The textbook is excellent, it is the best resource for English speakers to learn Estonian because of the very skillful use of images and charts to explain the structure and components of the language. One learns the language in a visual or sensory way without depending on complicated explanations or abstract grammatical categories, which has been a problem with some earlier texts.
What I like most about the textbook is the design and organization of the material. I like how each chapter begins with various Estonian words associated with a strong image or images, then moves to small dialogues that use the new words. A small grammar section follows, before another dialogue and a little story. The Keeletark pages are especially effective, because they set up clear structural relations between grammatical categories and applications of examples.
What makes Estonian difficult from my perspective is the need to remember so many rules or constructions (because the language has so many cases). It is easier to remember so many things when the material is presented in such a compact way as you have done in the textbook.
By far the most helpful exercise or assignment has been the writing of the essay. To write the essay, I had to follow the text very closely, and even so I still made many mistakes in the first and second versions. However, the harjutused are also very helpful, because I can check my answers, and when I get it wrong, I consult the text to see why I made the mistake.
The textbook presents the language in a way that facilitates the learning of it. It organizes the language into “units” small enough for a student remember a new set of rules and constructions but big enough to create a sense of momentum or significant progress from one week to the next. But even so, the language does require a lot of study time to maintain progress. I have studied German, French, Dutch, and Swedish, and Estonian is by far the most challenging language for me to learn. So the goal or purpose for learning the language has to be very clear to the student. For me, the main original goal was to learn about Ella Ilbak. But the language is so beautiful, that now it seems as if learning the language opens up something mysterious about Estonia as well as some undiscovered territory in myself. Anyway, the textbook works very well for me!
Karl Toepfer (online student)
Professor Emeritus, Theater Arts
San Jose State University, CA
Ella Ilbak (1895, Estonia – 1997, Pontiac, Michigan, USA) had an unusually long career as a solo dancer. She gave her first concert in Tartu in 1918, but her career largely unfolded in Europe, where she performed extensively in 20s and 30s. She spent World War II in France, then moved to Sweden, where she published her autobiography and a couple of novels. She migrated to the United States and lived in New York, Santa Barbara, and Detroit, giving her last dance concert in 1967, at the age of 72. Ilbak always danced alone; she was never part of an ensemble, she never established a school, she never married or had any children. Her solo dances disclosed a romantic modernist sensibility, her most famous pieces being “Visioon,” with music by Scriabin, and “Leek,” (Flame) with music by Wagner. Her approach to dance was dramatic: she favored heavily emotional music and bodily movement. She was especially gifted at developing the expressive power of her torso, arms, and hands. She also used dance to construct different “characters” within herself, a phenomenon that has almost completely disappeared from modern dance today, as has, indeed, the concept of an entire concert devoted to solo dance by a single performer.