Marianne Liibert

Estonian can be spoken after just six months of study

If there is a will, there is a way to speak Estonian after just six months of study. In addition to enthusiastic students themselves, it is essential to have supportive teachers and an encouraging learning environment.

In September 2022, ten Ukrainian medical students started the Estonian intensive course at the Institute of Foreign Languages and Cultures. By the end of the spring semester, their Estonian skills must be at level B2 to continue at the University of Tartu their studies that were interrupted by the war in Ukraine. Alim Ablialimov, Anastasiia Fizer and Yeva Veha proved that while it is challenging to acquire this language level in a year, it is not impossible. They talked about their Estonian language studies on the “Hommik Anuga” morning show.

Estonian language teachers Gerli Lokk and Katrin Jänese of the Institute of Foreign Languages and Cultures explained what made it possible to reach such a level so quickly.

The teachers said that the students have been very hard-working. “When we started with them in the autumn, we tried to use more and more Estonian in every lesson so that they could get used to being in an Estonian-speaking environment. Now we – both teachers and the students – speak only in Estonian; we even explain new words and expressions in Estonian,” said Lokk.

Despite this, it takes much work to get to the B2 level. “I have told the students that we are now halfway up the mountain, and there is still halfway to the top, so we need to push hard,” said Lokk.

It is important to move forward step by step and lay a strong foundation. “In the beginning, you need to constantly repeat and practise the basics so that later new knowledge and skills can be built on top of them. Correcting every mistake does not lead to progress; it is important that they dare to communicate and are not afraid to make mistakes,” explained Lokk.

“Even if they make mistakes, the ability, skill, and will to communicate and mutual understanding are the main goal,” agreed Jänese. “You get what you give. If there is motivation and will, there will be results.”

According to teachers, seeing the students’ progress and desire to improve is splendid. “They are very motivated, try hard, and want to learn the Estonian language. And we make every effort to support them,” said Lokk.

The Institute of Foreign Languages and Cultures offers courses in Estonian as a foreign language from the basic level up to level B2. Estonian language courses are free to students and all the international staff and doctoral students of the University of Tartu. People from outside the university are also welcome to attend the courses for a fee as continuing education learners.

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