One of my values in life is to explore and experience.
For me, regularly trying out new things makes life worthwhile. It broadens my horizons, helps me better understand the world around me, other people, and myself. It helps me grow as a person.
Recently, I decided to start learning a new language: Estonian.
Why Estonian, and why now? To answer that, let’s play “Never have I ever”.
1. Never have I ever learnt a language from scratch on my own
I have been learning languages on my own for approximately two years. It is starting to feel quite natural. Even now, after having a three-month hibernation, it was quite easy to establish new routines and get back to learning languages.
But so far, all the languages I’ve been learning on my own have been ones that I started out and laid the basis for back in school. With Swedish, I started my self-learning from around strong B2, with French, from almost B1, and even for Russian, I got a rather solid A1 basic level to build on.
I still have a couple of languages sort of in the queue, that I learnt the very basics for in school: German and Japanese. I could have picked up one of them next; last summer, I was already contemplating on starting Japanese again.
But then that “never have I ever…” came to my head and got me thinking: how would I tackle the challenge of starting out from zero?
It’s happened in many areas of my life before: once I start thinking “wonder how I would manage that”, I’m already taking the first steps to trying it out.
2. Never have I ever learnt a language related to my native language
This was perhaps the most important reason for me to make up my mind.
Ever since I started reading language blogs and about the experiences of other language enthusiasts, I’ve run into many stories about how certain aspects of their native language helped them with some other aspects of their target language. The Italian polyglot Luca Lampariello learning Spanish and Portuguese. Different posts about the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. When learning French with Babbel (from English to French), there were tips about true friends and false friends in vocabulary.
Now of course, I already got many “Yay!” moments with noticing similarities between the languages I’ve learnt. One of the reasons I really started to get excited about language learning, was when I noticed how, e.g., knowing Swedish really helped me memorise German vocabulary. In school, I realised I’m kind of good at noticing even the slightest similarities in the logics of the different languages, and found it really interesting.
But I never experienced learning a language similar to my own language. Recently I realised can’t even imagine what it would be like.
Unlike for native speakers of Romance and Germanic languages, there aren’t too many relative languages for me to learn. Somehow I find that even a better reason to learn one that is related to Finnish. I think we Finns are secretly a bit proud about being the language weirdo we are. And I find it would certainly be fun to get to know another language in that secret language club of Fenno-Ugric languages.
3. Never have I ever participated in Add1Challenge!
This doesn’t have that much to do with why I chose Estonian, but more with why I decided to do it know. I’ve been intrigued to try the Add1Challenge ever since I heard about it for the first time.
Briefly, Add1 is a challenge and a community where people learn a language for 90 days and aim to be able to speak for 15 minutes with a native speaker by the end of the challenge.
Add1 is also much about experimenting with new methods and resources to find the ones that work best for you, and becoming a better language learner.
What would better fit this challenge that my Never have I ever -experience of learning Estonian? I had been thinking about starting Estonian for some time now, and when I was reflecting my goals for this year in languages would be, I was tempted again to start a new language. The fact that there was a new Add1Challenge opening up was the last little push I needed to go for it.
Bonus: It is the 100 year anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Estonia.
Last year, Finland celebrated it’s 100 years of independence. For me, that celebration felt very meaningful and important. Now, this year it is Estonia’s turn to celebrate.
Despite the geographic and linguistic closeness of Finland and Estonia, I think most Finns know very little about our neighbour, it’s language and culture. Me included.
It seems appropriate now, in the honour of the 100 years of independence of our little sister, to get to know her a bit better!
Now, it’s your turn! What is your language learning “Never have I ever…”?? Let me know in the comments!
PS. Here’s a glimpse to how my Estonian sounds on Day 0: