For the fourth year in a row, the Integration Foundation has offered Estonian language learners the opportunity to practice communicating in Estonian for three months by conversing with volunteers who speak Estonian as their first language. This year, 1,216 language friends – 618 learners and 598 mentors – participated in the Language Friends Programme (Keelesõber).
‘These are tense times, so we are extremely grateful to anyone who volunteered to become an Estonian language mentor, to take the time to listen and sympathise, and if possible, to understand and support. It is also a big step to allow oneself to be guided by a mentor in practicing a language. To admit as an adult that I might not be good enough – even when it comes to language skills – requires courage and surpassing yourself,’ said Ave Landrat, the leader of the Language Friends Programme and the Head of Partnerships of the Integration Foundation.
‘I am not afraid to use big words – thanks to the participants of this program, the world will become a better and more comprehensible place! The better we understand one another, the easier it is to find solutions. Meetings are necessary for this. The advantage of the Language Friend Programme is that we are brought together by a common desire – to meet in Estonian and with the Estonian language,’ added Ave Landrat.
This year, 618 Estonian language learners participated in the Language Friends Programme, using public registration. In total, 598 mentors, who participated in the programme as volunteers, helped them practice the Estonian language. The mentors helped the language learners to practice communicating in Estonian by talking to them at least once a week by phone or online about various daily topics.
A team of six members coordinated the programme so that language friends could meet and communicate smoothly. They helped to find personal solutions on a daily basis, taking into account their own previous experiences as mentors and also continuing their main work.
‘We thank the mentors for their good will and commitment, we recognise the openness and confidence of the learners, and we highly appreciate the work of the team. Thanks to them, important progress in the field of integration has been made: more and more people find a common language and all of this thanks to voluntary work. We will do our best so that even more people can take advantage of this opportunity next season,’ said Dmitri Moskovtsev, the Director of the Integration Foundation.
The Integration Foundation started the Language Friends Programme in 2020 to offer language learners the opportunity to continue practicing Estonian online instead of participating in communicative language practice events cancelled due to the lockdown. During these four years, a total of 3,728 language friends have taken part in the programme.