Estonia's experience - new languages to be learned in childhood


There are many opportunities for adult learning

To improve the situation, there are offered many Estonian language courses for Russian speaking people living in Estonia. Very positive is, that Estonia have got very often the financial and methodical support for Estonian language teaching from European Union, especially from Nordic countries, from Canada, USA etc. Thank to help from abroad many Russians have got their Estonian language courses completely free. Some of courses of Estonian language have been however payable, but people, passing the Estonian language exam positively, have received their money back for these courses. Implemented is also the mentor system – Russian employee works together with his Estonian colleague, who speaks to him only in Estonian, so he teaches to her practical Estonian language. Teachers from schools with Russian teaching language have taught in Estonian schools their subject in Estonian language and vice versa – the teachers from schools with Estonian teaching language have taught at the same time their subjects in the school with Russian teaching language, but in Estonian language. There have been many others learning projects in which Russian-speaking citizens of Estonia has actively participated. You could say that there has been no Russian person in Estonia who has not learned a little bit Estonian.
Unfortunately, the level of Estonian language among Russian speaking people in Estonia is however not sufficiently high. Even the teachers of high schools with Russian teaching language rarely can reach in Estonian language the level C1 – despite the fact that several of them have passed the Estonian language courses even several times. Why, then, is the Estonina language so difficult for them? The reason is very simple – it is very difficult for adult people to learn a new language, especially if this new language is the first foreign language at all, and for Russians in Estonia, this is usually the case.

Foreign language in primary school

6th of March were parliamentary elections in Estonia. In the debates before the elections were several times asked why have government so long time stressed the principle that first of all must adult Russian people learn to speak Estonian. Why government have not ensured that Russian children can master Estonian language already in kindergarten or in primary school. People asking so, are encouraged from the Canadian immersion method, which have had relatively high success in some schools with Russian teaching langue in Estonia, where Russian children has become clear in Estonian language already in the elementary grades. Previously is thought in Estonia, that in the first instance, a person must be able to clear their native spelling and grammar, and only then may learn the following languages. Now the success of Canadian immersion method in Estonian Russian schools has proved that Russian children are able to very quickly learn Estonian, even before they have learned to read and write in their mother tongue.

Changes are slow

Unfortunately big changes takes time. The moving of foreign languages teaching into primary schools and kindergartens takes a lot of time. So Estonian language courses on offer for adults will continue. Which is positive because of all ages should have the opportunity to learn Estonian. However, the Estonian language teaching has become to move to younger ages. So it is compulsory to teach from next fall beginning from 60% of all subjects in Estonian in the schools with Russian teaching language in Estonia. In so doing, should not be confined only to the teaching in physical education, art and music in Estonian language, but in a certain part of the so-called difficult to substances such as mathematics, physics, chemistry must be taught in Estonian language.
Some Russian schools in Estonia have already about taught 60% of the subjects in Estonian language. Teachers in these schools recognize that the Russian students studying in Estonian language are not good enough. Even in high school the serious study of the Estonian language is too late to start, these schools teachers considers.