Polyglot to take on Estonian language in 30-day challenge

Estonian language dictionaries.
Estonian language dictionaries. Source: Integration Foundation

A noted polyglot Youtuber is adding Estonian to his list of language acquisitions, integration body the International House of Estonia (Eesti Rahvusvaheline Maja) reports.

Richard Simcott, a Briton who resides in Macedonia, has been a leading figure in the international polyglot community for many years, having acquired around 30 foreign languages, not only more "mainstream" ones such as Spanish or French, but also less familiar European tongues such as Bulgarian and Albanian, as well as Macedonian.

Now Richard is to start learning Estonian intensively, over a 30-day period, and will be aided in his quest by Estonian language app startup Speakly.

Richard chatted with Speakly co-founder Ott Ojamets about Estonian, his forthcoming challenge, and language learning in general, in this video.

While Estonian may be one of the smaller languages in terms of native speakers which Richard has tackled to date, he notes that he even recently took a language exam in Cornish, a Brythonic language closely related to Welsh – which, incidentally, he also speaks. He has had some past experience with Finnish as well, he says, and has already noted some of the lexical similarities between it and Estonian. He also speaks Russian.

At the same time, Richard says he would not normally learn a language this intensively and over such a short period of time – though he did do so at least once in the past, with German.

As to existing language materials, Richard had already got his hands on "E-nagu Eesti", one of the most well-known textbooks for A1-A2-level learners of Estonian, and says he was surprised by the length of vocab lists contained in the course. 

The full video interview with Ott Ojamets and Richard Simcott is here.

Richard is however not the only U.K. national to recently buck the trend of the stereotype of people from that country – and the English-speaking world as a whole – as being wholly incapable of, or unwilling to, embrace foreign languages, including Estonian. 

Britain's new ambassador to Estonia, Ross Allen, has also been getting to grips with the language, and issued a short video greeting from Tapa, home of the NATO battlegroup, on his social media account.

Another prominent figure in the online language-learning community to have taken on Estonian was the late Moses "Mouse" McCormick, who passed away in March.

International House of Estonia is a service center for international specialists, Estonian enterprises and returning expat Estonians, the organization says on its website, and is part of Work in Estonia initiative. 

The Integration Foundation (Integratsiooni Sihtasutus), which falls under the culture ministry's remit, also provides information on learning Estonian, links to courses and to the Eesti Keele Maja initiative. 

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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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