At the "Polyglot" language learning center, the demand for English language courses is consistently high, and interest in the Latvian language has also grown. During the last six months, Arabic has also become quite popular with as many as five different groups learning the language. Polyglot is one of the institutions that offers Lithuanian and Estonian as well, but demand is disappointing.
"Unfortunately, the Estonian language is not in demand. But the Lithuanian language has been in demand in the last five years, though it is more on an individual basis. [People have] some reason, whether it is private, whether a business has opened in Lithuania, or it is related to studies. They study individually," said Santa Bidzane, project manager of the Polyglot learning center.
There are several offers on the Internet for both distance and face-to-face courses. However, there is little or no interest in Lithuanian and Estonian languages at other educational institutions as well, confirmed other course organizers.
According to the 2017 survey of the Central Statistical Office, 0.9% of the Latvian population knows Lithuanian, and 0.1% knows Estonian. That means there are approximately 17 thousand inhabitants who learn the Lithuanian language, and fewer than two thousand who understand and speak Estonian. More recent survey data will be available this autumn. Should these languages be more widely taught and known?
"It's such a sign of respect. If we look at different Estonian websites, for example the website of the Pärnu Aquapark, there is information in Latvian. If we go to the AHHAA center, there are even employees who speak in Latvian to visitors. How much attention do we give, how do we address our neighbors? We usually offer them two alternatives – to communicate in English or Russian," said politician Jānis Dombrava (National alliance), head of the group of Saeima deputies for cooperation with the Lithuanian parliament.
With the plan to abandon Russian as a second foreign language, schools could teach the languages of neighboring countries instead, according to one proposal.
"We have met with Lithuanian parliamentarians. They also support this approach, that we could introduce Lithuanian as a second foreign language in some schools. I think there would be a demand for it. This is also a logicical move," said Dombrava.
Regarding the cooperation of the group of deputies with the Estonian parliament, the deputy head of the group for cooperations with the Estonian parliament, Jānis Patmalnieks (New Unity) believes that the Estonian language should be developed more widely at the level of higher education. Not in all schools, but maybe in schools close to the border.
"Those people who are on the border may have a need to speak, and they do speak. Perhaps in those areas it would be desirable to teach this language more deeply than at the level of [basic] communication. The big question of how our societies are able to understand and communicate with each other, that's where the academic staff is critically important," said Patmalnieks.