Foreigners learn Latvian at annual summer course

For the eighth year, the University of Latvia (LU) organized the "Summer School of Latvian Language and Culture" for everyone who is interested to improve their Latvian language skills and expand their knowledge of Latvian history, art, and folklore. Despite the pandemic, foreigners' interest in the course has not dwindled, Latvian Radio reported on August 14.

Every year, students from countries such as Brazil, Canada, Australia, the USA, Indonesia, Spain, and Poland participate in the Latvian language and culture school. Japanese students have been particularly interested in recent years, LU said. Summer school members are both students and teachers from different universities, enthusiasts and diaspora representatives.

Music professor Scott Brickman currently lives in his home country in the United States, but his grandfather was born in Latvia and lived in the municipality of Tērvete. He visited Latvia for the first time in 2015 and says he fell in love with both the country and the language and culture. For four years Scott has tried to learn language phrases and now, for the second time, he has also participated in the Latvian summer school.

Scott said that Latvian is very difficult but he specifically appreciates the possibility that this summer he has managed to apply his knowledge in practical conversations with people on the street, with vendors on the market, or on the bus.

"It's been a great immersive experience which I wanted to have here, too. Of course, we also had classes with the teacher on Zoom, but I liked going to the shop and seeing pensioners there who just came to talk about the high bread prices, and I had this opportunity to speak Latvian with the locals. I really like people here.

"And I realize that because of my accent, Latvian people will never think I'm Jānis from Valmiera, but the answer I get from people when I try to speak Latvian is wonderful, and I don't want to be seen as a tourist. It's my job to adapt to Latvia, not the other way around. So, anyone who lives here but doesn't speak Latvian, I would encourage you to learn the language, because if I can, you can," said Scott.

Momoko Kushida, on the other hand, is from Japan and has no relationship with Latvia, but she sings in Tokyo's Latvian choir “Gaisma.” She also participated in Song and Dance Celebrations four years ago and has been visiting Latvia several times since then. "I participated in the Latvian summer school for the first time this summer, but there is a Latvian language course in the Latvian embassy in Japan, where I learned this language for a year. In Japan generally, many people are interested in Latvian culture, such as your crafts, the tradition of singing and dancing, and architecture.

"Latvian, I think, sounds beautiful, like a song. I also don't think it's a very complicated language. Of course, I cannot speak freely in Latvian, but I think that if there is the experience in learning other European languages, it is easier to learn this language. "

At the University of Latvia, the Latvian language and culture summer school has been going on for eight years, and the interest in learning the language has also not abated during the pandemic. Although the learning is remote, the annual language and cultural courses are attended by around 60 students each year.

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