Julia | Moved to Estonia from Ukraine in 2014

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I moved from Ukraine to Estonia in 2014. I didn’t rush to start learning Estonian because I didn’t see the need for it. I was living in Narva and never really had much contact with the language.

On the odd occasion when someone said something to me in Estonian it was easier to switch to Russian or English. Bit by bit though I started building up an Estonian vocabulary by memorising words I saw on labels on supermarket shelves, for example. But I realised that wouldn’t be enough to start using the language and that without a teacher I wouldn’t get anywhere. And by this stage I wanted to learn the language properly. Thanks to the new approaches adopted by the Unemployment Insurance Fund here in the country, I was able to get financial support to study Estonian despite the fact that I was working. I chose individual studies, since my schedule at work makes group classes practically impossible.

When it comes to learning the language I don’t have the same aversion to it that some people in Ida-Viru County have. No one’s forcing me to do it, and no one’s expecting me to take the state exam at the end of it. I’m studying Estonian because I want to be able to speak it. I’m not going to make excuses that oh, but I’m an immigrant. Knowing Estonian opens up new opportunities, and that’s why I want to learn it.

It’s not an easy language, and it’s unlike any language I’ve ever studied. At times it really is difficult. Every now and again I come across texts and topics, even in brand new textbooks, that seem outdated to me as well – things like ‘communal apartments’ and ‘speaking on the phone’, by which they mean landline. It’s as though old textbooks are just reprinted without their contents being updated much at all. It’s also annoying that the language skills criteria are the same for both kids and adults – for some reason, studying at the A2 level it’s much more important for me to be able to understand and talk about animals and the forest than it is for me to know vocabulary related to the job I do. Nor am I a fan of the fact that most language courses are geared towards gaining the skills you need to pass the state exams. I mean, I’ve met people who’ve been taking these courses and sitting these exams for years on end and still don’t speak the language.