At the end of 2006, according to official national statistics Eurostat services are provided in many European countries including Estonia. However, research reveals that in spite of the availability of the adaptation programs, new immigrants often fail to adapt to the new society and prefer to live in segregation. The study conducted in the Berlin Institute for Population and Development (2009) found that Turks in particular, the second largest group of immigrants after ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, are faring badly, even after decades of living in Germany. It shows that foreigners who come to live in Germany tend to remain strangers, even after 50 years and thestimates that the total number of non-nationals living in the EU Member States was 29 million, representing 5.8 % of the total EU population. More than half of these were citizens of non-EU countries. According to integration laws of many European countries, all refugees and immigrants, as well as their family members have to participate in some kind of adaptation program, one of the components being language training. The development and application of adaptation programmes and supporting services are provided in many European countries including Estonia. However, research reveals that in spite of the availability of these programmes, new immigrants often fail to adapt to the new society and prefer to live in segregation. Immigrants claim that strong ties with the local ethnic community provide support and assistance during the first days in a variety of ways and ease adaptation, however, in a long run these strong ties become an obstacle for social adaptation and mobility (Rannut 2005, 2009; Menjivar 1997).
Adaptation Course for New Immigrants in Estonia
_This is confirmed also by my own research results among immigrant children (2005) and my observations among adult immigrants during the piloting of the adaptation course in Estonia (Rannut, 2009). Immigrants with low anxiety level didn’t afraid to make mistakes, communicated more often and developed more quickly social skills needed for effective communication. New immigrants with low self-confidence and higher anxiety level were less successful in language acquisition and in making new contacts, thus, they preferred to surround themselves with people from their own nationality or language group. Our self-esteem consists of positive and negative feelings we have about ourselves. An increase in our self-esteem will produce a decrease in our anxiety which leads to more effective communication and social mobility which yealding in more social contacts, better job opportunities and higher social mobility.
Adaptation Course for New Immigrants in Estonia
First, we can create connections by using mental pictures or images, for instance. The trick for constructing associations is to make these as concrete and tangible as possible. A striking image like a flower will always be easier to remember than random abstract information. Since when you're gradually building your new vocabulary for the new language you will inevitably translate and think those words out in your mother tongue, you can use such a mnemonic to make this translation easier to memorize. For example, if you've just learnt how to say "seaside" (rand) in Estonian, imagine a picture of the seaside and then switch back between the native and foreign language words of what you're seeing. The image, which is easier to remember than a word, will act as an intermediate between the two languages. All you need to do is make a picture for the word, a picture for the definition, then link them together.
The point is to create a linkage from existing information to the new information. The shortcut to memorizing new information is to use what you already know and then create a “memory-placeholder” so you can retrieve the new information when you need. Instead of trying to translate phrases in a new language word by word and make sense of it, try to link these phrases to your own language, where you would need and how you would say these in your own language. It would also help when you're trying to remember these associations by adding emotions (how it makes you feel). If you have to remember for example the phrase „Kui teil on küsimusi, siis andke teada“ you can link it at first to your own language („If you have any questions, then don’t hesitate to ask!“), then you can link the Estonian words by making fun of them and add some emotions and pictures, for example, the word „küsimusi“ (questions) has also anothe meaning „Küsi musi!“ which means „Ask kisses!“
The main principle is that no matter what kind of image you create for the association, it must be exaggerated or strange. In fact, the stranger and odder the image is and the stronger emotions are linked to it, the easier and longer you'll remember it.
Ülle Rannut, PhD
Integration Research Institute
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