So how’s the language going?

Yesterday I caught up with my family over Skype for our monthly board games night (I know – my weekends are wild) and my sister asked, ‘So how are you going with the language?’

My answer? I’m not.

I actually feel like I learnt far more Estonian before I got here than what I’ve learnt since I’ve been here.

You see, Estonians are known for not being very big on small talk. This was one of the appealing aspects of moving here – I can be socially awkward at times, and am often uncomfortable in conversations that don’t have a clear purpose, so small talk is not my cup of tea. The problem is that, when you don’t have small talk, it’s hard to practise a language.

My active vocabulary consists of two words: tere (hello) and aitäh (thank you). I use these at the checkout at the supermarket (though once my debit card arrives, I’ll probably start using the self-service checkouts like a true anti-social millennial).

The only other time I tried to say something more complex was when I went to a pharmacy looking for ibuprofen. I said, ‘Mul on vaja ibuprofeeni,’ and the pharmacist came back at me with a question at which point I needed to switch to English.

So, my Estonian is non-existent at this point. I have 100 random words of vocabulary I learnt from the Lingvist app, and now am just waiting for my residence permit to go through so I can enrol in the government’s free Estonian course.


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