(AFP) – Nov 19, 2007
TALLINN (AFP) — Estonia is planning a beauty contest with a difference to mark its 90th birthday, according to a report Monday: the winner will be the world's prettiest language.
Education Minister Tonis Lukas wants his counterparts from around the world to get school pupils to enter recordings of sentences of up to seven words for the contest, the Baltic News Service (BNS) agency reported.
"There's a story that a world championship of beautiful languages was once held in which Estonian took second place after Italian with the sentence 'soida tasa ule silla', or 'go slowly over the bridge,'" Lukas said Monday.
"As part of the events for the anniversary of the republic, we're pleased to turn to other nations with a friendly call to check how our language sounds to others now," he added.
Estonian is a member of the Finno-Ugric group of languages and unrelated to most other European tongues.
It is spoken by only about 1.1 million people worldwide. Around 950,000 of them live in Estonia itself and many of the rest in neighbouring Finland and Russia, as well as Sweden, Germany, North America and Australia.
Preserving their language was a crucial part of Estonian opposition to foreign rule from the 19th century onwards, and remains an important plank of government policy.
Estonia is due to celebrate the 90th anniversary of its first period of independence from Russia on February 24 next year.
The country was taken over again by the Soviet Union during World War II, and became independent once more as the Moscow-ruled bloc crumbled in 1991.
Estonian is now an official language of the 27-nation European Union, which the country joined in 2004.
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