartu and Narva. Have a look at the modules of the programme and its calendar and register for the nearest courses.