NPLD Youth Project was carried out in Estonia with the aim of gaining insight into the current situation of the young people in their language community, especially looking at the 12-19 year old age group. In general, the focus group discussions did not bring out very distinct differences across the age groups. Large differences existed between youth from various regions due to their diverging language backgrounds.
Students from Estonian backgrounds naturally communicate with their friends in Estonian, especially in regions, which are majority Estonian. In the North Eastern region where the majority speak Russian it is common that Estonian students also have Russian friends. Then, with Russian friends, mostly Russian has to be used: Russians students are not very eager to speak Estonian nor are their Estonian skills very good because of limited opportunities for practicing Estonian. Regardless of language background of friends, it is common to use slang with friends.
Again, for students from Estonian backgrounds it is natural to use Estonian among their family members. Estonian is not used when parents or one parent is of different backgrounds. Therefore, students from Russian backgrounds use Russian with their family members. Students having parents from different ethnic backgrounds use languages interchangeably.
When engaging in various sports activities, students in majority Estonian regions do use Estonian. The language of sports groups tends to be Estonian. The composition of sports groups influences the use of languages. When Russian background students dominate it is necessary for Estonian students to switch to Russian. English could also be sometimes used in majority Estonian regions when training partners include Russians. Foreign languages are also used in sports when watching TV programmes or using the Internet. Besides Estonian and Russian programmes, several English language programmes are followed.
Use of language of in work, by young people from Estonian background, mainly depends on the use of languages of their colleagues. If Estonians do not feel competent speaking Russian, they will use English instead. Young people place high value on English language education, which creates access to more opportunities.
“Students do not acknowledge that the issue of whether Estonian would be around in the future does depend on how they act today and in the future.” – Laura Kirss
It seems that on one hand students do not realise their key role in the survival of the language. On the other hand, the students seem not to be aware of the factors that might endanger the survival of the language. It is important to raise awareness of these aspects and to nurture discussion on language issues in the wider community.
As a result of the study an idea on creating campaigns on Estonian language use was put forward, which would help to popularise correct use of Estonian. Youth organisations brought out that there is room in every organisation to raise overall awareness about their correct Estonian use. In addition to that, workshop participants also thought that it would be a good idea to initiate projects centred on Estonian.