Global Estonian | Happy Mother Tongue Day to all corners of the world!
Kaire Cocker, Rahvuskaaslaste valdkonnajuht Integratsiooni Sihtasutusest
Kaire Cocker, Head of Compatriots Service at the Integration Foundation

Happy Mother Tongue Day to all corners of the world!

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Opinion

Happy Mother Tongue Day to all corners of the world!

Having worked in this position for nearly four years now, I have met people speaking different kinds of Estonian, both those who live outside Estonia and those who have returned. They all speak Estonian that is fascinating and special.

The language of young Estonians who have spent most of their lives in another country is particularly fascinating. They have kept the Estonian language and sensibility in their hearts, while speaking other languages and carrying other cultures.

They often come up with fun Estonian sentences that are direct translations from other languages but these are usually ironed out with practice. 

I have also lived abroad for about ten years and when I returned, my Estonian was not the same. I know that uncomfortable feeling when someone goes over your words mid-conversation – while they may have the best intentions, it nevertheless makes you more apprehensive about speaking. I call on people to support everyone attempting to speak Estonian by listening patiently and offering encouragement. The smaller nuances of language will become clear in due time.

The language of third-generation Estonians carries profound history because they have often learned it from their grandparents. Archaic words no longer used today can often pop up in conversations today – such as palitu, varn or autobuss – and they are heartwarming.

We are a rich nation because we have young Estonians across the world acquiring knowledge in their countries of residence but also actively communicating with each other and taking an interest in their heritage and ancestors. Many of them are taking small steps to familiarise themselves with the state and language of Estonia. Young people attend our language camps in the summers and the feedback has always been very positive: new vocabulary and a chance to speak Estonian has been particularly appreciated. This has reinforced the Estonian identity of many people and inspired them to learn Estonian independently. Our young people are also coming to Estonia through a traineeship programme to get an idea of our work life. Quite a few of them have decided to live in Estonia for a while or even start a family here.

We have seen beaming faces in online meetings and at briefings in our office, with returning expats is eagerly looking forward to the chance to start learning Estonian, enrolling their children in an Estonian school and visiting relatives they may be seeing for the first time.

In today’s open world, moving between different countries is a natural part of life. This is why I encourage young Estonians abroad to look into various opportunities offered by Estonia: from our beautiful nature, delicious food and excellent education system to a closely-knit community and high-quality living environment. Moreover, you can learn Estonian any time – by either improving your skills or starting from scratch.

I recommend the advice by Riina Kindlam, a language-aware Estonian born in Canada (link: https://globalestonian.com/et/riina-kindlam-keelenupu-ajastu), for keeping your Estonian alive, and wish you a beautiful Mother Tongue Day and year!

Kaire Cocker
Head of Compatriots Service at the Integration Foundation
 


  

Veebilehte haldab Integratsiooni Sihtasutus.
Sihtasutuse asutaja on Eesti Vabariik, kelle nimel teostab asutajaõigusi Kultuuriministeerium.