The Volunteer Language Friends project that was initiated by the Integration Foundation and lasted from 20 March to 19 May united 885 people around the world for the purpose of learning and practising Estonian. As part of the project, 410 volunteer mentors helped 475 Estonian language learners to practise the spoken language, talking to them a few times a week via e-channels in Estonian on various vital topics.
“Due to the emergency situation, the events that had taken place regularly so far in our Estonian Language Houses for practising the language of communication were cancelled, so we decided to involve volunteer Estonian language mentors in order to offer language learners an opportunity to communicate with them in Estonian through e-channels. Many people responded to the call made through social media, helping during the last two months those who wanted to learn Estonian to practise the language of communication and overcome the language barrier," said Irene Käosaar, Director of the Integration Foundation.
The task of the mentors was to communicate with language learners in Estonian a few times a week on various vital topics through online channels. Some mentors helped several language learners to practise the language. The teachers of the Estonian Language Houses of the Integration Foundation and the Estonian language methodologists involved in the project instructed the mentors by offering them short trainings and recommending study materials. The mentors actively exchanged information and their 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 got to know each other better, found a common language, discovered much in common despite the differences, and together contributed to the spread and use of the Estonian language. Based on the feedback given by language learners, as a result of two months of lively communication, they have gained a lot of inspiration and courage to speak more in Estonian and learn it further. According to the mentors, participation in the project has broadened their horizons and helped them to 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," Irene Käosaar added.
Most of the mentors were from Estonia, but in addition to them, Estonians from 18 countries around the world joined the project: from Sweden, Belgium, the Netherlands, Romania, France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland,
Luxembourg, the Czech Republic, Russia, England, Ireland, Indonesia, the United States, Colombia, Uganda. The language learners were mostly Estonian residents, however, some people interested in the Estonian language were located in Finland and Russia.
All mentors contributed to the project voluntarily; language learners joined the initiative through public registration.
Volunteers who are ready to continue cooperating with the Integration Foundation will be involved in various projects related to language learning and integration in future.