Estonian Language Houses to become centres of activity aimed at people whose native language is other than Estonian to learn and practice Estonian and to participate in Estonian culture more broadly.
In the spring of 2016, the Government of the Republic assigned the Minister of Culture the task of drawing up a concept for an Estonian Language House in Narva, for discussion by the government. The house would become a centre of activity where people whose native language is not Estonian could learn and practice Estonian and participate in Estonian culture more broadly. The new government that took office on 23 November 2016 decided to continue the Estonian Language House project, and to expand it with a plan to establish another Estonian Language House in Tallinn. The coalition’s fundamental principles include the idea that the state must ensure the availability of necessary and high-quality Estonian language instruction to enable people to conform to the established language requirements. In order to achieve this, Estonian Language Houses will be established in Narva and Tallinn, which will organise free Estonian language courses, develop educational and methodological materials, etc. The target group for the language houses in Narva and Tallinn is the permanent adult residents of Estonia whose native language is not Estonian, and who require support for learning Estonian.
Why are the houses needed?
- A large number of residents whose native language is not Estonian have a passive command of the language
The Estonian Integration Monitoring 2015 shows that only 15% of the residents whose native language is not Estonian believe that they are fluent in Estonian. There are 48% who have a passive command of Estonian and 15% who do not speak Estonian at all.
- There is great interest in learning Estonian
The great interest in language studies was confirmed by the free language courses introduced by the Integration and Migration Foundation Our People (MISA) in the autumn of 2015. Instead of the anticipated 500 people, 6,000 registered for the courses.
- The decentralisation of the language studies does not provide the target group with a complete survey of the free Estonian language courses
According to the Linguistic Human Rights report compiled by Turu-uuringute AS and the Institute of Human Rights in 2015, 48% of the Russian-speaking residents of Tallinn have a positive assessment of state-organised activities related to language instruction, while this was true of only 20% of the respondents from Ida-Viru County. The reason being is that the state-organised Estonian language instruction offered to adults is fragmented. Language instruction for various adult target groups is organised by the Ministry of Education and Research, Ministry of Culture, Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Social Affairs, as well as the Ministry of Justice, and the organisations in their respective administrative areas.
What will the language houses offer?
The language houses will offer a comprehensive service for Estonian language studies and social integration: they will organise and coordinate the teaching of Estonian; support and develop practical opportunities for acquiring and practicing the Estonian language; provide diverse information related to integration; and collect and distribute methodological knowledge related to language instruction. In addition to providing opportunities for learning the Estonian language, these institutions will be responsible for promoting the creation of Estonian-language cultural and social networks that include both Estonians and other ethnic groups.
When will the houses be ready?
The 100-day plan of the Government of the Republic calls for the Ministry of Culture, along with the Ministry of Education and Research, to prepare an analysis of the language houses and a proposal for establishing these houses. The concept for the language houses that is under development will be presented to the government by 16 February at the latest. The language houses will be opened during 2018. A public procurement will be held to determine the exact locations of the language houses.
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