Minority language as a tool for integration: the Romanians and Valencian Catalan

Dick Vigers

University of Southampton, United Kingdom


Minority language as a tool for integration: the Romanians and Valencian Catalan

Migration is leading to hitherto unexpected and unlikely contacts for minority language speakers throughout Europe. Lesser-used languages have tended to lose ground when areas undergo economic growth, and their survival in marginal districts (often geographically remote and undeveloped) is challenged by the expansion of tourism. Economic growth increases demands for labour, which in western Europe has exercised a consequent attractive effect for workers from former Communist countries, North Africa and Latin America.

Nevertheless where minority languages have a territorial base, the increasing devolution of central power has equipped autonomies with the legislative and financial means to attempt to redress status inequality between regional languages and a national official language. Spain is currently experiencing the impact of these two energies; autonomies have renegotiated statutes with increased powers in 2006 on the one hand and, on the other, the integration of migrants: ‘one of the most important challenges that currently confronting Spanish society at the moment’. (p. 7, Plan Estratégico de Ciudadanía e Integración 2007-2010)

Patterns of migration have changed as a mobile workforce reacts to the volatility of globalised markets. Migrants follow circular trajectories, continuing on to third or fourth destinations, and setting limits to migration for specific projects. (Sandu 2005, 2006, Viruela 2006; Potot 2000) The commitment to engage with other community identities, for which language is one key, is compromised by objectives that are more short-term than in the past. However, some regional governments have grasped at minority languages as a tool of integration unavailable to monolingual areas. With circular migration there is little room for some migrants to participate in a hybrid ‘regio-genesis’ as described by Dietz (2004) or conventional sub-national ethnogenesis and since social and welfare rights are linked now to residence rather than citizenship, there is less incentive to naturalisation.

Drawing on recent fieldwork, this paper focuses on the Romanian community in the Valencian autonomous region (Generalitat Valenciana) to explore how new migratory patterns effect language ideologies, shaping attitudes to host-society language acquisition including the regional language. If transnational models of migration constrain the investment of social capital in language acquisition, are they compensated in the Romanian case by perceptions of a shared Latin origin (Latinidad/Latinitate), present in public and individual discourse among both Castilian and Valencian, and Romanian communities, which might find echoes in the official discourse on the reciprocal nature of integration from the receiving community as encouraged by national, regional and local plans?

Dietz, Gunther (2004) ‘Frontier hybridisation or culture clash? Transnational migrant communities and sub-national identity politics in Andalusia, Spain’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 30:6, 1087 – 1112

Potot, Swanie (2000) ‘Mobilités en Europe: étude de deux réseaux migratoires roumains’, Sociologie Românească, 2, 97-115

Sandu, Dumitru (2000) ‘Circulatory Migration as Life Strategy’, Sociologie Românească / Romanian Sociology, 2: 65-92
- -----(2005) ‘Emerging Transnational Migration from Romanian Villages’, Current Sociology, 53: 555-582

Viruela, Rafael (2006) ‘Inmigrantes rumanos en España: aspectos territoriales y procesos de sustitución laboral’, Scripta Nova, X: 222.

Session: Paper session
Ideology 1
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 11:00-12:30
room: 13