In Estonia, there are a number of people who do not know how to speak the official language well enough. This prevents people from finding a better job, participating in Estonian cultural life, communicating with Estonians, and finding personal fulfilment. The goal of the project was to understand the needs of an adult language learner to then know how to organize language education for them so that it helps them better acquire the Estonian language. As a result, a common agreement that improves cooperation was reached that unites ministries and different sub-institutions. A prototype of a solution combining various language learning opportunities and a new language learning format - Language Roulette - were developed.
Currently, there are a number of people who do not know how to speak Estonian well enough. This prevents people from finding a better job, participating in Estonian cultural life, communicating with Estonians, and finding personal fulfilment. However, people value the Estonian language and want to learn it. That is why the demand for free language learning is greater than the supply. In this context, it is important to focus on the quality of language learning. In cooperation with the organisers and providers of language learning, the aim of the project was to understand what the needs of adult language learners are on the learning journey and how to organise language learning in a way that would help them to better acquire Estonian.
During the project development, the most important insights were:
- There is a lack of awareness of language learning opportunities. State-funded language learning is provided by several institutions and as a result, the landscape of language learning is fragmented between different actors. It is difficult for a language learner to have orientation regarding the different courses and formats due to insufficient information. In addition, it is not possible to flexibly and quickly move between language courses offered by different organisations.
- The importance of the language environment – “We simply forget the language”. In addition to learning a language, it is important for there to be an environment in which to practice it, i.e. a language environment. Without active language use, it is difficult to maintain the language level acquired in the courses and to achieve the set goals.
- The barriers to language use are often high. On the one hand, these barriers concern language learners themselves, as they may feel embarrassed to use the language due to their insufficient language skills. On the other hand, Estonian speakers have a low skill to communicate with a person of another nationality in a way that supports their language practice, as they quickly switch to another language.
- Learners’ ownership and skills to support their language learning outside the language course are low. Modern teaching methods have made language learning much more versatile, supporting and empowering the learner to take ownership of their learning. In this context, what can a language program do so that the learner perceives their ownership in the learning process, knows how to take ownership, and is supported to take ownership of their language learning?
Based on the above, the following solutions were developed:
- A gateway to Estonian language learning. The Gateway to Estonian Language Learning is a place that centralises Estonian language learning opportunities offered by both the state and the private sector. The environment can be used independently by the learner or with the help of a counsellor. It is a tool for language learners, language learning providers, as well as employers and other parties. The learner can plan language learning and discover different possibilities for it. The gateway visualises the language learning journey and helps to set realistic goals and provide support in achieving them by displaying time and ownership criteria for the goals. In addition, the digital gateway helps the state better design language learning, taking into consideration the goals of the providers, and provides real-time information about what is happening. Today, a business analysis of the environment is carried out to decide on the creation of the best online environment supporting Estonian language learning for adults.
- Language Roulette (Keelerulett). In order to support Estonian language learning in the form of contact meetings, which were interrupted due to the pandemic in spring 2020, and to maintain language proficiency, a format for virtual short conversations was developed. Language Roulette, an hour-long chat room allows learners to have a discussion in a free and pleasant atmosphere under the guidance of a mentor. Participants include both native speakers and language learners and volunteer chat room mentors. Participants take part in the discussions of two groups during the hour, briefly sharing impressions before, between, and after the conversations and writing down keywords in the chat. Today, Keelerulett has become a year-round service of the Integration Foundation, with participants from every corner of Estonia and from all over the world. To date, the Keelerulett has been held 48 times, bringing together 1,628 friends of the Estonian language.
- Cross-sectoral cooperation to provide language learning based on the needs of the client. As a result of the co-creational design process a better overview of the client’s perspective was gained and a joint agreement was reached which brought together ministries and different agencies to support language learners in the best way possible. Most importantly, it brought the parties together as people and will make them act on the basis of common client-centred values in the future.
What Makes Your Project Innovative?
The project brought together all different national language learning providers and a close cooperation was initiated as a result. Also, a good understanding of users' (language learners) needs was reached.
What is the current status of your innovation?
The gateway to Estonian language learning is in the process of development. In cooperation with various ministries and their agencies, a business analysis of the environment is carried out to decide on the creation of the best online environment supporting Estonian language learning for adults. When creating the environment, solutions are sought keeping in mind the language learner and their needs.
Language Roulette has become a year-round service of the Integration Foundation, with participants from every corner of Estonia and from all over the world (France, Germany, Russia, USA, England, etc.). These Tuesday evenings bring together regular participants and always attract new ones. To date, the Keelerulett has been held 48 times, bringing together 1,628 friends of the Estonian language.
Collaborations & Partnerships
The whole project, and the service design process, was done with all the key stakeholders of Estonian language provision – the Ministry of Culture, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Education and Research, the Ministry of Social Affairs, the Integration Foundation, and the Unemployment Insurance Fund. The entire team engaged in the whole service design process, which involved conducting user research, analysing and synthesising insights, developing ideas, prototyping and executing solutions.
Users, Stakeholders & Beneficiaries
As a result of the co-creational design process, a better overview of the client’s perspective was gained and a joint agreement was reached that brought together ministries and different agencies. An agreement was made on how to improve people’s access to Estonian language learning. Discussions also related to creating better cooperation between institutions as well as an overview of the organisation of Estonian language learning for adults, which would support language learners in the best way possible.
Results, Outcomes & Impacts
A gateway to Estonian language learning that centralises Estonian language learning opportunities offered by both the state and the private sector was prioritised and is being developed. Also, a new language learning format was developed - Language Roulette - to support language learning outside of language courses.
Challenges and Failures
The biggest challenge has been to bring all parties together, and to meet every actor's technical and process-based requirements.
Conditions for Success
One of the most important conditions for success has been that the different parties have prioritised the topic and are willing to move forward with it.
The Language Roulette, as a format, has proved to be a good design method of bridging gaps between different parties and creating a positive space for learning. The format could be replicated to serve other countries in their language learning initiatives.
Taking the time to analyse the learners' needs and the context that surrounds them was a key element for the later development of solutions.
- Developing Proposals - turning ideas into business cases that can be assessed and acted on
- Implementation - making the innovation happen
22 November 2023