Estonian and foreign languages

Strategic planning for the development of the Estonian language started in 1998. The strategy covers four areas:

  • Estonian as the native language;
  • Estonian as the second language;
  • Estonian abroad;
  • multilingualism, including foreign languages.

The current Estonian language development plan is used as a basis for the sustainable development of the Estonian language during 2011-2017. The strategy is used as a blueprint for planning and financing all four areas covered with a special focus on Estonian as the native language.


Estonian as the second language gained relevance as an important part of the government’s policy after Estonia regained independence in 1991. Versatile activities financed by the state and the European Social Fund are aimed at integrating children, adolescents and adults whose mother tongue is other than Estonian into the Estonian society.

National Compatriots´ Programme supports the study and use of the Estonian language of the Estonian community that resides temporarily or permanently abroad. The programme supports the expatriates when they want to return to Estonia and offers information about Estonia and Estonian communities abroad.

The Programme of Academic Studies of the Estonian Language and Culture Abroad supports the teaching of Estonian in higher education institutions abroad.

Government’s language policies are developed and implemented in consultation with the Estonian Language Council – a substructure of the Estonian Ministry of Education and Research established in 2001.

Estonian foreign language strategy aims at:

  • stimulating interest among Estonians to study foreign languages;
  • expanding the range of options of studying foreign languages through learning techniques, venues and choice of languages taught;
  • improving the quality of language studies in formal and informal education;
  • ensuring the quality of foreign language teachers training;
  • improving the reputation of foreign language teachers in society;
  • diversifying opportunities for assessment of language skills.

The language policy department of the Ministry of Education and Research is responsible for the development of language related issues. The department coordinates the implementation and upgrading of language policy legislation and allocation of funding. Together with the Estonian Language Council, the department formulates language development plans including the development plan of the Estonian language and the Estonian foreign language strategy.


Last updated: 13 June 2014