ESTONIA CLARIFIES LANGUAGE QUALIFICATIONS FOR JOBS THAT INVOLVE CONTACT WITH THE PUBLIC.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 218
The Estonian parliament yesterday adopted amendments to articles on the law on language that require parliamentary deputies, elective members of town and district councils, civil servants, and some personnel of commercial organizations to be able to use the state language — Estonian — at a level minimally necessary for discharging their job duties. The requirements are ethnically neutral and apply only to holders of offices and jobs that involve direct communication with the public. Commissions to be formed under the aegis of the Education Ministry will administer the language examinations. Individuals, irrespective of nationality, who received their education in Estonian-language schools are exempted from the examinations. (Russian agencies, November 19)
The law and these amendments aim to overcome the linguistic situation inherited from the Soviet era, when Russian was imposed as lingua franca in Estonia. With Estonians learning Russian, but not the other way around, Russian became the language of communication between native Estonians and the settler population of mostly Russian origin. This imbalance substantially reduced the functions of the native language in the public realm, with consequences still in evidence.
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