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Estonia - Speaking the Language

There is a joke doing the rounds on the internet which says that the Estonian language has no sex and no future. This is in reference to the fact that the language has no genders and no future tense. All joking aside, the Estonian language (Eesti keel) belongs to the Finnic branch of the Finno-Ugric languages. It resembles Finnish quite a bit, to the point that a Finnish and an Estonian speaker could have a basic conversation and understand each other. This similarity is comparable to Spanish speakers being able to understand Portuguese and vice versa. There are two main dialects in the Estonian language: northern and southern, which are historically associated with the cities of Tallinn in the north and Tartu in the south.

As in the rest of Europe, many young Estonians speak English pretty well or at least well enough to carry on a reasonable conversation. You will be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t speak any English in the city centre of Tallinn, although there are fewer English speakers further afield. English is the first foreign language Estonian people are taught in school; additional foreign languages tend to be German and French. However, please keep in mind that it’s unlikely you will be able to converse in English with the older generation; this also applies to doctors and businessmen.

If you are thinking of immigrating to Estonia and don’t speak the language, fear not. There is a ‘Welcome to Estonia’ training program available for you. It offers the below modules for you to choose from to help you to settle in the country:

• Basic module
• Work and entrepreneurship
• Study
• Research
• Family life
• Children and young people
• International protection
• Estonian language training for beginners (Level A1)

The course will not take up much of your time. Most modules last between five and eight hours and you don’t have to attend all of them; you can pick and choose the ones that interest you.

The language training should mean you feel confident in all these areas:

• Polite expressions
• Getting acquainted, introducing oneself and one’s companions
• Numbers and the clock
• Countries, nations and languages
• Food and beverages, eating habits
• Café conversations
• Arranging a meeting
• My day and hobbies
• My family
• Asking and telling the way
• Feeling well/unwell

The entire language training should take up about 80 hours of your time. There are usually three or four classes that take place on any given study day, with each class lasting 45 minutes. Language training usually takes place two days per week and there are options to attend a morning class or an evening class.

Once you’ve completed the language module, you will be required to take a written test and an oral exam. The written test consists of simple questions about the topics covered in your training. During the oral section of the exam, you will need to introduce yourself, ask questions and provide answers to questions. Once you’ve passed, you will receive an A1 language qualification.

When issuing your residence permit or your ID card, the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board should inform you that this programme is available. If you want more details, you can contact the Estonian Police and Border Guard Board office to enquire. You can also find a lot of other useful information on their website.

The welcome programme is designed for any migrants who have legally resided in Estonia for less than five years and who fall under one of these categories:

• Migrants who have been granted temporary residence permit in Estonia on the basis of the aliens act or the act granting international protection to aliens
• Citizens of the EU who have acquired a temporary right of residence in Estonia on the basis stipulated in the citizen of the European Union act
• Family members of citizens of the EU who have been granted a temporary right of residence in Estonia on the basis stipulated in the citizen of the European Union act.

For additional information please follow this link.

Read more about this country

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