Language is not the only way to integrate says foundation (6)

People taking part in Opinion Cafe in Narva in May (Integration and Migration Foundation)
6/19/2015 3:55 PM
Category: Society

There are more ways to integrate than simply speaking the same language, Estonia's Integration and Migration Foundation has said.

Speaking to ERR, senior consultant at the foundation, Kätlin Kõverik, said that too often people just focus on a common language as a marker for proof that people have properly integrated with society, rather than looking at other ways immigrants connect with their new culture.

“The integration process is quite wide and as long as they can get an education and have a job on equal basis, and can also practice their culture and language, then they have opportunities to integrate into society. It is hard to define when the integration process ends, as it is a multi-stage process with more than one factors.”

But she added that leaning the language and practicing on a daily basis would help people get by in the long run.

Kõverik also spoke about the opinion cafes that were held in Narva during last month's Opinion Festival, calling them a “success”.

Questionnaires were handed out to Russian speakers to ask what they thought about the integration process and how it could relevant support services could improved to help them. The foundation recieved 200 replies in total, which showed that more could be done to help Russian speakers integrate with Estonian speakers.

"We asked about how they feel, about what activities they could use and what support they expected," said Kõverik, adding that the results showed how more needs to be in every area, including social, cultural and language activities. "It is clear there is still quite a lot to do."

Kõverik said that there is a lot of criticism about the issue of language. Although most people in Narva don't speak Estonian, they are still paying their taxes, have jobs and are feeling good. “It's about the attitude and we have to give people the best possible opportunities," she concluded. "We must share the information and culture in the form they understand and encourage them to learn Estonian. Instead of segregation, we should try to unite different social groups."

H. Wright

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