Minister of Culture Tõnis Lukas (Isamaa) proposed on social media that cultural events in Estonia, including theater and film festivals, could in the future be required to offer Estonian translations. He says in an interview to ERR that the aim is not to punish anyone but to deliver a reminder that the Estonian language environment needs to be protected.
"It is elementary for Estonian to be used in public places," he said, adding that just like TV networks are obligated to add Estonian subtitles, so should theater and film festivals. "In a situation where there was criticism in the media earlier this week that a documentary festival had next to no Estonian subtitles, I find it unfitting and believe it would be appropriate for the state to require events that it finances to adhere to the Language Act in the future."
Lukas emphasized that the goal is not to have fewer cultural events in Estonia. "The goal is for organizers to take seriously the idea that the Estonian language environment must be protected," he said, stressing that the Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) has been exemplary in ensuring Estonian subtitles for nearly 100 movies. "It is a strong achievement, while having subtitles in 100 percent of cases should be strived for. But if the Docpoint festival only has subtitles for two of its 30 films, their funding could be called into question next year."
"The goal here is not to punish anyone but to raise awareness, so we would not tire of calling for the Estonian language as many could forget to do so out of convenience. Once there is a reminder, people will return to compliance," the minister said, adding that language technology must also be promoted. "It provides quicker ways for creating subtitles and translations; to have the computer speak the language has been discussed at length, while all manner of technological solutions should be tailored to Estonian quickly. Research and development funding needs to be made available to Estonian language technology to make it easier for organizers to offer translations."
Tõnis Lukas said that events should highlight translation expenses in project applications. "If it is included in the application, it can be taken into account, but I would emphasize that theater festivals have done well in this regard, and I hope film festivals will follow suit." The minister added that maintaining Estonian language environment is no doubt straining. "The Estonian language must be present at public events. There are international workshops that have mostly foreign participants – I'm not saying everything should be done in Estonian. Estonian needs to be protected, while other languages can also be."
"It is economic strain for major festivals, and some can handle it, I can especially commend PÖFF here – they're really making an effort. But we can also see others who cannot be bothered to make the effort, and for them, state funding could be called into question," he said. Lukas emphasized that we need to take our language environment seriously and develop it. "Next to other languages, it must also be possible to use Estonian here."
"We will call to order people who have forgotten that use of Estonian is important and needs to be prioritized in Estonia," Lukas said, adding that no one is telling Estonians they can't read books in English. "Estonians have always spoken different languages; they are used in universities and research as some scholars, including myself for a time, did not have access to Estonian specialist literature because it didn't exist. Using other languages is a matter of honor and Estonians know how to, but we cannot forget our language."
Editor: Marcus Turovski