Estonian Integration Monitoring 2020 (excerpts on language skills & interethnic relations), 2021


Compared to 2008, the general Estonian language proficiency of residents of other nationalities has improved. It’s positive that the share of people whose language proficiency is active has increased to 41% (from 32% in 2008): they understand and speak Estonian, and write in it. The share of residents who don’t speak any Estonian has also clearly decreased (from 20% in 2008 to 8% in 2020).


The (Estonian and Russian) language proficiency of Estonian residents differs significantly according to regions. For instance, only one-fifth of Ida-Viru County residents of other nationalities had active Estonian skills in 2020.

Half of Tallinn residents of other nationalities speak Estonian, and this indicator has improved considerably more than in Ida-Viru County when compared to 2008 (35%).

The Estonian language proficiency of people of other nationalities is strongly related to their age: young people speak Estonian better than older ones. In 2020, the share of those in this group who spoke Estonian was 62% among people up to 34 years of age and only 27% among people at least 65 years of age.

[..] The situation with the Russian language proficiency of Estonians is the opposite: older people speak Russian better and there are fewer people who speak the language in the younger age group.


English language proficiency has improved rapidly from 2008–2020, but the difference between the ethnic groups living in Estonia has remained similar: the number of people who understand, speak and write in English (active language skills) is almost twice as high among Estonians.

However, the share of people of other ethnicities who don’t speak English has dropped to 35% in comparison with 2017 (42%), which is close to the same indicator of Estonians



An analysis of people’s attitudes towards different language groups indicated that in general, residents of other nationalities view people whose native language is Estonian more positively than Estonians view people whose native language is Russian. There are only a few percentages among residents of other nationalities who are averse to close contact with people whose native language is Estonian. At the same time, the attitude of Estonian residents towards close contact with people of nationalities different from their own has become more favourable in the last ten years (2010–2020) irrespective of the ethnic group. The share of residents of other nationalities who looked favourably on being neighbours with many Estonian language speakers was 58% in 2010 and 72% in 2020. Forty-six percent of Estonians don’t have anything against many Russian speaking neighbours (only 23% in 2010).

Document data: Factsheet “LANGUAGE PROFICIENCY AND INTER-ETHNIC RELATIONS” on the results of the Monitoring the Integration of Estonian Society 2020. May 2021. Link:

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