Indiana University Bloomington

Girl from Tallinn, Estonia
Estonian Flag
Estonian Flag in old Tallinn
View of Tallinn Estonia


map of Estonia

The Estonian program in the Indiana University Department of Central Eurasian Studies (CEUS) offers students a great opportunity to learn a less commonly taught language in the Baltic region. Every year, we offer introductory, intermediate, and advanced Estonian classes taught by professional and enthusiastic native speakers. The Inner Asian & Uralic National Resource Center also provides many resources for your learning & engagement.

Estonian is the official language of Estonia, spoken natively by about 1.1 million people there and tens of thousands in various migrant communities elsewhere. It belongs to the Finnic branch of the Uralic language family. Like Finnish, Estonian employs the Latin script as the basis for its alphabet, which adds the letters ä, ö, ü, and õ, plus newer additions of š and ž.

IU is the only university in the US that offers three levels of Estonian every year. Seize this unique opportunity and learn a less commonly taught language with

  • an easily recognizable alphabet (you can handle a few diacritics: rõõm ´joy´, õlu `beer`, töö `work`, ülikool `university`)
  • a straightforward and fairly regular grammatical system (the 14 cases are there just for you to boast to your friends about; 11 of these work like English prepositions stuck to the end of the word: ülikoolis `at the university`)
  • familiar features in the structure and loanwords in the vocabulary due to international influences (guess the meaning of elekter, kohv, tomat, buss, muusika, kontsert…)

Taking Estonian is a great gateway to Finno-Ugric linguistics. You can go on to learn the closely related Finnish or the more distant cousin Hungarian, both offered at IU.

Estonia is one of the fastest growing economies in the European Union with an intriguing history, culture and society on the crossroads to Scandinavia, Russia, and Central Europe. Knowing the basics of the language opens the hearts and doors of Estonians and is a definite advantage in funding applications. Learn more about Estonia here.

Scholarship opportunities for further study in Estonia, either at Tartu University (established in 1632 by the Swedish king Gustav Adolf) or in the capital Tallinn, where the medieval downtown meets ultramodern high-rises on the Baltic coast

Department Central Eurasian Studies