Estonian language proficiency levels
Section 5 of the Amendment Act to the Language Act (adopted on 8 February 2007, RTI, 27.02.2007, 17, 82) stipulates that from 1 July 2008 the basis for compulsory determination of the level of language proficiency of individuals will be the language proficiency levels developed by the Council of Europe, which are described in the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The six levels of language proficiency (A1–C2) allow the development of language proficiency of students to be comprehensively gauged at any stage.
The CEFR sets forth the general principles for contemporary language instruction and elucidates the concept of communicative language proficiency, which is understood as the ability to cope in a foreign-language environment in accordance to one’s needs. The method of approach is situational: language activities as defined by the CEFR are always related to a certain specific objective involving the performance of a task in certain conditions.
The global scale of the common reference levels (CEFR, p 39):
A proficiency examination is required for to certify the required language proficiency level for one’s position, as established in the Regulation of the Government of the Republic “Estonian language and use requirements for public servants, employees and sole proprietors” (adopted 26.06.2008, regulation no. 105, RTI, 28.06.2008, 26, 176).
The language proficiency requirement for an office or post is established based on the type of public servant, the office’s main group, the evaluation requirements for main groups of offices, language proficiency requirements specified in the professional standard and the nature of the employee’s work.
Language proficiency at A-level or above is required of public servants, employees and sole proprietors whose duties of employment or official duties are of a specific nature and precisely defined, where the use of language is routine and written work is limited to the compiling of standard documents or filling out forms.
Language proficiency at B-level or above is required of public servants, employees and sole proprietors whose duties of employment or official duties are of a diverse nature and may be related to administration, direction or co-direction of a subunit, or the compiling of documents (with a predetermined content) necessary for the work.
Language proficiency at C-level or above is required of public servants, employees, and sole proprietors, whose duties of employment or official duties are the direction of a unit, the planning and coordination of activity, or providing consultation for and the preparation of public addresses, speeches and comments and text of official correspondence.
Based on the regulation, professional language proficiency will be gauged, and state examinations held, on four levels:A2, B1, B2 and C1.
Previously-issued language proficiency certificates will be brought into conformity with the new system as follows:
1) Language proficiency certified at the basic level will be considered in conformity with B1 language proficiency.
2) Language proficiency certified at the intermediate level will be considered in conformity with B2 language proficiency.
3) Language proficiency certified at the advanced level will be considered in conformity with C1 language proficiency.
Previously issued proficiency level certificates will not be replaced, nor is it required to re-take the examination.
Individuals for whom a higher or completely new language proficiency requirement is established must bring their language proficiency into conformity with the requirement within two years – i.e. by 1 July 2010.
There will be no changes to the examination form and examination procedures. Four skills are tested at the proficiency examination:
1) listening comprehension (listening)
2) reading comprehension (reading)
Listening and reading comprehension and writing ability will be tested in the written part of the examination and the speaking ability will be tested orally.
The examination is considered passed when the examinee receives at least 60 per cent of the maximum point total; the result for none of the four constituent skill sections may be 0. Individuals who acquired their education in the Estonian language at a minimum of one of the following levels are exempt from the requirement of taking the Estonian language proficiency examination:
1) basic education
2) general secondary education
3) vocational secondary education on the basis of basic education
4) secondary specialized education on the basis of basic education
5) higher education
To be naturalized as a citizen of the Republic of Estonia, the citizenship applicant must pass at least the B1-level Estonian language proficiency examination.