Kaili Vesik is one of 2 Estonian-Canadian graduate students who received a 2020 EFC Scholarship with funding from the Vilma and Heinrich Blum Scholarship Fund. Kaili is a PhD student in Linguistics at UBC where her research focuses on the Estonian language. Currently, Kaili is investigating the ability and flexibility of Estonian native speakers to perceive vowel length differences (lühike või pikk täishäälik) in sung rather than spoken Estonian. In an upcoming project, she will focus on the process of an Estonian speaker learning a dialect other than the one they speak natively - e.g. how a speaker from Tallinn learns to communicate accurately and effectively living on Kihnu.
Kaili spent 11 years teaching high school math and computer science with a side of Estonian folk dancing in the Vancouver area, having completed a BSc/BEd in Mathematics and Computer Science from UBC and a Master of Mathematics for Teachers from Waterloo. She hopes to complete her PhD in 2025 and pursue work as a computational linguist or as a post-secondary educator and researcher.
After growing up in the Vancouver Estonian Community, including attending Estonian School, Kaili continues to sing in choirs and dance in Kilplased, attending the last two dance festivals.
On being Estonian
The treasures [our elders] painstakingly brought with them to Canada: material ones, certainly, but the language, songs, dances, and stories that were even more carefully kept are a valued part of my heritage and my identity as an Estonian…Preserving and revitalizing the cultural elements that Estonians have clung to in times of oppression and adversity, such as maintaining use of the language and singing songs … make me feel most strongly Estonian. These experiences…bind us together as a community and construct the social web in which we thrive.
The Estonian Foundation of Canada is important to the community in that it provides a strong foundation to foster Estonian culture in Canada. My identity as an Estonian-Canadian has been reinforced by the arts, language, and cultural activities that I have had the opportunity to participate in. It is hugely important to provide space for people of Estonian heritage – no matter their age, time of arrival to Canada, or language background... The EFC is a crucial element in this framework.