Anyone who has ever tried learning a small(er) language can tell you how difficult it is to find good resources for self-study. Unlike English or Spanish, for example, that everyone wants (and needs) to learn, languages with few speakers provide less incentive for developers to create learning tools for. And so good resources are few and far between.
But if it’s Estonian you’re learning, fear no more! We’ve put together this list for you of the best resources for learning Estonian.
The Best Free Resources
Most of these websites are slightly older and not as user-friendly as the paid options, but if you’re looking to simply get acquainted with Estonian, they’re a good place to start.
Get started learning Estonian with these websites that will teach you the most basic vocabulary and phrases you need to start communicating.
This is a good place for your first contact with Estonian. Omniglot provides a useful overview and common phrases (with audio) for everyday speech. Get your Hellos and Thank yous from here and move on.
Going a bit farther than Omniglot, this website provides additional vocabulary, although it doesn’t put it into much context. It’s also a solid introduction to Estonian grammar if you’re interested in that sort of thing. You do have to create an account and put up with some annoying pop-ups to use the site.
Once you’ve got past the very basics, it’s time to move on. You’ve surely heard horror stories of Estonian grammar, but these apps and websites will help you acquire more of the language with less of the terror.
This Lithuanian website provides fully thought-out and useful language lessons. It starts from the very basics but incorporates a lot of real-life materials and ties that annoying grammar into the mix without you even noticing. However, it is an older website that requires Flash to run and occasionally misbehaves.
A government-run course with plenty of video content. Supposedly one of the top online Estonian courses, despite the videos feeling rather wooden. It also doesn’t work very well on Chrome.
The content on this website takes a big step forward in complexity. It’s intended to be used by Russian-speaking trade schools in Estonia but if you’re past the “My name is..” and “How old are you?” stage, it provides a great next step. There’s an interactive workbook and a lot of audio content for you to use. The whole website is in Estonian, however!
A mobile browser application, this is another publicly funded tool for learning Estonian. You need to create a free account to use it but, for a free app, it works rather well. Focusing on real-world communication and phrases, it uses geolocation to see what type of phrases might be the handiest.
The Paid Options
If you’re willing to break out the old credit card, there are some paid options for learning Estonian worth considering, too.
For ten euros a month, you get access to a well-built system for increasing your vocabulary. For the money, you get an algorithm that adapts to your learning speed and actually makes acquiring new vocabulary fun. It’s very user-friendly, although it doesn’t create much context around the words you’re learning.
A new option to the table, Speakly’s prices start at six euros a month (if you pay for a year in advance). However, for the cash, you get an app developed using excellent methodology. You’ll focus on learning the most important vocabulary in context – something absolutely vital to language learning success.
Once you’ve exhausted all of these options, it might be time to consider a private teacher. Someone who knows your strengths and weaknesses, is able to accommodate your learning style, and can focus on you-specific language is certainly the best way to learn Estonian.
Despite Estonian being a small language, there are some good resources available to you. Start by learning some of the most common expressions and work your way towards language proficiency with these websites and apps. And once you feel like you’ve gone as far as you can by yourself, get a private teacher to help you out.