Migrant Attitudes to Language and Citizenship Policies: contrasting case studies from Spain and the UK.

Montserrat Barrera & Darren Paffey, Dick Vigers

Katholieke Universiteit Brussel & University of Southampton, UK


This research is part of the LINEE (Languages in a Network of European Excellence, www.linee.info) project, funded by the European Commission, which is investigating linguistic diversity in Europe. This group’s focus is framed by interacting and overlapping issues of language policy, migration and citizenship (Castles & Davidson 2000, Hampshire 2005). We situate these within the context of increasing mobility of labour for EU citizens in recent years, and the migratory flows which have been witnessed within and beyond these enlarged EU borders. Such substantial transnational movements of people have repercussions for notions of language and policy, particularly in receiving countries as they seek to deal with issues of ‘integration’ and ‘cohesion’.

As part of this ongoing research, the paper will examine two case studies in detail which explore the notion that national and regional language policies can exist in a spectrum from ‘no policy’ to ‘explicit policy’. We show how evidence from the case studies – Barcelona/Castellón in Spain and Southampton in the UK— locates countries at different points of this spectrum, tracking the emergence of the distinct policies (or lack of), as well as critically analysing the public debates around cultural integration, translation services and language acquisition for migrants. We explore how far national language policies—and their local implementations—may affect migrant populations and their aspirations to become citizens of host countries.

Of particular interest are migrants’ perceptions and attitudes that arise from the debates and policies in each of these differing locations and circumstances. We present quantitative and qualitative data in order to examine attitudes towards host-country migrant language acquisition and its role in citizenship as well as changing attitudes to language acquisition in transnational settings in both host and migrant communities. Our research questions include: Does the existence of a language policy (e.g. in Spain) make migrants think differently about acquiring (or not) the ‘host’ country’s language? What about in multilingual situations? Where there is little or no explicit policy (e.g. the UK), does this produce different attitudes in migrants? Do migrants perceive the language policy—or where this is lacking, a policy on citizenship—as designed to ‘naturalise’ them into ‘being British/Spanish/Catalan/etc’? And how might these differences relate to ‘Europe’ as a cohesive unit with converging policies on language and citizenship?

Selected references

Castles, S. & Davidson, A. (2000) Citizenship and migration: globalization and the politics of belonging, Basingstoke: Macmillan.

European Commission & MPG (2007, 2nd edn) Handbook on Integration for Policy-makers and Practitioners, Brussels: European Commission (Directorate General for Justice, Freedom and Security)/Migrant Policy Group.

Mar-Molinero, C. & Stevenson, P. (2006) Language ideologies, policies, and practices : language and the future of Europe, Basingstoke/New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Nic Craith, M. (2006) Europe and the politics of language : citizens, migrants and outsiders, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Wright, S. (2004) Language policy and language planning : from nationalism to globalisation, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Session: Paper session
Attitude 4
Saturday, April 5, 2008, 09:00-10:30
room: 09