TALLINN – The Estonian language must be more visible and more heard in public spaces, chairman of the Isamaa party Helir-Valdor Seeder and Tonis Lukas, minister of education and research, said at a presentation of the party's plan for the protection of the Estonian language on Monday.
"The state of the Estonian language is good, but in fact there are also many risks," Seeder said, adding that where during the Soviet era all Estonians stood together against Russification, in our current freedom we have lost our vigilance. "If we look more broadly at the organization of society, the onslaught of the English language is also a theme. Today we are fighting on two fronts."
Lukas meanwhile pointed out that the Language Board receives more and more complaints every year from people who discover that speaking the Estonian language alone is not enough to communicate in public spaces or get a necessary service in Estonia.
"Whether Estonia remains Estonia will be decided in the next four years. These may sound like big words, but that's how things are. In the last few years, the dimensions of the use of Estonian in the public sphere have decreased very rapidly. This has surprised representatives of the authorities as well as active citizens," the minister said.
Under the leadership of Isamaa, an action plan and legislative amendments have been prepared and adopted, which provide for the transition to Estonian language learning in all kindergartens and basic schools by the fall of 2029.
Driven by this need, Isamaa has devised a plan that is expected to be agreed upon by all parliamentary parties. Isamaa invites all political parties to join the agreement, which will ensure the necessary funding for the transition in the coming years.
1. The position of Estonian as the official language must be protected and expanded in society. Amendments to the Language Act must be adopted, which ensure that legal persons in public law, state and local government foundations and authorities maintain their conduct of business in Estonian.
2. Specific Estonian language proficiency requirements must be established for taxi drivers and all persons in service jobs and in platform-based service jobs interacting with customers.
3. The size of the fine for persons who do not comply with language proficiency requirements must be updated. The current maximum amount of the fine, 640 euros, has been in force since 2002. This is not enough and must be raised to 9,600 euros.
4. The use of a foreign language must not restrict the use of Estonian. The law must be updated so that signs, notices, outdoor advertising and other information in public spaces are in Estonian. If another language is used, information in Estonian must be placed first. Audio advertising in public places must be mostly in Estonian.
5. A requirement for proficiency in Estonian must be established for candidates in local elections in order to ensure that Estonian is the sole working language of local governments.
6. Higher education institutions must stand up for higher education and research in Estonian, by guaranteeing opportunities for all students to study in Estonian. Curricula in other languages should be an exception rather than the rule. In addition, foreign students must be offered Estonian language and culture classes. Doctoral theses must be defended in Estonian or come with proper abstracts in Estonian.
7. The training of interpreters at the master's level must continue in Estonia, so that we can also in actuality preserve the status of Estonian as an official language of the European Union.
The Estonian Language Institute continues to be responsible for the organization of the language, and the norms of the written language will continue to be laid down in the Dictionary of Standard Estonian.