Estonian ministry wants a stricter language law

The Estonian education ministry intends to strengthen the monitoring of compliance with the Estonian language proficiency requirements, ensure the Estonian language is used in public institutions, increase the amount of fines and introduce a fee for registering for the same proficiency test from the third time.

The education minister, Kristina Kallas, said it was important for the state to send “clearer messages” about the need to meet language requirements, as there are an estimated 80,000 workers on the Estonian labour market who can’t communicate in Estonian, about 20,000 of them in jobs that require language skills.

“Employers must be more demanding, motivate their employees to learn Estonian and launch their own language training programmes,” Kallas said in a press release. “The free Estonian language courses provided by the state must be more effective, and monitoring should focus on those who are not working effectively enough to meet the required language proficiency targets.”

Kristina Kallas. Photo by Estonia 200.
Kristina Kallas. Photo by Estonia 200.

To strengthen enforcement measures, the ministry proposes to increase penalties to a maximum of €9,600 for legal entities and €1,280 for individuals. In order to improve the efficiency of Estonian language exams, the ministry proposes to charge a state fee to individuals who take an exam for the same language level for the third or more times.

Estonia attracts more migrants

In recent years, Estonia has become a destination country for migration. According to Statistics Estonia, 123,613 people of foreign origin lived in Estonia in 2022 and 172,464 in 2023. In this context, the ministry considers it necessary to require that all institutions providing services in the public sector, including local government bodies and public law institutions, must conduct business in Estonian.

The definitions of foreign specialist and foreign expert also need to be clarified. The ministry proposes to amend the law so that, in addition to foreign university teachers and researchers, teachers who teach their subject in a foreign language and who have come to Estonia on a temporary basis may also benefit from an exemption from the language proficiency requirement.

Foreigners in Estonia. Illustration by Mette Mari Kaljas.
Foreigners in Estonia. Illustration by Mette Mari Kaljas.

There are plans to regulate the translation of films shown in cinemas, so that films dubbed into foreign languages cannot be shown in cinemas, with an exception for films aimed at children.

There are no plans to regulate the language of domain names, as few public domain names are in a foreign language and situations can be resolved through monitoring and advice.

There are also no plans to reintroduce the requirement for taxi drivers to prove their knowledge of Estonian when applying for a service provider’s card. The requirement of Estonian language proficiency at B1 level has always applied to taxi drivers, but since 2016 there has been no obligation to prove it when applying for a service provider’s card.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Estonian World is in a dire need of your support.
Read our appeal here and become a supporter on Patreon 
Scroll to Top