Language institute worried about tasks being transferred to Language Board

Tõnu Tender.
Tõnu Tender. Source: Peeter Langovits/Institute of the Estonian Language

The government's plan to transfer nearly all tasks currently handled by the Institute of the Estonian Language (EKI) to the future Language Board is causing concerns among EKI employees.

"What we want at EKI is that things go well for the Estonian state and the Estonian language," EKI Director Tõnu Tender told ERR on Tuesday. "We support all steps that strengthen the Estonian language: its development, its implementation, language skills, supervision. We are by no means against the establishment of the Language Board, but according to Sunday's news, EKI would be eliminated, because the majority of our activities would be centralized under the new agency to be established."

The plan is not consistent with the results of previous studies or recommendations to keep language arrangements and language maintenance, i.e. the development of Estonian language bodies, separate from supervision, language policy and the implementation of language policy, Tender explained.

"This plan likewise wouldn't conform with other European countries' language arrangements and language policy practices," he continued. "EKI employees' concern is that [with this change] the development and arrangement of the Estonian language would suffer."

According to Tender, broadly speaking, EKI is involved in the maintaining, arranging and developing of the written Estonian language as well as the compilation and updating of dictionaries and databases that are of significant importance to both the state and Estonian culture.

This includes maintaining standards for the written language, the compilation of the Estonian language's normative dictionary as well as several other dictionaries, the offering of public and free linguistic advice, including for technical language and European languages, speech technology and the development of speech synthesis that allows for the dubbing of texts. The institute also offers assistance in the organization of Estonian language instruction, monitors and analyzes the body of the Estonian language, conducts fundamental research necessary for the shaping of language arrangements, and is involved in language theory, Estonian dialects as well as related Finno-Ugric languages.

"These are activities which EKI has handled very well, and this is not the arrangement of policy," Tender said. "There is just one activity included in EKI's current statutes that would suit the Language Board being established quite well — participation in the shaping of Estonian and EU language policy. This item is included in our statutes, but EKI hasn't had the resources to address it."

The Ministry of Education and Research, however, found that with the establishment of the Language Board will come the single responsibility of the implementation of language policy, and that the organization of the field of language policy will also become clearer with the clearer separation of the shaping and implementation of language policy and research and development activities.

According to the ministry's plan, the Language Board to be established on the basis of the Language Inspectorate would continue fulfilling all tasks previously assigned to the Inspectorate, as well as take up language policy implementation activities transferred to the board from the ministry, the Archimedes Foundation as well as EKI.

According to Tender, however, the organization and analysis of language policy could be responsibilities held by the Language Board, but language arrangement activities, which have thus far been reasonably arranged by EKI, should not be.

The Ministry of Education and Research's proposals are scheduled to reach the government this Thursday. Should the Riigikogu approve them in accordance with the ministry's wishes, the new Language Board would begin work on September 1.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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