Friday, 17 June 2022 19:00
Estonian Life No. 24 2022 - Vincent Teetsov
It's frequently said that immersion is the best way to learn a language. To be exposed to new words and phrases on all fronts in a stimulating setting without having to dedicate specific blocks of time to their acquisition is certainly the most natural way to learn. It's more enjoyable, too. This is how children absorb languages.
Not everyone has the opportunity to spend extended periods of time in Estonia or to speak the language at home. Fortunately, there is a program out there to give you the experience of authentic Estonian language immersion—Kotkajärve Metsaülikool (Kotkajärv Forest University).
If you can find a week of your summer to take time off, or even just a few days, head on up to Muskoka. After a two hour drive, you'll be in a woodland paradise, where you can pitch a tent and very deliberately disconnect from the pressures of city living and reconnect to your Estonian roots, or to those of your significant other or a friend. After all, Metsaülikool is open to people of all backgrounds!
Metsaülikool was founded in 1967 with the intent to fill a gap in Estonian-language education and intellectual stimulation at a post-secondary level during the time of the occupation of Estonia. 55 years since its first gathering, the program has vastly expanded its offerings, providing something for all interests. If you're enthusiastic about exercising in nature, you can go canoeing or hiking around the lake, Kotkajärv. If you want to party, you'll find that many new friends, proper eesti toit
(Estonian food), and a lakeside sauna are waiting for you.
Above all, though, Metsaülikool is “a place where you can exchange ideas, learn something new, [and] be open to new acquaintances and experiences.”
Throughout the week, there will be a combination of specialist lectures akin to TED Talks, Q+A sessions, and workshops in subject areas such as music, poetry, folk dance, volleyball, and outdoor skills. Attendees can truly choose how much they wish to expand their horizons and how far they stray from what's familiar to them.
Among the speakers delivering specialist lectures on campus is Kristiina Mark from the Estonian University of Life Sciences. Mark will explain how the lichen and moss that are extremely abundant at Kotkajärv indicate a healthy ecosystem.
Multi-instrumentalist Kristjan Kannukene will expound his radically experimental compositions that blend pounding traditional drums with angular electric guitar soundscapes.
Acclaimed historian, political scientist, and University of Toronto professor Dr. Andres Kasekamp will also be speaking there. Dr. Kasekamp is an expert and frequent commentator on foreign policy, including the war in Ukraine. When the talks are over, you can continue to converse with these speakers over a morning coffee or in the saun
The curriculum this summer runs the gamut. And it's all within your reach here in Canada. You won't find anything quite like it in North America.
Tying everything together in 2022 is the theme of “The forest in us all” (“Mets meis kõigis
”). As Maimu Mölder, the Coordinator of Metsaülikool explains, the term “is attributed to author and semiotician Valdur Mikita, who was a guest lecturer at MÜ in 2015.” Mölder adds “Considering we have all been cooped up for two years with the pandemic, our theme this year is the beneficial effects of being in the forest, how it 'recharges us'... Though we may not know how to explain why it soothes us, grounds us, most of us get immense benefit and pleasure from experiencing the forest.”
Don't let the fact that many of these activities will happen in Estonian discourage you if you aren't an experienced Estonian speaker. Everyone who attends is there to cheer you on, to create an encouraging environment where trying
to speak Estonian is the number one goal.
Things you say might not always come out in the way you wanted them to, but with kind linguistic helpers there, you may find yourself coming home finally conquering your long-term Estonian language goals.
and the team will be able to arrange this for you.
That being said, to get the most out of the program and its conversational practice, it is a good idea to learn some basic grammar and words beforehand. You'll feel much more fulfilled at the end of the week if you have a basic grasp of how to construct Estonian phrases.
The price of the program, which will go from Sunday August 21st until Saturday August 27th, is $360 (or $240 for students), for all costs, including food. It's also possible to register for individual days at a smaller cost. Proof of vaccination is required to attend.Visit eesti.ca/mu/registreerimine to register and for details such as what to bring along when you attend.
Written by Vincent Teetsov