Learning and popularising an indigenous dialect

MTÜ Juminda poolsaare selts (Juminda Peninsula Society NGO)

Monthly study group and first-ever dictionary keep the Kuusalu coastal language alive

Kuusalu coastal language (rannakiel) is an indigenous dialect of the North-Eastern Estonian language area traditionally spoken in Juminda and Pärispea peninsulas.

The workgroup Rannakiele üäks (‘For the good of the coastal language’) was set up by a group of local activists in 2013 in order to revive the indigenous dialect and to recognize its remaining speakers (fewer than 100 spoke it daily).

Monthly language meet-ups for speakers and learners.

Educational programmes for children in schools and at summer camps.

Creating visibility of coastal language in public spaces.

Dictionary of coastal language.

During the past 6 years, the workgroup has held monthly language meet-ups in order to enable communication in the coastal language and to improve language skills for learners.

In addition, several language initiatives have been implemented, including informal confidence-building gatherings pisukased pesakased for coastal language speakers and learners in home setting, educational programmes in Kuusalu municipality school and at childrens’ summer camps and placing posters with words in the coastal language in the local shop. The workgroup has even developed the first-ever Kuusalu coastal language dictionary in collaboration with the Estonian Language Institute.

There is a long list of upcoming language initiatives, such as developing an ABC and phrase-book in the coastal language.

Learning and popularising an indigenous dialect

The most important change has been in attitudes

The workgroup Rannakiele üäks (‘For the good of coastal language’) was set up in 2013. Six years later, the first dictionary of coastal language is published and presented in the community.

Combination of self-funding and external (project) funding, including from Kuusalu Rural Municipality.

According to Ene Velström, one of the initiators of the workgroup, speakers of the coastal language now feel pride in being carriers of this indigenous dialect. They are motivated to get together, start and participate in new language initiatives.

Activities of the workgroup have been covered by the Estonian national broadcaster ERR and in Estonian print media. All of this has contributed to the original objective to raise the awareness and status of the coastal language. The workgroup has also contributed to further documentation and systematization of the indigenous dialect, including thanks to the civic-academic collaboration with the prestigious Estonian Language Institute.

Learning and popularising an indigenous dialect

The number of speakers has increased; we have stopped the language from extinction and have extended its lifetime.

Ene Velström, project iniciator