Finished with Finnish, astonished with Estonian

21. August 2016 § Hinterlasse einen Kommentar

I spent about ten days in Finland without cracking even tiny bits of the code. Well, okay, at the end I could have said „thank you“ or „welcome“, but that would really have been a hollow gesture. In a sense, it can be quite relaxing for the linguistically oriented traveller to just give up and admit that what he hears is only gibberish to his ears. There are surprisingly few cognates from Latin or Greek roots, the occasional „normal“ being the exception to the rule. You´d think that important standards like „train station“, „shopping mall“, „airport“ or „town centre“ would be flagged out in a comprehensible way to help the odd tourists who venture beyond the capital. But no, everything has to be derived with guesswork and the support of the invaluable offline Google maps. Airport is „lentokenttä“, for example. 

I figured out as much as „keskus“ meaning centre, and was positively surprised that this helped me in Estonia, where the word differs only in its declinations. Altogether, Estonian as a language seems to have been more open to loans and compromises, offering such internationalisms as , and apparently a lot of words implanted from German, such as „kaart“ or „sink“ = Schinken = ham. This may be easy for language tourists like me, but it´s also evidence for a troubled history of domination. Loan words can also be forced on you by a culture which deems itself more advanced than the serfs it subjugates. 

Rehearsals for re-independence day


Estonia was independent for the first time in 1920, but this brief period ended abruptly in 1940 as a result of the Hitler-Stalin pact. Yesterday, on August 20th, the nation celebrated what they awkwardly translate in English as re-independence, the 25th anniversary of the „Singing Revolution“ in 1991, when protestors and the parliament used the confusion of the coup against Gorbatshev to declare sovereignty, all in one or two unbloody days. It´s interesting how one tends to forgive small nations with such a history outbursts of fierce and proud nationalism much more easily than one would the great big mammoths with a history of imperialism. 
I witnessed a few rehearsals in the morning of the big day, with motley choirs and folk dances only hinted at. But when I came back to the main square in the evening, workers were already dismantling the stage and the lighting masts. I found out that the really important national day is in February, with military parades celebrating the 1920 event. The Soviets then granted the small nation everlasting sovereignty. What a cruel joke of history it is when we listen to a present-day presidential candidate in the USA saying that NATO would only protect its members if they paid their bills. We can only surmise at this stage that world politics to this loud ignoramus is as much gibberish as Finnish is to me. 

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