Volunteer initiative unites nearly 900 Estonian language enthusiasts

The Integration Foundation runs Estonian Language Houses in Tallinn and Narva.
The Integration Foundation runs Estonian Language Houses in Tallinn and Narva. Source: Integration Foundation

The Volunteer Language Friends project, an initiative of Estonia's Integration Foundation that was launched on March 20 and concludes on Monday, has brought together 885 people worldwide, half of them volunteer mentors, for the purpose of learning and practicing the Estonian language.

A total of 410 volunteer mentors helped 475 Estonian language learners practice their spoken Estonian by talking to them via online channels a few times a week, the Integration Foundation said in a press release.

"Due to the emergency situation, events that had thus far taken place regularly at our Estonian Language Houses for practicing the language were canceled, so we decided to involve volunteer Estonian language mentors in order to offer language learners the opportunity to communicate with them in Estonian via e-channels," Integration Foundation Director Irene Käosaar said. "Many people responded to the call made via social media, helping those who wanted to learn Estonian to practice the language and overcome the language barrier during the past two months."

Mentors were tasked with communicating with language learners in Estonian a few times a week on various vital topics via online channels; some mentors helped several language learners practice the language. Estonian Language House teachers and Estonian language methodologists involved in the project provided instruction to the mentors as well by offering them brief training as well as recommending study materials. Mentors also actively exchanged information and experiences in assisting language learners.

"The most important result of the project for us is that various people in Estonia and elsewhere in the world have gotten to know one another better, found a common language, discovered much in common despite their differences, and together contributed to the spread and use of the Estonian language," Käosaar said. "Based on the feedback provided by language learners, as a result of two months of active communication, they have gained substantial inspiration and courage to speak more in Estonian as well as continue learning the language. According to the mentors, participation in the project has broadened their own horizons and helped them get acquainted with the different cultures of people living in Estonia. We are very grateful to all the volunteers, and we will definitely continue to cooperate in the future."

While most of the mentors were from Estonia, Estonians from another 18 countries worldwide joined the project as well, including from Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Russia, England, Ireland, Indonesia, the United States, Colombia and Uganda.

Language learners to participate in the project were mostly Estonian residents, however some were located in Finland and Russia as well.

All mentors contributed to the project voluntarily; language learners joined the initiative via public registration.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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