UPDATE: I have decided that what sort of stinks, for lack of better words, about these Amnesty Reports is the use of anecdotal evidence to make a point. I personally feel that it’s easy for AI to pick and choose its argument based on what responses fall in line with its bias.
To that end, I offer the following solution: Tell Amnesty your stories. Give them anecdotal evidence from your perspective. Write to them and tell them about the language environment you have dealt with in Estonia. Here’s the link to write to their International Secretariat. And if you are feeling really ballsy, write them in Estonian.
Recently, Amnesty International, an international human rights watchdog, took an interest in Estonia, mainly via a scathing report released at the end of 2006 that criticized Estonia’s language laws.
Today, Amnesty took aim again at Estonia’s language laws, sending Prime Minister Andrus Ansip a letter deploring the recent strengthening of the language inspectorate’s ability to penalize Estonian residents that fail to meet language requirements.
Amnesty International urges the Estonian government to re-consider the latest amendments to the Law on Language and consider more constructive approaches to linguistic integration, such as free or fully reimbursable Estonian language classes for all, rather than the repressive, punitive, and ultimately alienating measures used by the Language Inspectorate.
There are some flipsides to Amnesty International’s argument that the government should not interfere at the level it does via the language inspectorate. For example, if I, as a person capable of conversing in Estonian, am unable to receive service from a company in Estonian, the language of the majority of the population, then haven’t I been denied some fundamental right?
In some cases, you have the option of choosing another service — going to a different grocery, for example. But in other cases, say taking public transport, there really are no other options for an Estonian speaker. If I ask the bus driver something, and I cannot get a reply in Estonian, what do I do? Walk?
But still, I don’t think this is the job of the state. This is the job of the individual employers. It’s up to consumers to complain to employers about poor service, such as the inability to converse in the majority language in basic service situations. Also, can anyone point out how the language inspectorate is worthy of its funding?
Scrapping the language inspectorate in favor of more funding for education in Estonian might actually be a good idea. Because of all of Estonia’s language laws, this is really the only one that international organizations like Amnesty International can take issue with without opening up a whole can of worms.
For example, is Estonian unilingual language policy so controversial when weighed against language policy in France, where public schools in Breton-speaking regions are denied funding for teaching in Breton? Like Estonia, France’s constitution states that the “language of France is French.”
Can Estonian language tests for citizenship really be contested by Amnesty when Finland has the same provision for acquiring citizenship – that the applicants know Finnish or Swedish? Germany requires adequate knowledge of German language as well. It’s the norm.
Amnesty knows that it cannot criticize Estonian language policy outside the language inspectorate because if it did, it would have to open up investigations on many states in Europe. But it has made a point of rallying against the language inspectorate because it, in all honesty, must show some return on its investment in monitoring Estonia. As much as its determinations can be questioned, I have to wonder if the language inspectorate is really worth it.