European Journal of Language Policy

Migration in contested linguistic spaces: The challenge for language policies in Switzerland and Wales

European Journal of Language Policy (2010), 2, (2), 181–203.

Abstract

This paper explores the role of language as constructed by policies for the acculturation of migrants in the competing discourses of national belonging and multiculturalism as the right to difference. Where national policies have adopted multicultural approaches to foster societal cohesion, immigration represents a potentially valuable addition to diversity. However, language policy directed towards migrant communities appears to undervalue diversity in language competencies. The material is drawn from the highly charged linguistic environments of Wales and the canton of Grisons in Switzerland. In these regions work opportunities, exist for migrants in rural areas where regional language minorities pursue vigorous revitalisation policies. This highlights conflicting discourses between language for integration purposes (official discourse), language learning for identity, and integration in the regional/cantonal discourse (migrant discourses). National policies engineer economic and social integration through dominant language learning. However the promotion of regional minority languages is predicated on reversing the historic devaluing of varieties whose speakers had unequal access to economic and cultural power, by convincing minority speakers of the value of intergenerational transmission and migrants of the social and economic value of acquiring the local language. For foreign migrants the instrumental value in this discourse is greater integration but our research suggests that a) further integration is not a migrant priority and b) migrant assessment of integration is not language-based. Consequently policies fail to achieve their objectives in these regions and migrants reproduce the values of the dominant language community that devalues minority language.

Notre communication portera sur le rôle de la langue tel qu'il est construit par des politiques d'acculturation des migrants au sein de deux discours concurrentiels: l'appartenance nationale et le multiculturalisme en tant que droit à la différence. Dans les contextes où des politiques nationales ont adopté des approches multiculturelles afin de favoriser la cohésion sociétale, l'immigration représente une contribution potentiellement importante à la diversité. Par contre, les politiques linguistiques qui visent des communautés de migrants semblent sous-valoriser la diversité des compétences linguistiques. Nos données proviennent des environnements linguistiques forts tendus du Pays de Galles et du canton suisse des Grisons. Il existe des possibilités d'emploi, tout particulièrement dans les domaines du tourisme, du travail domestique et de l'agriculture, pour les migrants dans de telles régions rurales où les minorités régionales linguistiques essaient de mettre en place des politiques énergiques de revitalisation. Ces conditions mettent en évidence des discours conflictuels de la langue en tant que moteur d'intégration (le discours officiel) et de l'apprentissage linguistique pour favoriser l'identité et l'intégration régionales/cantonales (les discours migrants). Des politiques nationales réalisent l'intégration économique et sociale à travers l'apprentissage des langues dominantes et étant donné que les migrants eux-mêmes sont sensibles aux coûts économique et social que celui-ci encourt, ceci s'avère efficace en tant que façon de subvenir à leurs besoins de connaissances et de services. Pour les migrants étrangers, la valeur clé de ce discours réside dans un meilleur niveau d'intégration mais nos données suggèrent que: a) atteindre un meilleur niveau d'intégration n'est pas une priorité pour les migrants et b) l'évaluation du niveau d'intégration par les migrants eux-mêmes n'a pas de rapport à la langue.

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Author details

Vigers, Dick

Tunger, Verena