Both in the UK and Europe, immigration is at the forefront of many of today’s political debates. Immigration and language are inextricably tied: For immigrants, knowing the language of their new community can play an important role in their ability to fully participate in day to day life.
Access to resources
It is therefore important for immigrants to have access to language learning resources, and for members of host communities to have an understanding of the complexities of language and immigration.
Immigrants who live in minority language contexts such as in Galicia, Spain, which is the focus of my research, are faced with a community that has not one but two languages (Galician and Spanish). People often associate minority languages with local, traditional culture.
The value of minority languages
However, nowadays, in certain contexts, knowledge of the minority language is required in the education system and the labour market, and therefore the instrumental value of minority languages has come to the fore. We now have situations where immigrants (who already may be multilinguals themselves) come to a new country and learn more than one language.
Despite these multilingual realities, public discourse about immigration and language can tend towards ideologies of assimilation and monolingualism, where ‘one language fits all’ and the burden of responsibility to ‘adapt’ is placed exclusively on the immigrant population. The multilingual profile of immigrants in increasingly globalized European societies, however, challenges such monolingual norms and demonstrates the need to think of integration as multidirectional and indeed multilingual.