When writing an essay
1. Think in Estonian. Do not translate from your mother tongue.
2. Use simple and short sentences. Postpone philosophical thoughts for the future.
3. Use the textbook and your notebook frequently. Check phrases, word forms, and spelling.
4. Use at least 6-7 expressions from the relevant unit in each essay.
5. Don’t use a dictionary more than 1-2 times. Your goal is to use and practice familiar language structures, not learn new words.
6. If you don’t know a word or phrase, think of how to say it in a different way.
7. Fantasy helps you. The teacher cannot check truthfulness of every phrase you write.
8. After finishing the essay, read it and check if you understand everything.
9. Send your essay first to the teacher, not to your wife, friend or cat to read.
SHORTLIST FOR GRAMMAR CHECK:
1. pronouns + verb endings (ma oleN, sa loeD, ta elaB etc.)
2. simple plural: -D -D -D (mulle meeldivaD mustaD autoD)
3. kaks/palju + 3. vorm
4. käima KUS? minema KUHU?
5. tegusõna + -ma/-da
6. minevik (past tense)
7. non-capital letters and commas
ABOUT ESSAYS AND CORRECTING MISTAKES
I enjoy reading my students’ creative essays very much and it makes me happy to see their progress. I appreciate their hard work and time. Still, let me say a few more words in addition to the main guidelines posted above.
1. Thinking in Estonian. Although a majority of the students have become quite good at avoiding translating from their mother tongue, I still observe that some of them construct sentences in their head first in the native language. Please practice thinking in Estonian. Before starting your essay, open the relevant unit in the textbook, read dialogues, poems, make a list of verbs useful for your essay, look at the pictures for ideas etc.
2. Correcting mistakes. Be thankful your teacher doesn’t correct all your mistakes, but underlines most of them instead so you can correct them yourself. Almost all my students have found this very useful (sure, sometimes they get frustrated when not finding correct forms…). Correcting your mistakes makes you think about what was wrong. What you have to do is not stare at the ceiling (what a funny Estonian idiom!) and guess a correct answer. First you have to check the spelling. Then you identify the grammar topic of the paticular phrase and find a relevant Keeletark page and correct the word according to your best knowledge.
3. Learn phrases. Although I strongly advise everyone to concentrate on learning phrases/chunks, you still need to know what is going on in terms of grammar in each phrase.
4. Check forms. I hope you agree that it doesn’t make much sense if your teacher corrects, for instance, kaks/palju forms, -ma/-da, past tense, kus?/kuhu?/kust? etc. All of these you can easily find and check from the textbook. Shortlist for grammar check applies to every sentence you write.
5. Keep your writings simple. Believe me, your simple sentences look very beautiful and make you sound smart in Estonian.