The Estonian language is the native language of the Republic of Estonia, where it is spoken by about one million people, or two-thirds of the total population.
Estonian is one of the Finno-Ugric languages, which constitute a branch of the Uralic language family. Its closest relative is Finnish, spoken across the Gulf of Finland. In fact, Finnish and the northern dialects of Estonian are sufficiently similar to be mutually intelligible. Estonian is not, as is sometimes thought, in any way related to its nearest geographic neighbors, Latvian and Lithuanian, which are Baltic languages.
Like Latvian and Lithuanian, Estonian employs the Roman script. The alphabet lacks the letters c, q, w, x, y, z, but contains the letters ä, ö, ü, and õ, the last of which occurs in no other language of eastern Europe (however, the letter does occur in Portuguese).