Good news on the Estonian and Kalmyk front

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A few days ago I wrote about an excellent resource I found for a large number of rare languages, a site with dramatized audio versions of the New Testament. Dramatized means having more than one speaker plus music and some sound effects, as opposed to one person recording the whole thing all by him/herself. In that post I mentioned that Estonian and Mongolian have not yet been recorded.


Yesterday I found an Estonian version, and after all this searching through YouTube and Eesti Raadio and all the rest for audio content with text it was surprisingly easy. Going to the Estonian Wikipedia I went to the Uus Testament page, and lo and behold there was a link to audio files of the whole thing. Not a dramatic version, but since Estonian has been extremely difficult to find, this is now the best source of audio + matching text for Estonian I know of.

As for Mongolian: still haven't been able to find large amounts of Mongolian audio with text. I did notice however that the same site has the NT in Kalmyk, which I overlooked the first time as Kalmyk is simply a language you don't expect to see and it never occurred to look for that. This page has pdfs of all the books and letters that make up the NT. Since Mongolian is not yet my specialty I asked a friend of mine who has studied it and he said that Kalmyk sounds extremely different. On the other hand I have noticed comments on YouTube videos with Kalmyk speech from Mongolians that say it was very easy to understand. In any case, Kalmyk has always been appealing to me since it's a type of Mongolian that is spoken in a part of the world that doesn't completely freeze over during the winter (and is close to Armenia/Azerbaijan/Iran/Turkey). Mongolian even has a word (zud) for a particularly harsh winter, defined as:

A zud or dzud (Mongolian: зуд) is a Mongolian term for an extremely snowy winter in which livestock are unable to find fodder through the snow cover, and large numbers of animals die due to starvation and the cold.
Yeah, I don't think I'd like zud.

Let's compare the weather for Ulaanbaatar (the coldest capital in the world) and Elista, the capital of Kalmykia, for the next four days.


-21°C | -36°C
-19°C | -33°C
-18°C | -29°C
-18°C | -33°C


6°C | 5°C
5°C | -1°C
1°C | -5°C
4°C | -2°C

So it's just a tad more pleasant in Elista in the winter. Interestingly it's located directly west of Mongolia.

View Larger Map

Unfortunately Kalmyk is a minority language even in the places where it is spoken (last census gives 52% Kalmyk but it's doubtful that they are all fluent), and the region's president (correction: ex-president as of two months ago) is a bit nutty. Then again, Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev has just found a way to skip the next two presidential elections so being somewhat nutty and very power hungry is pretty much par for the course for the Caucasus to Central Asia.

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