Estonian-The Language of a Leading e-Government Nation

The Baltic Tiger―Estonia: Its Innovations and Language

November 7, 2016

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Estonian Translation

Hello, I'm Yosshi. I entered the translation business two years ago, dreaming of an international career. Since then, every day I keep discovering more about the ever-fascinating world of translation.

Until just recently, I had assumed that the so-called 'three Baltic States' were three countries located on the Balcan Peninsula. However, for some reason, I happened to question this long held assumption of mine. It's a good thing that I did because some research told me that the three Baltic States were in fact not located on the Baltic Peninsula! The Baltic States are often referred to as the 'Baltic Tiger' for their recent economic growth. Today, I would like to share with you some interesting information about one of these countries, Estonia. Thanks to the development of its IT industry, Estonia has experienced a sudden boost in economy and has even become the first nation to conduct an online election.

Estonia and its Growing Economy

I first had to check the locations of the three Baltic States―Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania―on a world map. To the east of these three countries lies Russia, and to the west lies the Baltic Sea. Neighboring Finland across the Baltic Sea, Estonia is the northernmost of the Baltic States. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website, the land area of Estonia is only one ninth of that of Japan.

The three Baltic States have recently come to be known as the 'Baltic Tiger' for the rapid economic growth that they underwent, especially between the years 2000 and 2007. An online article by the Nikkei Financial Times reports that, in 2007, Estonia became the first country in the world to hold an online national election. This innovation caught the attention of many countries world-wide, many of which are now sending observation teams to Estonia. A card with an embedded IC chip is distributed to all Estonian citizens, and is used to vote in online elections and pay public transportation fees. A project that was launched in 1996 called the 'Tiger Leap' provided Internet access in all schools nationwide. This has played a significant role in helping people become more familiarized with IT.

Useful Information about Estonia

About Estonian Language

From a linguistic perspective, most European languages are categorized as part of the Indo-European language family. However, I read on a website ('A Traveler's Diary―Roaming Eastern Europe') that it wasn't so for Estonian which is a Finno-Ugric language, closest to Finnish . According to an article from Nikkei Business Online, Estonia is only two hours' distance from Finland by ship and many tourists from Finland visit Estonia on weekends. Since the languages spoken in these two countries are very similar, it seems that Finns can easily go to Estonia despite the border.

Another piece of information from the aforementioned website 'A Traveler's Diary―Roaming Eastern Europe' that I found especially interesting was the fact that the Estonian language had an astounding variety of declinations. Because declinations do not exist in Japanese, many Japanese people would find this to be quite challenging. German has four types of declinations and Russian has six. However, in Estonian, there are actually a total of fourteen types of declinations! Although Estonia neighbors Russia, the Estonian language is not written in the Cyrillic alphabet. Instead, they use the Roman alphabet which may make it a little bit easier for Japanese people to grasp this unfamiliar language.

Another unique characteristic about Estonian is that there are three different types of vowels, all differing in their length of pronunciation. Examples of these vowels can be found in sounds such as 'ko', 'kou' and 'kouo'.

Lastly, I would like to introduce information about Estonia that could be useful as Japan has recently started the new 'My Number System.' An article from Human Capitol Online tells us that, from April 2015, the Estonian government officially began a new online administrative service for foreigners called the e-Residency system. Using this new service, it has become possible for people living abroad to create a new company in Estonia via the Internet without having to leave their home country. The whole process can be completed in a matter of just 18 minutes!

The World's Leading e-Government Nation

Although Estonia is a small country in size, it has focused particularly on strengthening its IT industry and has now come to be considered internationally as a leading e-Government nation. In Japan, a new individual numbering system called the 'My Number System' was officially introduced in January 2016. This is one example that indicates that the computerization of governments is becoming a trend in numerous countries around the world. With its innovative introduction of IT to infrastructural systems, many countries are expected to be casting more light on Estonia in the upcoming years.

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