The Communication Choices of Russian-Speaking Students As the Factors Influencing Their Acculturation and Academic Achievement: The Case of One Estonian College

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Estonian population is 1.4 million, 2/3 of which are ethnic Estonians. There are big Russian-speaking communities In Tallinn and in North-East of Estonia. Within those communities the knowledge of Estonian language is at a low level – Estonian is taught as foreign language in Russian-speaking schools. This determines a bad level of integration of a society.

There is 500 day-time students in culture academy, 10% Russian-speaking students. The academic staff’s general perception of Russian-speaking students is that they are not integrated: poor Estonian; lack of knowledge about Estonia, Estonian culture (from the meeting minutes of Department of Cultural Education 2004). Lack of language and cultural competence determines bad academic results, slows down the learning process of Estonian-speaking students.

The purpose of my research was to examine factors of acculturation that are determined by communication choices of Russian-speaking students studying at Viljandi Culture Academy of University of Tartu.

Semi-structured interviews were collected from students (n=8). All full-time teachers (n=9) of interviewed students were asked to fill questionnaires about examined students acculturation characteristics. Also the database of University of Tartu was used in data collection process. Collected data was analyzed according to principals of grounded theory.

The communication choices that influence respondents’ acculturation process: Russian-speaking students communicate with Estonians out of instrumental and integrative purposes; main partners in communication are students and staff of the educational establishment respondents study, but those contacts are not intimate – no friendship cases mentioned.

Russian-speaking students chose to communicate with those Estonians who make them feel secure thanks to their Russian speaking skills and obvious desire to communicate with Russian-speaking students. Explanation of poor communication with Estonians is the fear of not being understood and being laughed at.

Main conclusions: Russian-speaking students use two acculturation strategies – separation and integration – simultaneously. The impact of integration-strategy founds its expression in taking over some symbols and rituals of Estonian culture or organizational culture of educational establishment they study.


Keywords: Higher Education, Multicultural Education, Acculturation
Stream: Equity, Social Justice and Social Change; Community, Culture, Globalisation
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Communication Choices of Russian-Speaking Students as Factors that Influence their Acculturation, The


Aurika Komsaare

Faculty Member, Department of Culture Education
Viljandi Culture Academy, University of Tartu

Viljandi, Viljandi maakond, Estonia

I have graduated the University of Tartu in Russian language and literature with research on young prisoners learning motivation. My first job was also at youth prison, where I worked as a social worker. The Year after graduation I moved to Narva. It is a border town, where Russian-speaking population constitute 96% of population. In Narva I worked at one of local Russian-speaking gymnasiums as the Estonian language teacher. At the same time I followed up my knowledge and skills of teaching Estonian at Tallinn University and got the certificate of Estonian language teacher. After six years of living and teaching in Narva I got the proposition to continue the same work in higher education – at Viljandi Culture Academy. So I moved to Viljandi and now I teach Russian-speaking students Estonian language. Students who speak Estonian as a first language I teach Russian. And I also lead the learning process in subject called Cultural self-determination. Simultaneously with working in Viljandi Culture Academy of Tartu University I studied in Tallinn University where I got my MA in Educational Sciences researching Russian-speaking students’ acculturation in Viljandi Culture Academy of University of Tartu.

Ref: L09P0662