April 17, 2011

Räägime Eesti Keelt – April 29th Adelaide

Kas Sa Räägid?

Too many years ago than I care to remember, we who were the Australian Estonian ‘youth’ of the time, would get together for little festivals called ‘Noorte Paevad’. On one such occasion in Melbourne the ‘catch phrase’ for the festival was ‘Kas sa nägid?’ (with emphasis on the ‘kas’). I remember how thrilling it was to be speaking Estonian in the same jovial style that our parents would use, but with our own cool slant on things.

As years passed, it seemed that ever so slowly, the sound of spoken Estonian was fading from Eesti Maja. Just a few years ago a friend of mine from another culture commented on this. She informed me that in their community they make their partners and children learn their language so that it is not lost. Well I am not sure that you can *make* the partners and children of Estonians do anything. Besides, I am sure that many who are in an Esto family would identify with the culture also. I think it is important to encourage this and not repel anyone through enforcing language.

In the past I have been a strong advocate for having cultural occasions, newsletters etc. in English as well as Estonian, so that those who enjoy the culture but can’t speak the language are not excluded. The radio program, ‘Estonian Too’ was a prime example of this. This is still something I very much believe in and it is great to see this bilingualism happening. From a community evolution perspective, it is inevitable.

However in recent times, it is wonderful to hear a new phenomenon emerging – the halls are alive with the sound of Estonian. Our language is bouncing off the walls of Eesti Maja once again. And this is coming from the generation of former youth that I mentioned earlier.

Not only are we speaking Estonian in choir breaks, we are staying on afterwards to gabble on more, we have organised ‘Räägime Eesti Keelt’ evenings at Eesti Maja and we are even taking it to Facebook.

‘Räägime Eesti Keelt’ evenings happen every few months or so. We make a rule that once you step inside the bar on Jeffcott on these occasions, the only language spoken is Estonian. (Self imposed rules are the best ones). These evenings have become a source of tremendous merriment and often raucous laughter. I think a key point is that we do not criticise anyone’s language skills, but help each other where we can. Of course a trusty English-Estonian dictionary doesn’t go astray either. On the last occasion we even had an Estonian correspondent standing by on mobile for texts back and forth across the equator.

A common desire by people who attend is to learn the newer Estonian that is spoken there now. For example, did you know that a ‘sõnum’ is a text message, that ‘lahe’ means cool, that a computer is an ‘arvuti’ and that a commonly used farewell in Estonian is ‘Tsau’?

One person that came along for the first time commented, ‘We certainly don’t have any problem filling in conversation with the mix of people coming. It was funny and fun.’

If you are in Adelaide, I invite you to attend one of these evenings, if you haven’t already done so. Just keep an eye out on Facebook or in the newsletters. If you are from interstate, I encourage you to organise one – you may be surprised at what a fun and rewarding time can be had by all.

Kas Sa Räägid?

The next ‘Räägime Eesti Keelt’ evening is 6-9pm Friday April the 29th at Eesti Maja Põhja Adelaide’is otherwise known as “Kalev on Jeffcott” at 200 Jeffcott St. North Adelaide!

Lea Rebane

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