kolmapäev, jaanuar 20, 2010

kaks tuhat kümme

I am so frustrated with the state of my Estonian language skills. Frustrated, angry. I'm angry at myself. I'm simultaneously lying flat on my face in the ring and yelling at myself to get up. Get up off that mat, Giustino, get up!

You might think of the main facets of language ability - speaking, reading, writing, and listening comprehension - as a sort of regatta where the sailboats begin the race and, though one may pull ahead of the other from time to time, they are generally neck and neck on their way to the highly anticipated climax, the finish line of fluency.

But it's not really like that. No, language abilities are like the tides: the words flow in and the words flow out. My vocabulary has expanded and contracted multiple times, each time gaining new words and expressions, only to later lose some of them. I know other foreign guys here who don't even bother with the Estonian language. I think of them as perpetual tourists: "I'm on vacation, darling, and besides, all the help speak English." There are still others who have acquired fluency, who quip little indigestible sayings -- they are called kõnekäänud -- to you that make little sense, even if you do manage to translate them, unfold them, stake them out, and examine them under a microscope.

Take Nokk kinni, saba lahti. What does this mean? "Imagine you are a bird," says a friend (and it's always animals with these Estonians). "You are pecking away with your beak, your nokk, but if you peck too hard, then," she lifts up a foot, "your beak gets stuck and your tail, your saba, is lahti, exposed." But it doesn't end there. "Then the bird struggles to get free," she leans in to demonstrate, "and it pulls and pulls and pulls, and then, bang!," she tosses her head back, "the bird loses its balance." I stare. "It's like you try to fix one problem, and you just wind up with another problem," she tries again. "Ok," I nod. I'm still waiting to use this expression in real life, but the best I've done so far is quote from a gin advertisement: nokk džinni, saba lahti.

The most formidable Estonian speaker I have met so far is Epp's uncle, the legendary Onu Tiit. Tiit is the Mount Everest of Estonian listening comprehension challenges. With a muddy south Estonian mumble, even his kids sometimes don't understand what he's talking about. Usually I have to ask him to repeat things two times before I have a good idea of what he's saying. Onu Tiit probably doesn't know this, but he has now inspired me to press on. I will study, study hard just so that I might one day understand around 75 percent of what he says. When Tiit talks to Epp, she understands 100 percent. Poor little Giustino. He wants to run, but still can only walk.

While my comprehension skills boat fell back in the race, reading comprehension glided ahead. Each day I scan the Estonian online news media, learning more about this intriguing windswept peninsula. Some people think newspapers are the enemy, and being a journalist myself, and having seen the unscrupulous characters in the business who delight in fomenting discord amongst their fellow men and women by printing and distributing deliberately inflammatory texts to the masses, I tend to agree. "The shit's going to fly once this story hits the streets," I recall an old editor of mine chuckling and rubbing his hands together with manic, sleep-deprived glee. "We could start a war," he was giddy. "I can hardly wait." Indeed, it's a miracle the entire world hasn't spontaneously combusted by now, given the content of your fresh morning copy of Postimees, or Eesti Päevaleht, or Õhtuleht. But I keep reading. I have to keep reading.

From my sojourns in the Estonian infosphere, I've learned that the Russian chauvinist of the week is Sergei Markov. You may recall United Russia MP and political scientist Sergei as the venelane who took credit for organizing the 2007 cyberattacks on Estonian private and public IT systems. For this, he was banned by the Estonian government from entering the Schengen area, though his name was later controversially removed from that blacklist during Justice Minister Rein Lang's one-month reign at the helm of the interior ministry after Ansip fired the previous minister, Jüri Pihl. Lang later handed those ministerial duties over to Marko Pomerants.

The Estonian media feels that it is its job, it's raison d'etre, to keep us abreast of the ravings of Russia's political establishment. Markov is quoted in this news story as saying that he wouldn't be surprised if Estonian or Latvian Russian Black Panther Party-like groups were formed to bring about "total democracy" in these countries. Not like he's hoping for that sort of thing, but the guilt would belong solely to the "undemocratic Estonian and Latvian governments" should such events come to pass. Of course, a mere political scientist, Sergei wouldn't be willing to pack heat himself in the name of civil rights. Those kinds of menial jobs are usually doled out to the Kremlin youth. This is the kind of nonsense I wake up to when I eat my breakfast cereal. And you wonder why I am frustrated from time to time.

Good thing we've now got contingency plans. Six years after Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the collective defense organization has agreed in principle to draft plans to come to the aid of the Baltic countries in case of an attack from somebody. Good to know. According to our trustworthy correspondent Edward Lucas over at The Economist, it was the Poles who finally pushed the deal through, somehow convincing the recalcitrant Germans and "other countries" (who?) to drop their opposition.

Baltic defense plans will essentially be an "annex to existing plans regarding Poland, but with an added regional dimension," writes Lucas, leaving room for Sweden and Finland to take a role in the planning too, as they damn well should, considering they own most of Estonia, anyway, (it's rumored, for example, that the replacement investor for SAS in Estonian Air might be Finnair. One can only hope). A big bilateral American exercise, including a fabulous USO show, is already planned for the Baltic this summer, too, and is likely to widen to include the other aforementioned countries, Lucas writes.

As I've mentioned previously, while I am glad NATO finally got around to doing what it was created to do, I am curious to see the contingency plans for older members Denmark and Norway. Like Estonia, they are also water-bound and exposed. But such things would never happen because it would be so uncivilized, and Moscow, being the Third Rome, is on a mission to civilize, not to undermine civilization, right?

This is precisely the logic behind President Toomas Hendrik Ilves' recent declaration that Moscow is not a threat to Estonia. Estonia is in the EU and NATO, the clubs of the civilized. It may even soon have the euro as its currency. And the Third Rome wouldn't attack a country that has the euro as its currency, would it? That would be a PR disaster. For some reason, the Russian elite is still sensitive to how it is seen in the West. And this odd tango between Europe's perceived moral authority, and Russia's self-assigned role as savior of humanity, is what, in the end, keeps us safe at night. Estonia in its 90-year-long soap opera of a history has never been more secure than it is right now, argues Ilves.

He may be right, because as caustic as domestic politics can get, one only need to look at the 1920s and 1930s in Estonia to see how divided the country was back then, how ripe it was for the picking. Estonia endured a Communist attempted coup in 1924, followed by the rise of the right-wing Vaps in the early 1930s, the failure of Jaan Tõnisson's government, and the eventual benevolent dictatorship of Konstantin Päts, who let the Commies jailed in 1924 out of jail in 1938 (not a smart move). Some think of the Soviet period as some kind of total lobotomy that severed all connections to Estonia's political past, but these divisions exist today. You'll find Estonians who strongly support Päts' rule: even if he was a dictator, his heart was in the right place, he was looking out for the national interest, building the state, they say. Then there are those who praise the Vaps as sharply dressed, goodtimey patriots who, if they had been successful, would have staved off a Soviet invasion in 1939, somehow, some way, I'm sure of it. There are Tõnisson people, too, still kicking around. Tõnisson was such a great speaker and gifted diplomat. He could have charmed the two-headed snake of 1930s authoritarianism into submission. That's the thing about history. It never ends. It just goes on and on and on.

No wonder then that Andres Anvelt recently became head of the Social Democrats in Tallinn. If the name Anvelt rings a bell, you're right, Andres is the grandson of notorious Estonian Communist Jaan Anvelt, who led a short-lived Bolshevik government in Tallinn before going underground. Involved in the 1924 uprising, he subsequently fled to Moscow, where he worked for Comintern until he was beaten to death during an NKVD interrogation in 1937, and declared an enemy of the people. With that kind of background, it's only natural that Andres would join SDE, which has interestingly become the ideological offspring of Estonia's deep left wing past. That's what I love about Estonia. Every family's got a few reds or Vaps in it. These people are so mild mannered in person, and yet they've passionately indulged themselves in every passing ideological fad.

But that's just the news in 2010. I crumple it up and burn it in my wood-heated home. The Estonian word of the week, by the way, is vingerpuss. It means 'practical joke.'

57 kommentaari:

Colm ütles ...

I balk at the fact that you are frustrated at your Estonian abilities, he who be chatting so eloquently on ETV and radio. What hope is there then for teh rest of us välisabikaasad? Maybe you have plateaued, which is a good sign in fact. You're in an advanced stage so.

That is the funny thing about history. You will never know what you will find there and that's only half the fun. The rest is trying to work out what spin is the closet to the truth. Good luck with your research!

Kristopher ütles ...


A research project on words that no one knows how to decline/conjugate -- even most Estonians.

Indrek ütles ...

To Kristopher

Täitsin ära.

kolmandik sõnadest olid sellised, et kas ei ole kuulnudki või on nii vanad sõnad, et keegi neid tänapäeval enam ei kasuta.

Mulle on tunne, et tundmatud sõnad nagu meere, talb, turd on mingi Lõuna-Eesti teema.

Samuti nagu sõnad väits ja vigel. Enne kui ma olin mõned aastad Tartumaal elanud ei olnud neid kuulnudki. Kui võtta fraas "vahe väits" (Põhja-Eesti keeles: "terav nuga"), siis tõesti ei tea, kas õige on käänata "vahe väitsa" või "vaheda väitsa".

Doris ütles ...

it's not that bad! I'm having some problems with learning and understanding Dutch - there are words that I have no idea about, particularly if the words are not used every day. Just having to go to the dentist I learned about 5 brand new words (painkiller, tooth, molar... and look, I've already forgottn some!)

Also, with understanding it's also a big deal if the person mumbles. My brtother-in-law speaks fast, quietly and mumbles. Half the time I've no idea what he's saying, I just pick out some random words and get the general idea from the speech of other people in the conversation. Seriously. I understand Belgians better than I understand him.

Unknown ütles ...

"Nokk kinni, saba lahti" lugu on selline.

Mees ehitas maja. Tõrvas katuse ära. Lind lendas katusele. Nokk jäi (tõrva sisse) kinni. Tõmbas noka lahti, saba jäi kinni. Tõmbas saba lahti, nokk jäi kinni. Tõmbas noka lahti, saba kinni. Tõmbas saba lahti, nokk jäi kinni. /jne/

Gerly Villemson ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Gerly Villemson ütles ...

To Kristopher:

Aitasin samuti uurimistööle pisut kaasa. Algul tekkis tunne, et ei oskagi oma emakeelt: sellistest sõnadest, nagu "meere" ja "talb" pole tavatallinlane kuulnudki. :-)

To Justin Petrone a.k.a. Giustino:

Oma eesti keele oskuse üle võite küll uhke olla. Ja, kui just uhke ei taha olla, siis eeskujuks olete kindlasti niimõnelegi.

Edu õppimiseks-uurimiseks!


P.S. Aitäh ka mõnusa lugemiselamuse eest. Ootan järge "My Estonia..."-le.

Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Kristopher ütles ...

Selge. Ka mul oli kahtlus, et vahele oli pikitud murdesõnu. Kindlasti on uurijal selle üle hea meel, arvatavasti on aga valim juba koos.

Kristopher ütles ...

CT, what the hell?

There are two guys who do sports on Kuku Raadio. I wonder how they compare to Onu Tiit. They're quite witty, but I thought they were both drunk the first time. Major slurring.

Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Kristopher ütles ...

The second part of the comment was addressed generally.

LPR ütles ...

Kiirkohvikannukaanesoojendaja. One words or two? Ore more?

LPR ütles ...

Sorry, my fingers are too thick for Blackberry.

Mette ütles ...

It should be "kaks tuhat" and not "kakstuhat". Here's a quick reminder: http://koolielu.edu.ee/ortograafia/KLK/arvs/index.html
Hope it helps :)

Rainer ütles ...

"I'd guess there's something wrong with your attitude or your approach."

CT, that's totally unjust and uncalled for. Your accusation is clearly misdirected.

Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Giustino ütles ...

I wasn't good in either ETV interview. The first was with Urmas Vaino at some ungodly hour
(for some reason, I had it my head that his name was Karl Vaino, but I didn't want to screw up and call him that on TV - revolutsioon on rahu allikas). The second interview was with Anu Välba after a day of dragging books all around Tallinn. I did a radio interview one day in the middle of my deadline. That meant that while writing news stories in English about biotechnology, I took a break to go and talk about Estonia in Estonian across town. The bottom line for me was that I got through them all relatively unscathed. But yeah, it's been ebamugav.

I've been here for almost three years, though you could say I have been learning off and on since 2002. Estonians are actually hard to listen to because they use so many bullshit words. Every real word is engulfed in 'äkki' or 'tegelikult' or 'eks ole.' It's like, will you please just get to the fucking point. But I prefer to speak Estonian because, in general, the Estonians' English is so bad. Like Finns, they are incapable of making the þ or ð sounds, and, my ultimate pet peeve, the disregard for gender. "Does your sister know what he wants for Christmas?" AND the carry over of mis/mida in sentence structure, "There is the bus what is going to Tallinn." Estonians benefit though from the fact that a huge swath of humanity speaks pidgin English. In other words, we are accustomed to hearing people mangle our tongue.

Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
stockholm slender ütles ...

Well, characteristically for a Finno-Ugrian, as it seems, I think that my English is pretty good, even fluent. But for the death of me I don't have a very firm grip with he/she or with articles. I'm often quite flummoxed when it comes to placing a or the or nothing correctly in front of a noun. He/she dichotomy is actually a very tricky thing when you don't have it in your native language. Why should you make assumptions of the gender of God for example, or of an unknown person? And why should the gender be the important thing - why not have a different pronoun for blonds and dark haired people, or tall and short people? I say!

Unknown ütles ...

Looks to me that Giustino's patience is wearing thinner lately. I like this more edgy Giustino.

Very apt observations.

Lingüista ütles ...

Well, stokholm slender, think of the problems a guy like me, whose mother tongue is a fully articled, gendered language, has when trying to learn, perchance to speak, a Finno-Ugric language like Estonian? Why the heck did you need to have a partitive different from your genitive -- and why make it so hard to guess which word gets which variant of each?

Giustino, learning a language -- any language -- to the level where you can understand the Onu Tiits of this world is usually beyond the reach of any normal human being. Even English, this language which everybody is now supposed to learn, this language which supposedly is so easy (no big conjugations like French! no complicated verb tenses! woo hoo!), still keeps having words I don't understand or don't remember (from your post: 'giddy'...). Hey, if most non-native learners of English mangle it, why should most non-native learners of Estonian not do the same with the royal language of Eestimaa?

We fur'ners will never be like the natives; the Epps of this world will always understand the Onu Tiits better than we do.

On the interest that the Eesti Press has for Russian agitators: I understand your point (what's the use of running these stories, other than scaring people?); but, considering Estonia's past, the number of Russians still living there, and current geopolitics, wouldn't it be even stranger if they simply ignored it? I'm sure the press of other European countries, or even America, would do likewise if they had a similarly angry neighbor with a bad attitude constantly saying nasty things about them and with big, big guns ready for use and right next door. Is the Estonian Press doing something that the BBC or the New York Times wouldn't do if England or America were in Estonia's situation?

Serial_ ütles ...

CT, If a foreigner bothers to learn Estonian and if he/she can speak it adequately in the future, then he/she is good at it. Few mistakes and an accent doesn't mean that person is not good at it.
You can call it as a "social norm" or whatever you like to call it, but Estonian language is far too complicated to compare it with english language studies.
Yes, you're right about the statement, that no criticism holds back real development, but maybe you just have a different understanding about language skills.
When a person can express most of his/her thoughts-ideas clearly, then he/she is good. Even with an accent or few grammar mistakes.
You are comparing it with native speakers, "when he cannot talk like a native, then he is not good". Such attitude, I think, is wrong.

Unknown ütles ...

I think CT tried to battle the mediocrity that has us surrounded everywhere we look at (probably watched too much Idiocracy lately). Maybe not the most appropriate place, but whatever, I salute the initiative.

As for languages. They are hard to speak. I can write English relatively well but if I have to talk to some random person on the street and I have about 0.5 seconds to prepare, I might sound as horrible as Markus Grönholm describing another jolly day of rallying. So I'd say that my English reading comprehension is good, but I can't put together sensible sentences on the fly. But well, that sometimes even happens with Estonian.

Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...

Andres, you've helped me see the error I made. Cheers!

Sorry for the disturbance, everyone. Comments deleted, as if they never were. ;)

stockholm slender ütles ...

CT, what's the rush? It's good to get some discussion going - self-censorship did never no-one no good... It would be boring if everyone only would agree with the consensus opinion.

Anonüümne ütles ...

Reminds me of a really sweet remark from a foreign language teacher: for god's sake don't set your mind to absolutely learn to speak like a native - if you achieve it, your tremendous effort will just go unnoticed.

You get tons of praise and encouragement instead when people recognize you from the first instant as a foreigner trying hard to learn the language well.

Just a tiny side note :)

Unknown ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Unknown ütles ...

I understand what Justin says completely. As a foreigner having been here for 3.5 years, I can understand nearly everything, and can have conversations in Estonian and understand and be understood 90% of the time. I also feel my Estonian is not perfect at all, and it's frustrating to be good, but not great. Yes, many Estonians' English is not terribly good, and they should try more (since we have to try so hard to speak good Estonian), but it doesn't matter much to me in personal conversation. I think it's more important for Estonians when presenting internationally, because then bad English stands out like shouting. Even less excusable is when it's bad written English, since then it's obvious no-one had a sensible check through the text before it being printed.
However, I disagree with the 'äkki', 'tegelikult' or 'noh' or 'aga' being bad. They make conversation interesting and fluid. I use them a lot in speech and it helps me paddle through with my mangled Estonian.
As a Latin language native speaker, it also unnerves me that FInno-Ugric native language speakers have a hard time with he/she, his/her, and 'wery' instead of 'very'. Heck, we've even got gender for things like a table, the sun, a ball, water! etc. I also try to pay attention to regular mistakes Latin language native speakers make in English, including pronounciation and accent, and that helps. However, I usually give older generations an easier ride on the pronounciation thing. My mum for instance, speaks English fine and everything, but she always says 'lenguage' instead of 'language', since it's 'lenguaje' in Spanish, and my sister each time corrects her and makes a fuss, but I understand if it just slips for her. Younger generations though have less of an excuse.

Unknown ütles ...

I think many comments here are overstating the role of English a bit. Why should we speak English really good? Of course, it has to be generally correct, but I don't see why an Estonian should master it. Unless he's majoring in it or something. Most people who are on important places all over the world, speak it rather poorly (pronouncation and even grammar-wise sometimes). If we take politicians, only those from English-speaking countries and diplomates speak it really good IMO. So I don't find that the Estonians should feel ashamed about the general knowledge of English. Better than the average in France, Japan or Russia, I suspect.

Johnny S. Camerus ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
Serial_ ütles ...

That reminds me, when I first heard politician Siim Kallas giving an interview in english, his pronounciation was totally rubbish and now he is working as a commissioner on transportation in European Comission.

Giustino ütles ...

Siim Kallas has a great accent. He sounds like The Count on Sesame Street.

Rainer ütles ...

"So I don't find that the Estonians should feel ashamed about the general knowledge of English."

Go tell that to the Brits, governor.
If you speak really correct English, they dismiss you as a snob or a weirdo. If you don't, they make fun of your accent. Now that's nokk kinni, saba lahti in action.

Kristopher ütles ...

The hardest thing to eliminate from my 4-year-old's English sentences are the incredibly elaborate introductory clauses that are so common in Estonian.

He proposes an idea:
"How would it be, if we did it like this, that we..."
"Kuidas oleks, kui teeksime niimoodi, et..."

He describes a situation or condition: "It is like this, that... "

See on selline asi/niimoodi, et..."

No English speaker, even the most patient adult, has so far been willing to stick with him through 15-20 words of hemming and hawing. It's like a stammer, but a cultural one, we just gently rephrase/correct but it's frustrating.

Kristopher ütles ...

"As a Latin language native speaker, ..."

Can't be many who can claim that distinction anymore...

And his first words were...nascendo, ergo sum...?

viimneliivlane ütles ...

Having recently finished reading 'Minu Eesti' I would say you have nothing to apologize for in the matter of your level of language comprehension. How many in your situation have actually written a book?

If anything, I noticed that you even felt secure enough to take liberties that only poets allow themselves, for instance using ´nüpeldama´ rather than ´vihtlema´ in the sauna. Good going!

Regarding the Onu Tiits of Estonia I have long had a hunch that they are speaking in code, that this is a practice held over from the occupation and that they actually don´t want everyone to understand what they´re saying who could perhaps later quote them . . . same goes for signatures - have you noticed how some people intentionally make them indecipherable?

There are a lot of different issues crammed into this one blog -this question of words having gender is one where the gender-free Finno-Ugric languages will eventually have to win the wrestling match with the Indo-European languages because we can´t sustain an argument about gender equality when languages are structured with gender-laden obstructions.

It seems to me to it´s downright ridiculous that the word for salad should have a gender - last summer I wanted to compliment a French chef for a wonderful salad but stayed mum because I couldn´t remember if it was ´le salad´ or ´la salade´ - heaven forbid I should make a mistake, right!

Rainer ütles ...

"How many in your situation have actually written a book?"

Viimneliivlane, you do realize that the content of the book was first written in English and then translated into Estonian by Raivo Hool?

Indrek ütles ...

gender-free Finno-Ugric languages will eventually have to win the wrestling match with the Indo-European languages because we can´t sustain an argument about gender equality when languages are structured with gender-laden obstructions.

While estonian language is genderless there still are some phrases that imply sex.

team - meeskond (there is also naiskond, but that strictly means only women. If there is even one man in the team then it's meeskond)

a soviet term seltsimees (I haven't ever heard someone use seltsinaine.)

Philippe ütles ...

Giustino: About your Estonian language skills, if yours are not up to standards in your opinion, what should the rest of us expats-elukaaslased do? Throw ourselves into a well we probably can't until the Spring, they are all full of snow right now... :) Besides, "there are people that have lived here for 50 years and still don't speak it" (as we have been told "ad nauseam"), so you still have what, 42 more years Onu Tiidu keelt õppida?
Regarding eesti keele lack of gender: Except for boats and people, English does not really have a gender either, and political correctness will probably do away with that soon too... So no problem, maybe our children will be able to say "it" in every case and be correct. In languages that actually have genders for everything, like my mother tongue Spanish, they come quite handy when you have many different things to refer to in a complicated paragraph. I miss that when I have to write contracts in English...
Regarding the "Latin language": In Spanish we can say "lenguas latinas" to refer to the Romance laguages, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Romanian, etc. They are all Latin-based, and IMO, all romance language speakers, we just speak different brands of refried-for-centuries pidgin Latin... We just blabbered away the declensions (why say "rosa, rosae, rosam, rosa", where you can say "roos, roosi, roosi,..., roosita, roosiga", eks ole?) and retained the really difficult stuff: verbs and their tenses (a vast chunk of them irregular) to actually tell a good story about a guy that told stories about a really old time where some people would have referred to even older times when something had had had happened... (Spanish students will probably know what I mean)
Tartuense: ¿De dónde sos?

Mette ütles ...

Veebikolumnist Giustino ütles...

Siim Kallas has a great accent. He sounds like The Count on Sesame Street.

The Count sounds a tad Slavic to my ears.
I would personally claim Siim Kallas sounding a lot more like Leningrad Cowboys. Few more samples:
(Warning: poor sound quality).

For comparison:
Siim Kallas


Mette ütles ...

Incidentally, Beer question
has a bit more dialogue; hence better for comparison.
Found this one after publishing my comment.

Doris ütles ...

weeellll... having to give someone a gender can be really awkward sometimes. Like when you don't know what their gender is. Granted, that doesn't happen very often, but it does happen.

Also, I never understood why I would have to name all horses a "he" and all cats a "she". Hello? that's just stupid. There's girl-horses and boy-cats too! In Estonian you often have 3 words for the same species: one generic, one for the female and one for the male. Like hobune, m2ra, t2kk. Or lammas, utt, j22r. Or inimene, naine, mees.

Mette ütles ...

Veebikolumnist Doris ütles...
In Estonian you often have 3 words for the same species: one generic, one for the female and one for the male. Like hobune, m2ra, t2kk. Or lammas, utt, j22r. ____________________________

Actually, same in English. Respectively: a horse, a mare, a stallion (or a gelding when he is "ruun"). And a colt and a filly for the youngsters. Then a sheep, a ram (a wether if castrated, "oinas"), a ewe,(a lamb or a yeanling for the youngsters).

Giustino ütles ...

Viimneliivlane, you do realize that the content of the book was first written in English and then translated into Estonian by Raivo Hool?

All sentences spoken by me in Estonian in the book were written by me to maintain the awkward constructions. I did proof the Estonian language version, though, and Raivo does have a great vocabulary. So I have read the Estonian version of my own book :)

Giustino: About your Estonian language skills, if yours are not up to standards in your opinion, what should the rest of us expats-elukaaslased do?

I just bought T Nagu Tallinn. I like the style of these TEA books the best. I previously finished E Nagu Eesti.

Lingüista ütles ...

Indeed, Pipe, I had meant Latin language in the sense of "lenguas latinas" (or actually "línguas latinas", since my mother tongue is Portuguese). Am I wrong, or does your "¿De dónde sos?" mark you as a "rioplatense"? :-) (By the way, "nascendo ergo sum" doesn't make sense in Latin; I take it the commenter meant something like nascor ergo sum? :-)

Gender system always feel awkward to speakers of non-gendered languages, just like articles feel strange and not really useful to speakers of languages without articles. It is true that gender is somewhat of a mystery for linguists, especially gender for non-humans and objects: after all, it is not "evolutionarily adaptive" (it doesn't improve communication, it doesn't transmit any necessary information, it doesn't perform any communicative function), so how come it originated and remained pretty stable over the entire Indo-European family? Note that, even though several Indo-European languages have restricted the system (most notably English, only to humans and higher animals), no Indo-European language has lost it, i.e. no Indo-European language has become similar to Finno-Ugric languages in this respect (except, of course, pidgin and creole languages like Haitian Creole).

In fact, languages with gender systems are pretty rare in the world -- aside from Indo-European and Semitic (Afro-Asiatic), there are only a few other families (e.g. Arawakan in South America). There are more language families with something called "noun classes" like Bantu languages, a phenomenon similar to, but with important differences from, gender. So, if Indo-European languages weren't so widely spoken in the world, gender systems would actually be thought of as an exotic grammatical feature, and most languages would be similar to Finno-Ugric...

Still, it's hard to give up a gender system once you have it. It does seem important to a speaker of a gender language to use "he" for males and "she" for females; I feel terribly uninformed when I try to read Estonian and only get tema or ta (and also, since nobody can ever know whether Estonian names are meant for males or females... In a text, someone is mentioned as Epp, Tiit, Piret, Priit, Kadri, Alo, Sirje, Tiiu, Urmas... and referred back to later on as tema. I feel as if I can't imagine the person just because I can't tell if it's a man or a woman, and I just have to find out before I try to read any further... :-)

ants ütles ...

A langue has two main tasks:
The means of intercourse between people – there is not important accents one’s have, so the mistakes one's make, if only understand one another.
Language as art – expressing all the shadows, typical THIS language. Needs profound command of it. So even translate one literature piece into another language it is no more the same. As an exemple I dare produce a short poem of Heine “Pine-tree” in original and translated into Russian by Lermontoff, we learned in school like Lermontoffs one. You see in German “Fichtenbaum” is masculine, “cocнa” feminine. Despite the essence is same in both, even they are different poems!

Ein Fichtenbaum steht einsam
im Norden, auf kahler Höh.
Ihn schläfert. Mit veissen Decke
umhüllen ihn Eis und Schnee.
Er träumt von einer Palme,
Die fern am Morgenland
einsam und schweigend trauert
auf brennendern Felsenwand

Ha сeвepe дикoм cтойт oдиноко
нa гoлый вepшинe cocнa.
Пoкpытa вec cнeгoм,
oдетa кaк pиcoй oнa.
И cнится ей тo, чтo в пycтынe длёкoй,
в тoм кpae, где сoльце вocхoд
oднa и гpycтнa
прeкacнaя пaльмa pacтёт.

stockholm slender ütles ...

One strange thing I have noticed is this "sakslanna"/"eestlanna" etc. form that especially the ETV sports commentators seem to like. Have to say that to my politically correct Finnish ears it sounds quite like 1950's style male patronizing, "sievä pikku saksatar"... Do these forms sound quite normal to Estonians?

bunsen_lamp ütles ...

Yes, they are much more widely used in Estonian than corresponding forms in Finnish. Must be German influence, e.g. anwältin, russin.

Tõnu Tamm ütles ...

"Nokk kinni, saba lahti" -What if the story is really about the feet? They are never mentioned, but they are there, stuck in the tar, too.

LPR ütles ...

T6nu, you brought it all home. Nokk kinni, saba lahti has a much deeper and sinister meaning than it seems. Once one is in a siutation like this, there is no way out of it.

It is like Estonian politics: vote for Savisaar, get Ansip, vote for Ansip, get Savisaar, etc, etc. while all along the entire country is stuck in a tar of a screwed up political system and the long term outlook is not good.

Tõnu Tamm ütles ...
Autor on selle kommentaari eemaldanud.
viimneliivlane ütles ...

Thanks for clearing up the particulars on the production of ´Minu Eesti´ - but I stand on my original reaction - it was charming reading under the illusion.

Sirtsu ütles ...

"The most formidable Estonian speaker I have met so far is Epp's uncle, the legendary Onu Tiit."

This sentence did warm my heart. You do not know me, nor does Epp, but I do know Tiit and hereby I completely have to agree. He is legendary, with all of his sense of humor, behaviour etc.

It always warms me inside reading of him or his family. I bought "My Estonia" last week, my mother recommended it to me. My first intension was to send the book to my far relatives to the other edge of the world - but I accidently managed to start reading it and now they have to wait a week until I finish it! :D Thank you for the book! It "sobib kui rusikas silmaauku" :p (it hits the bullseye) and I am really glad to have got it.
I will for sure get another exemplar for myself and I will dream one day to get an autograph at least from Justin to its first page. Or maybe I could just ask Ave-Liis or Tiit or even Reeli to ask you if it would be somehow possible to get the autograph.. but nah I am too shy for that I think and I dont want to bother them too much.. even if we manage to sit down behind one table at least once per year.

Estonia is small... or quoting the legendary onu Tiit: "Estonia is so small, if an Estonian owns a guitar, there's a good chance I know him" :)
Maybe one day I will have a chance to meet you and get the autograph! :D

Thanx again for the wonderful reading! And onu Tiit is legendary!