Learning the Estonian language abroad

Estonian language studies abroad can be divided into two categories – academic language and culture studies at foreign universities and Estonian language studies for children of Estonian origin. 

Academic language studies abroad

Academic Estonian language studies abroad are intended to promote Estonia and Estonian by bringing educated people from diverse fields of life to the Estonian language and culture.

Academic language studies abroad are planned and executed through the state sponsored Programme of Academic Studies of the Estonian language and Culture Abroad (2011-2017). The aim of this program is to offer university students a comprehensive overview of  the Estonian culture in addition to language studies. Such approach provides students with the opportunity to pursue their interest in Estonia both in the narrower professional and wider cultural context.

Estonian language and culture courses are taught in more than 30 higher educational institutions throughout Europe, America and Asia. Although the majority of Estonian language lecturers are either faculty members chosen by inter-university contracts, expatriates or estophiles; a number of posts are also filled by lecturers selected by the Ministry of Education and Research. In the academic year of 2017-2018, lecturers appointed by the ministry were working at nine universities (Vilnius, Gottingen, Paris, St. Petersburg, Warsaw, Lviv, Brno, Beijing and Riga).

Although Estonian cannot be compared to major languages in terms of the numbers of speakers, we should not underestimate the interest shown in the Estonian language and culture abroad. The data available to the Ministry suggest that there were more than 1000 students studying Estonian at universities of other countries in the academic year 2017-2018.

Estonian language studies for children

In addition to academic studies, the Estonian language and culture are also taught at foreign general education schools, Sunday schools and hobby schools, various societies, nurseries, toddler groups and language courses. The aim of teaching Estonian abroad is to provide children of Estonian origin with the opportunity to maintain and develop their native language. The Estonian language skill  is an important pre-requisite for returning to Estonia, continuing studies in the Estonian school system and functioning in Estonia. Teaching Estonian abroad is supported by the national Compatriot programme (2014-2020). Tutors appointed by the ministry  work at general education schools in Riga, Pechory, Upper-Suetuk as well as in the European Schools in Brussels and Luxembourg.

With the Estonian expatriate communities becoming younger, the number of Estonian children living abroad is increasing, which in turn has led to an increase in the number of Estonian schools established abroad. During the academic year 2017-2018 Estonian was taught at more than 80 different educational institutions throughout the world. In-service courses and seminars  for tutors teaching Estonian abroad are carried out annually; children are also invited to attend language camps in Estonia; scholarships are awarded for continuing education at Estonian higher and vocational educational institutions and educational institutions are provided with teaching materials in Estonian.



Last updated: 16 October 2017