Estonian is the official language of Estonia. It is spoken by about 1.1 million people in the country itself and thousands of others abroad. Estonian is a Finno-Ugric language and is closely related to Finnish and distantly to Hungarian. It has been influenced by German, Russian, and Swedish and Latvian, though it is not related to them.

The Estonian language has 14 cases but the use of prepositions is relatively simple. Estonian belongs to the Finno-Ugric family of languages and is therefore probably easier for Finns to learn than it is for others. Before starting your Estonian studies, you should make sure that the teacher uses a type of teaching methods that you are able to follow. It would be advisable to listen to a sample lesson. Larger language learning centres offer several courses per year.

Estonians value their language and culture highly but generally do not expect foreigners to have any knowledge of it. Sometimes, it even seems that they take pride in the Estonian language being so difficult for foreigners to learn – as if this feature alone would make the language exceptional and mysteriously beautiful. Practice has proved that the quickest way for a foreigner to open up a reserved Estonian is to at least try to say something in Estonian: a simple "Tere" (Hello) or "Aitäh" (Thank you) will make any Estonian smile in surprise and delight.

Learning Estonian

Free online Estonian English-based language online course for beginners: KEELEKLIKK

Free online Estonian Russian-based language online course for beginners: KEELEKLIKK

Get up to speed with the basics! The Essential Estonian course is available for free via the Lingvist app.

Basic vocabulary

  • Tere - Hello!
  • Nägemiseni - Good bye!
  • Tšau (Ciao) - Informal and very common way between friends to say both Hi and Bye
  • Aitäh! / Tänan! - Thank you!
  • Palun - Please
  • Jah - Yes
  • Ei - No


  • Buss - Bus
  • Bussipeatus - Bus stop
  • Rong - Train
  • Kuukaart - A month’s pass (for public transport)


  • ID-kaart - ID card
  • Isikut tõendav dokument - Personal identification document
  • Juhiluba - Driving licence
  • Lugejapilet - Library card
  • Pass – Passport


  • Postkontor - Post office
  • Ümbrik - Envelope
  • Mark - Stamp
  • Arst - Doctor
  • Hambaarst - Dentist
  • Kiirabi - Ambulance
  • Pood - Shop
  • Restoran - Restaurant
  • Kohvik - Café
  • Baar - Bar
  • Juuksur - Hairdresser


  • Valuutavahetus - Currency exchange
  • Vahetuskurss - Exchange rate
  • Palk - Wage, salary
  • Hind - Price
  • Arve - Bill
  • Tasuta - Free of charge


  • Naine - Woman
  • Mees - Man
  • Abikaasa - Spouse
  • Kool - School
  • Lasteaed - Kindergarten
  • Õpetaja – Teacher

Academic Glossary

  • Teadus - Science
  • Teadlane - Researcher/scientist
  • Õppemaks - Tuition fee
  • Üliõpilane - Student
  • Lektor - Lecturer
  • Professor - Professor
  • Üliõpilaspilet - Student card
  • Sihtasutus – Foundation

Some phrases

  • Kus asub/kus on …? - Where is …..?
  • Ma armastan Sind - I love You
  • Ilusat päeva! - Have a nice day!
  • Mulle meeldib kohtuda uute inimestega - I like to meet new people
  • Kus on raamatukogu? - Where is the library?
  • Kus suunas asub ülikool? - Which way is the university?
  • Minge vasakule - Go left
  • Minge paremale - Go right
  • Minge otse - Go straight ahead
  • Palun sõitke aadressil… - Please drive to this address
  • Mis kell on? - What time is it?
  • Kui palju see maksab?- How much does this cost?
  • Kuidas läheb? - How are you?
  • Tänan küsimast, väga hästi! - Very well, thank you!
  • Mida Sa õpid? - What are you studying?
  • Ma ei saanud aru, palun räägi natuke aeglasemalt - I didn't understand, could you speak a bit more slowly, please.