Learning Livonian via Skype

Kolkas radošā grupa NGO (Kolka’s Creative Group NGO)

Supposedly extinct Livonian language comes alive during online course

Livonian is a Baltic-Finnic language indigenous to Latvia. Nowadays, there are very few people who have inherited Livonian language from their family. Livonian language is very endangered. There are several initiatives for reviving the Livonian language and cultural heritage.

The project Rāndakēļ min jemākēļ (‘Livonian language — my mother tongue’) aimed to promote the use of Livonian language, to strengthen Livonian identity and to improve Livonian language skills for those with some prior knowledge.

9 weekly 90-minute Skype-based Livonian lessons conducted during 2 months.

11 learners completed the online Livonian language course.

Final event in Kolka where participants met in person and shared experiences of learning Livonian language.

Project coordinators reached out to learners via social media. Eventually, 11 active learners joined and completed the course led by Zoja Sīle, an experienced teacher of Livonian. 9 weekly Livonian lessons were conducted in the course of 2 months, covering a wide range of topics from alphabet to grammar and vocabulary, and even swearing!

Skype was a convenient platform since learners live in different cities and this allowed to save on transportation costs.

The final event in Kolka, held in the Livonian community house, brought together the teacher and learners, many of whom met in person for the first time. Students performed sketches in Livonian language. The exhibition What is my motivation? opened during the event displayed the different personal reasons for learning Livonian, thus encouraging a wider debate about why and how to learn a language that some consider extinct.

The Livonian community house

First Livonian language course in a decade reinvigorated interest in Livonian language and culture

Youngest participant 29, oldest participant 79.

Three participants have never studied Livonian before these courses.

The project definitely strengthened participants’ sense of belonging to the Livonian community. A clear majority of learners reported the course motivated them to study more Livonian in the future and all expressed interest in participating in a potential follow-up course. The project group will look for possibilities to fund such a course.

The Livonian community house

After weeks of listening and speaking, I understand that Livonian language is unique, difficult, melodic and it is also challenging to study. However, I am inspired and motivated to continue.

Madara, Livonian language learner