New rector, new teachers – winds of change in the world of Estonian language learning

Tuesday 21 August marked the start of in-service training for the teachers and management of the Estonian Language Centres and existing teachers of Estonian in cooperation with the University of Tartu. Toomas Asser, the new rector of the university, hosted a reception for the trainees on the very first day of the course, which is taking place in Tartu.

The trainees will be taught language-teaching methods during the course, but a great deal of attention will also be turned to learner-centred approaches and playful methods in language-learning. The Integration Foundation has set itself the aim of ensuring that the Estonian Language Centres have a positive atmosphere and are places that people enjoy coming to. In addition to language-related advice, learning and practice, those who visit the centres will be counselled and supported in feeling more at home in Estonian society.

Irene Käosaar, the director of the Integration Foundation, says that language-learning is not memorising grammar by rote, but an opportunity to meet different people and have interesting conversations. “Interest and curiosity mean people learn a language more quickly,” she explained.

“Interest and curiosity mean people learn a language more quickly.”

Selected as the teachers and managers of the Estonian Language Centres were people whose characteristics recommended them for guiding learners and instigating and carrying out cooperation activities. Previous teaching experience was not set as a requirement, first and foremost because the Integration Foundation did not want to ‘steal’ Estonian language teachers away from schools, where they are still very much needed.

At the Estonian Language Centres, which are being established in Tallinn and Narva, the teachers will be leading courses at the A1 and A2 levels and carrying out a range of other activities to support people in using their Estonian. The task of those running the centres will be to organise joint activities that support integration while creating cooperation networks and running language cafés in companies and community centres where needed.

The Integration Foundation will also be continuing to offer Estonian courses at all levels via language-teaching companies, which is why it is important to the foundation that the courses offered by the various companies are up to date and learner-centred. Registration, which opened recently, has shown that interest in Estonian language studies remains high.

The in-service training at the University of Tartu is taking place from 21-25 August and will then continue at intervals from September to December.