"Mäyräkoira (dachshund, sausage dog) and rantavalas (beach whale)”, says Madean Altsoo, who teaches Finnish in Estonia, trying out some newly-learned Finnish slang expressions.
So what do they mean?
“Well, a dachshund refers to a 12-pack of beer, and a beach whale is a man with a kind of white beer-belly hump in front of him. The opposite of an Adonis”, clarifies comprehensive school teacher Marika Holma from Pärnu.
Holma and Altsoo visited Helsinki last week to get acquainted with Finnish culture, together with twenty or so other Finnish teachers from Estonia.
The five-day visit was funded by the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Apparently the Finnish authorities have become concerned about the declining level of Finnish skills in Estonia.
It is fair to say that the studying of Finnish is at a low ebb in the Estonian comprehensive schools.
As late as in the mid-1990s there were still nearly 3,900 children and young adults in Estonia who studied Finnish. Last year their number was recorded at a mere 1,037.
The attractiveness of Finnish has been eaten into by the growing selection of elective studies and the ever-increasing popularity of English.