“One Should Not Forget One's Mother Tongue”: Russian-Speaking Parents' Choice of Language of Instruction in Estonia


bilingual education, language instruction, Estonia, Education in Estonia


This exploratory study identifies factors affecting parental choice of language of instruction, based on semistructured interviews with 16 Russian-speaking parents in three urban areas of Estonia. We investigated three different types of language programs: Russian schools, which provided education in the children's first language; Estonian schools, which provided education in the children's second language; and Russian–Estonian bilingual programs, which functioned as separate classes within Russian schools. Our interviews with parents revealed four basic types of orientation toward language and culture. We have labeled these orientations multicultural (appreciating or feeling comfortable with many languages and cultures), Russocentric (feeling most comfortable with Russian culture and/or seeing Russian language and culture as superior), bicultural (having familiarity with and/or interest in both languages and cultures, or cultural neutrality), and Estoniocentric (having a strong desire to belong to the Estonian cultural and language group). These orientations correspond to parents' choice of language of instruction for their children, suggesting that choice of school language has different meanings for parents with varying culture and language identifications.

Original Publication Citation

One Should Not Forget One’s Mother Tongue – A Qualitative Analysis of Parental Choice of Language Instruction among Russian-Speaking Families in Estonia,” Raija Kemppainnen, Scott Ferrin, Julie Hite and Carol Ward, Bilingual Research Journal, Vol. 28 (2), Summer (2004): 207-229

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date


Permanent URL



Bilingual Research Journal




Family, Home, and Social Sciences



University Standing at Time of Publication

Associate Professor