A speech recognition application for smartphones was chosen as the best Estonian language initiative of 2011. The Ministry of Education and Research held an awards ceremony at a Haapsalu grade school on Wednesday, which was Mother Tongue Day. Eight other initiatives were also honoured.
Created by students from the Institute of Cybernetics at the Tallinn University of Technology, the Estonian speech recognition tool can be used to write messages, locate addresses, and solve math problems. The free software has been downloaded 10 000 times.
Other initiatives to win prizes or receive honourable mention included an Estonian translation from German of Ferdinand Johann Wiedemann's Estonian Grammar, which includes an important analysis of 19th century Estonian (translated by Heli Laanekask); an otherwise Russian-language choir from Narva that acquired an Estonian-language repertoire and participated in the Song Festival; a kindergarten where children are encouraged to speak the endangered Võro dialect; and the Estonian version of National Geographic magazine.
Another noteworthy contribution came from the Estonian expat community. Tiiu-Ann Salasoo, who lives in Australia, was concerned about the decline of the Estonian language in the Estonian community in Australia. In 2011, she hunted down Estonians who were willing to teach in seven cities across the country and started a Skype-based language course. She also started a toddlers club for Estonian mothers and their children.
Smartphone App Wins Language Initiative Award