European Journal of Language Policy

Language use and opportunities for economic migrants in Europe: Policy and practice

European Journal of Language Policy (2010), 2, (2), 205–228.

Abstract

The recent Communication on multilingualism published by the Commission of the European Communities contends that mastering the national language of a given country is fundamental for the integration of migrants, but diverse mother tongues "should be valued more highly" (CoEC 2008: 6). Indeed, the Commission points out that "linguistic and intercultural skills increase the chances of obtaining a better job. In particular command of several foreign languages gives a competitive advantage: companies are increasingly looking for skills in a number of languages to conduct business in the EU and abroad. Those mastering more languages can choose among a wider range of job offers, including jobs abroad: lack of language skills is reported as the primary barrier to working abroad" (8). Yet in practice, there exist constraints on the mastery and use of languages other than the national in employment and business within the EU. Those which affect the employability particularly of migrants result from the specific policy issues of the receptor countries, such as issues of residence and rights of ownership, membership or non-membership of the EU, migrants' levels of education and the perceived status of their languages, and influence of the historical context of migratory flows. Moreover, such policies may be discussed in the public arena or embedded in tacit political ideologies. This paper discusses such overt and covert policy issues from the perspective of migrants' access to employment and advancement, taking into consideration the relevance and impact of their language skills and general levels of education.

Le récent rapport sur le multilinguisme publié par la Commission des Communautés Européennes soutient que la maitrise de la langue nationale d'un pays donné est essentielle à l'intégration des migrants devraient être plus valorisées. En effet, la Commission remarque que « les compétences linguistiques et interculturelles augmentent les chances d'obtenir un meilleur emploi. La maitrise de plusieurs langues vivantes donne en particulier un avantage compétitif: les entreprises recherchent de plus en plus des compétences dans un nombre de langues pour travailler dans l'Union Européenne et ailleurs. Ceux qui maitrisent plus de langues peuvent choisir parmi une gamme plus variée d'offres d'emploi, y compris à l'étranger: le manque de compétences linguistiques semble représenter le problème principal de l'emploi à l'étranger » (Coec 2008: 8). Cependant en pratique, il existe des contraintes quant à la maitrise et à l'utilisation de langues pas nationaux dans le monde du travail et des affaires dans l'Union Européenne. Celles qui affectent particulièrement l'employabilité des migrants résultent de certains problèmes législatifs spécifiques aux pays hôtes, tels que le statut de résident ou bien le droit à la propriété, l'appartenance ou non à l'U. E., le niveau d'éducation des migrants, le statut perçu de leurs langues, ainsi que l'influence du contexte historique des flôts migratoires. Cette communication se concentre sur ces problèmes législatifs (visibles ou cachés) en ce qui concerne l'accès à l'emploi et à la promotion des migrants, prenant en considération la pertinence et l'impact de leurs compétences linguistiques et de leur niveau général d'éducation.

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Author details

Hilmarsson-Dunn, Amanda

Beswick, Jaine

Sloboda, Marián

Vasiljev, Ivo

Jernej, Mirna

Ille, Karl