Sunday, October 21, 2007

This place needs a chill pill.

The reason the blog has been silent recently was because I've been in a bad mood. I'm just too annoyed by human stupidity. I guess at least partially it's a result of autumn in Estonia - predictably drizzly and depressing. But beyond that, it's been a silly time.

The big story in Estonian ethnic relations is a 7th grade textbook, which references a collection of kids' folklore published back in 1992. It references three books in fact, one of which is listed as homework, and the other two are at the teacher's discretion. And one of those, the one that contains jokes that kids sent in some 15 years ago, includes a bunch of properly irreverent and politically incorrect ones. About a lot of population groups, not just ethnic. But of course, it's the Russians who had to make a grand fuss.

The newspapers are playing to their audience by coming out with headlines like "7th Grade Textbook Promotes Racism against Russians", which is factually untrue (there's nothing objectionable in the actual textbook). The LiveJournal bloggers have taken up the cause, naturally.

Now, yes, the jokes may very well be insulting, and it was a goof on the part of the textbook's author to not check her sources. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that before the April riots, this wouldn't have been nearly as big a deal, and the textbook isn't all that recent. And whether any of us want it or not, little kids will continue to make jokes like "What animals are most common in Estonia? - Russians". So yes, it was a bad move. But for the love of God, can these people please stop trying to start another round of pin-the-tail-on-the-Ansip every time they stumble upon a perceived insult? Please?

On the other side, the newspapers are still publishing editorials on integration, why (and whether) it failed, what should be done about it, etc. This is getting quite old now as well, mainly because nobody's making particularly interesting points. Much like my manifesto* was an attempt to publicly state the truth that nobody wants to admit, none of the current commentators dare say what they all know: integration is a pretty, but meaningless word. The program has always been a mix of assimilation for the willing, and giving the unwilling ID cards so they can move to Barking and become Gordon Brown's headache instead of hours. There will never be a Russian cultural autonomy in Estonia, and there will never be a Russian PM. But this is far too drastic for most commentators - I've seen a few approach the point, though. Still, the riots and Russia's continuous assholeyness is a good topic to talk about.

To paraphrase Holden McNeil: Delfi has given everyone in Estonia a voice, and everyone in Estonia has chosen to use that voice to bitch about integration.

And it's getting really annoying. In the immortal words of Will Smith: Why don't you exercise your right to shut the fuck up?

-----
* What? I couldn't let Giustino get away with stealing my Estlander schtick. ;)

41 comments:

Jens-Olaf said...

This reminds me of the years of long discussions about intergration and assimilation in Germany. One side said Germany is not a immigration country one side said it is. But they forget that the Turkish and other beginners at school were bad in German (had not kindergarten time etc..). So practical additional courses to teach them to catch up with the class were done only recently, after 20 years of a useless debate.

Thanks for pointing at the textbooks!

karLos said...

coming from a completely different angle, i live in australia (which is, for lack of a better term, an "immigration" country -- i should know, being the son of a finnish immigrant).

amusingly enough, we have exactly the same socio-political discussions-come-issues. should immigrants "integrate" with the community, or live in gleeful linguistic and cultural ignorance of the majority? the choice is obvious, perhaps even less complicated there than it is here. even if 25% of this country were chinese, or lebanese (and neither is) -- that still leaves 75% outside those communities. yay for arithmetic.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant blog, Flasher, and a worthy sequel to your 'Manifesto I'. Ultimately so-called 'integration' issues are resolved on a one-on-one basis by the 'willing' in any society through day-by-day association and mutual understanding. Bureaucratic manoeuvres and editorial bleating are pretty much irrelevant. To echo Karlos' comment, much the same sort of circle-jerk goes on in North America, both in the US (buzzword: 'immigration debate') and Canada buzzwords: 'multiculturalism,'ethnic groups').

As American journalist/satirist PJ O'Rourke aptly said (in the spirit of Flasher), "No drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society. If we're looking for the sources of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power." (PJ O'Rourke, Give War A Chance, "Studying For Our Drug Test",1992)

space_maze said...

and there will never be a Russian PM

I guess it depends on what one understands as "Russian". There was Konstantin Päts, after all.

If you mean to say that there'll never be a PM in Estonia who does not speak Estonian fluently, and who considers himself more Estonian than anything else, I agree. Just like Austria will never have a non-"Austrian" chancellor, in spite of having had plenty of Sinowatzes, Kreiskys and Vranizkys.

As for the book: it's funny how easily minor things like this get blown out of proportion. A few years ago, I saw some massive rants from Russian nationalists on how Latvian schoolbooks deny the holocaust, and call concentration camps "resettlement camps".

After some research, I finally found out what the book really says: It talks about concentration camps, and in a footnote mentions the name the Nazis used for the camp - in German.

It's .. educating and headache-inducing at the same time.

Flasher T said...

I guess it depends on what one understands as "Russian". There was Konstantin Päts, after all.

Yup, and THI is a quarter Russian, and Rüütel is a Russian Orthodox by religion. You can't really find an Estonian with no foreign blood in their line. It's about self-identification.

Giustino said...

On the other side, the newspapers are still publishing editorials on integration, why (and whether) it failed, what should be done about it, etc.

You know I also read those articles, Flasher, and I also don't know what to think.

I guess the only good that comes out of it is that Estonian newspapers are desperately allowing anybody with an opinion to publish on this topic. They even let me publish an article on the BS!

But Estlanders were also publishing their opinion, and Estonians were venting theirs. I feel that no matter how many reports Marju Lauristin quotes from, it doesn't matter, and no matter how much Indrek Schwede complains, people in Narva-Jõesuu probably aren't going to start learning Estonian. So, like you said, what difference does it make?

For Estlanders of Russian origin, though, this may be one of the first times that they actually feel politically relevant or connected to what is going on in Estonia. They might participate more in the national debate, rather than in their own internal Russian language debates, about what goes on by appearing in Ekpress and Postimees and Päevaleht.

As for Delfi, that places is thronged with morons. Why even visit it in the first place?

From my American experience, integration is a mirage. Integration is, as you said, everyone agreeing to shut the fuck up about some things. I don't make jokes about you, you don't make jokes about me. I don't say the 'n word', you don't infer that I am connected with the Mafia.

Estonians will need to shut up about the tiblad occupants and the colonization of their territory. They will have to deal that the people in Narva speak Russian and will, quite feasibly, forever.

Estonia is a secure country where, in my opinion, the language issue is quite stale. When I go to Tallinn I essentially have no language problems using Estonian.

I don't go to Lasnamäe, but why would I? It's a residential area. When people speak to me in Russian and I don't understand, that's their loss, not mine.

Estlanders of Russian origin are going to have to shut up about the Bronze Soldier. They moved it. It's over. Sometimes governments do things we don't agree with. That's life.

Also it's time to come to grips with the fact that they live in a country where 70 percent of the population is Estonian and if they want to do well they will assimilate publicly, though they can speak whatever language they want at home -- as you said.

In their mind, Viljandimaa is some faraway little Estonian county. But in most of Estonia's minds the Russian sections of Tallinn are surrounded by vast seas of Estonian countryside.

So in the end, maybe talk isn't bad if it leads to people being so exhausted and bored they agree to just shut up altogether.

Flasher T said...

For Estlanders of Russian origin, though, this may be one of the first times that they actually feel politically relevant or connected to what is going on in Estonia.

It's tragic that this comes about at the point when they have become effectively irrelevant. The riots have ensured that the minority interest will not be represented in serious politics for a very long time.

Apparently, Estonia is the world's 3rd best country for freedom of press. For a decade and a half, we've not had any problems with expressing our opinions. So we do take it for granted; and excessive opinions can very well irritate.

Giustino said...

It's tragic that this comes about at the point when they have become effectively irrelevant. The riots have ensured that the minority interest will not be represented in serious politics for a very long time.

Oh you mean the photos of youth burning the Estonian flag didn't win over the majority to their plight? ;)

Here's the issue. Who speaks on the behalf of that minority? Who is their leader? It's not Andrei Zarenkov. His party got 5,600 votes in March. It's not Dmitri Klenski.

Is it Savisaar? well, he is not advancing any policies that are that different from Reform Party with regards to minority issues.

So who is it? In 1989 you could point to Savisaar and Laar and Kallas and Lauristin and say 'these people are representing Estonians'.

Who is representing them today? As long as there is no read, logical, achievable agenda with genuinely popular spokespeople then all this talk is just BS.

Giustino said...

Also, I would add that integration/assimilation takes time.

Italians first started arriving in New York in the 1880s. It wasn't until the 1940s/50s that they became 'regular' Americans.

karLos said...

Who speaks on the behalf of that minority?

how about the riot kid with the tampons?

Giustino said...

Karlos,

The opinions I have read are across the spectrum. In some ways, the attitudes I come across are reactive and passive. There is a lot of criticism, but even far-fetched ideas like making Estonia a multinational state (ie. making all the street signs in Russian again), seem useless.

If Estonia were to follow the Finnish path and pamper its minority with legislation to keep them nice and happy with certain ministries under their control, like "the ministry of culture and sport" and "the ministry of immigration and European affairs", I have a feeling that the general feelings of reactive criticism would pervade.

Russian Estonians that cooperated with the government would be criticized by others as 'sell outs', meanwhile other less government supporting factions would become even more marginalized and splintered.

We have seen this with the African American community in the United States. For a long time, their 'home' was in the Democratic Party. But the first two secretaries of state of African origin were in a Republican cabinet. And they were criticized as 'sell outs' or even 'Uncle Toms' (seriously, that's what Harry Belafonte called Colin Powell) by those in opposition to the government.

The same thing would probably replay in Estonia. I have even seen it already. I sent a Russian commenter at Lucas' blog to Krishtofovitsh' webpage, and he roundly denounced him as a lout that doesn't represent Russian speakers in Estonia. See, even if you are a Russian-speaker, you can be put in the 'fascist box' with regular Estonians like Rein Lang and Andrus Ansip.

So what really is the point in this debate? Would any ceremonial action change anything? If the sign on my street corner went up in Russian, would that make people get along better? I don't think so.

Quite frankly, I think most people get a long fine, at least here in Tartu. If people feel detached from one another it's because you are in Estonia, where detachment from other people is a way of life. It doesn't have anything to do with ethnicity. It's the national temperament.

Jens-Olaf said...

When they had to held the referendum about regaining indepence we were waiting for the 2/3 majority, pro independence. All could cast their votes but there was a big number who voted against it. This is one of the difficult points from where the discussion about intergration has started. Remember the first Turkish workers in Germany where hired by German agencies in the Turkey.

Anonymous said...

There are no integration issues in Australia. At least, nothing on the scale of Estonia. The reason is simple. To be fluent in English is to partake in the mighty cultural empire of the Anglo-sphere. To be fluent in Estonian gives you what exactly? Economic growth in Russia will eventually rid you of the last remnants of those pesky russkies. Alternatively, give them all EU passports and they will be gone overnight.

Giustino said...

To be fluent in English is to partake in the mighty cultural empire of the Anglo-sphere. To be fluent in Estonian gives you what exactly?

The same thing that being fluent in Russian would give me: the ability to understand the Russian president/PM in waiting, the ability to read long and boring novels from the 19th century, the ability to make myself understood in hardware stores in Pskov.

I mean 147 million people in the world speak Russian, and yet I have absolutely no use for learning Russian. I have lived 28 years and learned the Russian words for yes and no as well as the sentences for 'excuse me' and 'i don't understand'.

Sure, people speak it in Smolensk, but under what conditions would I find myself in Smolensk?

The same goes for Portuguese, a lovely language. If I learned Portuguese, as I have attempted, I could understand Joao Gilberto's majestic song lyrics and make myself understood in Sao Paulo, the largest city of South America.

Except I have no plane tickets for Sao Paulo. Nor Lisboa. Those are the breaks.

If I learned Icelandic, I could enjoy the early output of the Sykurmolarnir, also known as the Sugarcubes. Wouldn't that be a treat? I could also ask for directions from old ladies in Rekjavik and be understood. Since I have actually been there, and the likelihood of going there is larger than going to Sao Paulo or Smolensk, perhaps this is the language I should learn after Estonian?

So what difference does it really make what language you learn? And once you learn a second one, should you stop there? Why should I even bother learning Italian? Fellini's movies all come with subtitles.

And yet ...

My cousin is in Buenos Aires right now. She has to speak Spanish because nobody knows English. It's quite a challenge for her.

Allegedly, that's what Estonia will be like in 20 years, barring another invasion (knock on wood). Because the school system will not perpetuate the knowledge of Russian in schools by ethnic Estonians.

Which means in most cities in Estonia you'll need to know that language to ask the person for directions on the street.

Or you could just wait it out in front of your computer. I mean, when the whole world is at your fingertips on a computer, why even bother going anywhere? And who needs to learn another language, even English, when you've got BabelFish.

Anonymous said...

Small languages will die. Get over it. My point was that it's damn hard to avoid integration by Estonian standards of the word (language skills), when the horrible opressive natives speak the world language, rather than some obscure something-or-other. The parents may never learn it, but the children sure will.

Flasher T said...

*sigh*

Get off your high horse, Gareth. Icelandic is alive, well, and contributing to world culture with less speakers than the population of Tallinn. As long as there's an Estonian nation, there'll be an Estonian language. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

I do agree with Anonymous's (Gareth?) point above that it's a lot easier to "submit" to a second language if it's seen as a major world language . The point about the children of immigrants learning the language is particularly true - look at France, when the kids of immigrants rioted. When they shouted, "F*ck the police" they weren't yelling it in Arabic but in French!

"Which means in most cities in Estonia you'll need to know that language to ask the person for directions on the street."

No, I think you'll have a situation where instead of an alien language imposing itself by force (Russian) you'll have it imposing itself by stealth (English). In 20 years, I probably won't have to speak a word of Estonian to get around, even in small towns, unlike the situation now. All I'll have to do is sidle up to someone and say, "Hey buddy, do you know where the bar/hotel/restaurant is?" and will probably get an answer in English.

Anonymous said...

"As long as there's an Estonian nation, there'll be an Estonian language."

Hi, not trying to start a war here, but the usual justification for the language laws is that with only about a million speakers, tough language laws are necessary to protect Estonian. What you are saying contradicts this, doesn't it?

Jens-Olaf said...

"Small languages will die".
Ahem, it is not about small or big or widespread, it is about daily use where you live. And quoting president Lennart Meri he was more concerned about the state of English, falling into different variants which will lead to new languages in the future.

Flasher T said...

What you are saying contradicts this, doesn't it?

Not at all. Estonian survived half a millenium of occupation by various forces, so it's naturally robust, but it doesn't mean we shouldn't protect it. I said the Estonian nation will keep the language alive, and the laws are part of it.

Don't like the Icelandic example? Look at Frisian. A very minor Germanic language, but due to fierce dedication by the Frisian people, it's still alive. If the islands were to gain independence from Holland (in a freak accident), Frisian could very easily become a national language.

Flasher T said...

In 20 years, I probably won't have to speak a word of Estonian to get around, even in small towns, unlike the situation now.

I've found people in Stockholm who didn't speak English. Stockholm! The capital of the country where people say things like "I apologize for my inferior proficiency in the tongue of Albion"! Went to Bollnäs - could get around for two days as a tourist, but would find it very uncomfortable to live there without Swedish.

Don't overestimate the power of world languages. Don't extrapolate your immediate surroundings to the entire world.

Anonymous said...

Who's Gareth? Icelanders sure do contribute, in English (and even that is disputable). I thought Estonia nation defined itself by its language. Kinda circular... Anyway, whether Estonian survives or not is irrelevant. It does not have as much to offer to outsiders as the big languages, especially English (which sooner or later will be the only language). If Russia were on the other side of the world, integration and the incentive to learn Estonian would be greater.

Jens-Olaf said...

English "which sooner or later will be the only language". Again, English is not a solid block. It is falling into different new languages. That is the future. Still they call it English in India and elswhere but they cannot communicate with each other already.

Jens-Olaf said...

The Germans say handy for mobile phone. So go ahead and tell an American that you are using a handy.

Anonymous said...

English may become corrupted, or worse, become watered down due to the demands of "business communications", but it will still be a single common language, ebonics non-withstanding. Change takes time. I bet a lot more people in Sweden speak English compared with 20 years ago compared with 40 years ago. I wouldn't mind knowing Estonian, because a) it sounds completely different from Indo-european languages, and b) the sing-song sound is... pleasant. But I wouldn't want to put any effort into it, especially if it were at the expense of learning something useful.

"gareth"

Jens-Olaf said...

gareth, sorry, did you realize that in the bologsphere the people are sticking to their native languages? I thought we (our blog) could connect the English, with the Scandinavian and German blogosphere. And that is in the meantime for young guys sitting infront of a pc or alike. After more than 2 years and I can tell you that beside rare outsiders all are doing their blogging business in their own language environment.

Anonymous said...

jens-olaf:

Languages used to be more fragmented than now. Mandatory school education and mass media have changed that. There will be drift, of course. But the examples you are referring to are minor. In Australia, pickup trucks are called utes (short for utility), cell phones are called mobiles. So what? It's still the same language by and large. The higher the speed of communications, the more homogenous the language becomes.

"gareth"

Anonymous said...

jens-olaf:

That's is actually good to hear, but I am not convinced. BTW, having a common language is not such a bad thing. All languages are equally expressive (Chomsky linguistics, universal grammar, and all that gas). So why not have just one? Just like a single currency and a single big market improve efficiency, perhaps a single language will lead to greater creative output?

"gareth"

Anonymous said...

"It is falling into different new languages. That is the future. Still they call it English in India and elswhere but they cannot communicate with each other already."

Where are you getting this stuff? I've known people who grew up in India, then got contracts to work as expats in African countries (all ex-British colonies) and there was no problem communicating in the mutual language! There are a lot of negative things to say about the British Empire but one of the positives is that it enabled a businessman now in say Nairobi to call up a businessman in Delhi and strike up a deal.

There may be some local vernacular you have to get used to but that could be true for someone from south London going to Liverpool as well. OR are you going to say a different language is spoken between different part of England? English does not vary to the same extent that say German and Swiss-German does - although there may be some (rare) difficult dialects to get used to (for example, Jamaican patois). But a native speaker of English can usually understand most variants of the language given enough time to get used to the accent/slang.

"The Germans say handy for mobile phone. So go ahead and tell an American that you are using a handy."

This misunderstanding would take all of 10 seconds to clear up. Hardly a breakdown in communication.

Giustino said...

I've found people in Stockholm who didn't speak English. Stockholm!

As did I in Denmark. I had whole conversations on the trains with Danish people by just muttering "ja" all the time :)

In 20 years, I probably won't have to speak a word of Estonian to get around, even in small towns, unlike the situation now.

As a native speaker I would urge you to use your own language because, quite honestly, most people's English in Europe sucks.

First of all large swaths of Europeans only speak their national languages -- Spain, Portugal, France, Greece, Italy. especially in Germany I needed an interpreter to even buy train tickets.

Second of all, of those who do attempt to speak English many shouldn't. Why I was laughing at the Russian-posted YouTube videos? Because the English was so horrendously bad as to negate any meaning. One was entitled "Good Bay, Estonia". To which I thought, "which bay is he referring to."

Thirdly, I like learning your languages so you can't talk behind my back. Knowledge is power. If I can speak Danish, then you can't talk shit about me right in front of my face.

Fourth (and final) I might be better at speaking your language than you are at mine. My doctor tries to speak English, but my Estonian is actually better. So why not use Estonian instead.

üks kõik!

Anonymous said...

"Just like a single currency and a single big market improve efficiency, perhaps a single language will lead to greater creative output?"

For business purposes English has already by and large taken this role.

For asking directions from the old couple sitting by the bench in the little village square, it is still advisable to know a bit of the local lingo.

Anonymous said...

"As a native speaker I would urge you to use your own language because, quite honestly, most people's English in Europe sucks."

I'm not sure if you got the wrong end of the stick, I'm not Estonian and was making the point that it would probably be easier for me to get around Estonia in 20 years without knowing a bit of the language, than it is now. And my own language IS English. Hope the confusion is cleared up.

Anonymous said...

"Thirdly, I like learning your languages so you can't talk behind my back. Knowledge is power."

Funnily enough an Estonian girl made this very point to me, to justify why more Estonians SHOULD learn Russian. Or as she put it, "We need to know the enemy".

Jens-Olaf said...

"Still they call it English in India and elswhere but they cannot communicate with each other already."

'Where are you getting this stuff?'

Asia, especially Korea where you have to know the local language to understand the English that is spoken here. And I meant India because you can understand them as a native English speaker, and while you are promising a bright future for this language I can tell you others can not follow. The gap is too big.

English as business language. Yes, they do. And there is more than one business living from the misunderstandings.

Giustino said...

Just like a single currency and a single big market improve efficiency, perhaps a single language will lead to greater creative output?

And maybe we can end world hunger too? Make cars that run on prune juice? Download files from my brain into the computer?

Don't get too high on the idea of globalization. The globe has always been globalized. In the 17th century, businessmen in South America could do business with their counterparts in Taiwan in Dutch.

~shrug~

I'm not sure if you got the wrong end of the stick, I'm not Estonian

Ha. See, in Estonian they have 'sina' and 'teie'. In English I cannot distinguish between you (personal) and you (plural).

I'm not Estonian and was making the point that it would probably be easier for me to get around Estonia in 20 years without knowing a bit of the language, than it is now.

I guess 20 years ago that language would have been Russian. And in the 1930s it would have been German. In fact, most older Estonians know German as a second language. They think I know it too, because German and English are related ;)

So I can't predict what the language will be in 20 years. But most people will still speak Estonian.

I took three years of Spanish in high school. I was often dealing with Spanish-speaking people at work and in my daily life. And yet ... I can't speak any Spanish.

The guys I used to work with back in the US also took Spanish in school too. But when we had to communicate in Spanish ... we failed miserably.

If you don't use it, you'll forget it. Believe it or not, most people don't grow up to be bloggers and international businessmen doing deals with people in Nairobi and Kenya. They get jobs working at the supermarket or doing electrical work or building houses or local services. They become nurses in the local hospital or work for the city sanitation department.

And they'll forget what they learned in high school, because they don't use it that much in their daily lives.

Anonymous said...

"Ha. See, in Estonian they have 'sina' and 'teie'. In English I cannot distinguish between you (personal) and you (plural)."

Aitäh, aga ma juba tean et eesti keeles on "sina" ja "teie". Vene keeles ka, ja prantsuz (sp) keeles. What's your point? Were you talking to plural Estlased or plural others? If it was plural Estlased of course it's silly for them to speak English to get around Estonia and I hope you didn't infer
that I was suggesting this. If it was plural foreigners, well, it'll be a hell of a lot easier than now for them to get around the country in 20 years speaking English. At no time was I advocating that it would ever replace Estonian. Saad aru?

By the way don't mix me up with "Gareth", he's also posting under "Anonymous".

"In fact, most older Estonians know German as a second language."

I have yet to meet one single Estonian who speaks German, besides language students. If I met some old vanaema and my Estonian was too basic and they spoke no English, invariably we communicated in Russian (with no negative consequences whatsoever).

"They get jobs working at the supermarket or doing electrical work or building houses or local services. They become nurses in the local hospital or work for the city sanitation department."

I would argue that it is precisely in this type of job that they are most likely to come into contact with the largest minority in Estonia and therefore would be more likely to pick up Russian rather than English as a second language.

Giustino said...

I would argue that it is precisely in this type of job that they are most likely to come into contact with the largest minority in Estonia and therefore would be more likely to pick up Russian rather than English as a second language.

You are thinking in the realm on Tallinn. You forget that in 13 out of Estonia's 15 counties, Estonians make up more than 80 percent of the population.

I am thinking of my in-laws. My father-in-law is a builder in Viljandimaa. My sister-in-law works in a bakery in Tartu. Their need for any second language is minimal.

I have yet to meet one single Estonian who speaks German, besides language students.

I have interviewed three older women, all in their 70s, who spoke German. I would venture that my wife's older relatives would know some as well. It was the foreign language in the 30s. It used to be the same in Sweden too. Swedes would learn German in school, not English.

What's your point? Were you talking to plural Estlased or plural others?

Ma rääkisin kõige eurooplastele kes arvab, et tulevikus ei ole vaja oskada nende rahva keel.

Miks? Sellepärast, et palju eurooplastel on praegu jama inglise keel. On parem mõnekord rääkida teise keeles kui inglise keeles.

Anonymous said...

"Ma rääkisin kõige eurooplastele kes arvab, et tulevikus ei ole vaja oskada nende rahva keel."

To know THEIR national language? Or the language of the country they're visiting? Of course Europeans in future will still know their national language. (BTW should it be "oskada nende rahva keel" or keelt? My Estonian's a bit rusty).


"Miks? Sellepärast, et palju eurooplastel on praegu jama inglise keel. On parem mõnekord rääkida teise keeles kui inglise keeles."

Sure. So say I'm a foreigner from west of the Baltics. If I'm just over in Estonia for a short time what "other language" besides English would be advisable? The chances of me knowing Estonian are null, zip, nada (let's leave the Finns out of it). MAYBE I'm German or Swedish and could possibly, if I'm lucky, run into one of these German speaking grannies in the countryside of Estonia that you talk about, or one of these Swedish speakers from the islands... maybe. But the chances are I'll find it much easier to find an English speaker who I can understand, as bad as their English is.

But I partially agree with you. In a situation like this it would probably be useful to know another language. But as someone who is coming to Estonia for just a one-off visit, then that language would probably be Russian.

Giustino said...

Of course Europeans in future will still know their national language. (BTW should it be "oskada nende rahva keel" or keelt? My Estonian's a bit rusty).

Here's the problem. There are two guys posting as 'anonymous'.I earlier thought there was only anonymous. I meant by my statement that this idea of English taking over the world is, basically, stupid.

As I pointed out before other languages have also been world or regional languages, such as German or French or Dutch. Which means that just because English is ascendant, doesn't mean this is a permanent condition.

As for the languages splitting up, I will say that many of the Indian customer service people are awful. I have no idea what they are saying.

Sure. So say I'm a foreigner from west of the Baltics. If I'm just over in Estonia for a short time what "other language" besides English would be advisable?

Well, you're a tourist then. I did not know we were conversing about what languages tourists should use when they travel.

But if we are talking more broadly, I suggest you bring a phrasebook. We had to use one all the time when we were in southern France and again in Italy. Nobody in France spoke English. I would have been totally screwed if I didn't have a phrasebook. You don't know how many times I had to say the word 'crepe' before I said it the 'correct' way.

***

Back on topic, I think the integration issue is blown out of proportion and everyone needs to smoke a big fat joint, rather than take a chill pill.

I live here everyday and I really have no problems with Estonians as a foreigner. I speak Estonian with them, sometimes English ... no problems.

At the shop, at the bank, at the post office there are people with Russian and Estonian names working side by side with one another, communicating just fine.

People should realize that the reason Andrus Ansip is in power is because there simply is nobody else right now that is capable of running Estonia. Mart Laar hasn't positioned himself for a big comeback yet. Savisaar is hated by 80 percent of the population. Ivari Padar is too new, and anyway, SDE only enjoys about ten percent of the electorate's support.

So you are stuck with Ansip. The business class likes him. The big investors in Estonia are from Sweden, Finland ... they like the flat tax and that things work efficiently. In Lithuania, Poland, things are messier. In Estonia, things work.

To be Mr. Estonia though Ansip has to straddle the right wing by throwing out bones to the super nationalists (like moving the BS) while at the same time keeping the business class happy -- reducing inflation, et cetera.

All this bad crap that's being dredged up is therefore mostly being done by the elite to score political points. It actually has little to do with our everyday lives. So the more we ignore it, the less important it will actually seem. If we didn't read bout it all the time, blah blah blah about it all the time, it would reveal itself for being what it is. A political card. A convenient topic for a lazy media, as well as bloggers I might add ;)

People can write all the stupid things on Live Journal they want. It doesn't change my life one bit. Like I said, why even bother reading Delfi?

nipi said...

well, author raised the cultural autonomy topic - why isn't it possible also for local russians? Personally nothing against unless the activities under this umbrella are against the Estonia, against state, against local language etc. And transparency.
We have seen a lot in relation with Dom Ofitserov Flota. No need to repeat.

Flasher T said...

A Russian cultural autonomy won't happen until Russians stop being contrarian. The reason why the noarootslased can have official traffic signs with Swedish village names near Haapsalu is because they're not pissing anyone off, they're not making demands and they're not being threatening to anyone. If Russians just sat in Narva singing Vysotski songs and watching old Andrei Mironov movies, they'd have a far better time in Estonia.

Let's face it: the Russians here have done very little to ingratiate themselves.

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