Latvian Language Proficiency and the Integration of Society

Although Latvian language proficiency is gradually improving, a large number of people living in Latvia still have poor Latvian language skills.

  • To what extent and in what areas does poor knowledge of Latvian hinder the integration of society?
  • What are the main causes of poor knowledge of Latvian?
  • How can language policy be improved so that it might stimulate learning of Latvian and integration of society?

The study consludes that poor Latvian language profiency is an obstacle to integration. It reduces the chances and the motivation of non-citizens to acquire Latvian citizenship. It hinders communication with the administration and restricts oportunities for social and political participation. Although a certain persentage of those who belong to ethnic minorities have no need to use Latvian in everyday communication, the role of Latvian in the labour market is steadily increasing, and insufficient knowledge of the language limits both the choices and the competitiveness of job seekers. At the same time, improvement of Latvian language skills does not always help ethnic minorities to overcome alienation, but the motivation to integrate economically and politically leads to the motivation to learn and use the language. This means that a balance must be found between support for Latvian language training and support for other measures that promote the integration of society.

Although a number of government institutions and non-governmental organisations provide Latvian language training for adults, problems arise form a lack of coordination and uncertainty about sources of financing. The study concludes that the demand for Latvian language training is more differentiated and signifficantly greater than the supply, and it recommends greater government and public support.

Riga, 2004
Svetlana Djackova, the fellow of the Centre for Public Policy PROVIDUS Public Policy Fellowship Programme
Financial Support: Soros Foundation - Latvia, Open Society Institute Justice Initiative Programme, Local Government, and Public Service Reform Initiative


Published: 2004-03-01