Our aim was to describe the barriers and facilitators to implementing plain Estonian as a communication strategy in the civil service. We considered wording as well as design to be a relevant part of exercising plain Estonian and focussed on the written correspondence between the public employees and the residents of Estonia.
First, we organised a workshop for civil servants from a variety of institutions. We wanted to have an overview of the main barriers and problems that impede the adaptation of plain Estonian. In addition, we also gathered ideas on possible solutions to improve the communication. Thereafter, we interviewed two representatives of the Emergency Response Service to understand their process of adapting plain Estonian as part of their communication strategy. Specifically, we wanted to know how they concluded that the language used in internal and external relations needs changing, what goals were set and what they have been doing to improve the situation.
Based on the conversations in the workshop and in the interviews, we can conclude that the leader of the organisation, their attitude and style of leadership are key to implementing a communication style that is clear and user-friendly. In other words, it is paramount that the leader gives impetus to plain Estonian and encourages action toward change. It is also important that these goals and attitudes would become embedded in the organisational culture. One way of achieving that is setting the organisational values collaboratively including all employees in the process. We also found that next to one-off training and events it is necessary to instil the culture of plain Estonian systematically and continuously.