Negotiating competing linguistic demands: multilingualism and hybridity in a Romanian migrant community in Spain.

Clare Mar-Molinero and Dick Vigers

Centre for Transnational Studies, University of Southampton, United Kingdom

WS153: Constructing Multilingual Europe? Micro and Macro Perspectives

Negotiating competing linguistic demands: multilingualism and hybridity in a Romanian migrant community in Spain.

Historically Spain experienced the consequences of massive outmigration, caused not only by economic pressures but also political repression. In the context of Spain’s emergence as a dynamic new democracy after 1975, the country has undergone a recent and dramatic transformation into a focus for migration from Latin America, North Africa and Eastern Europe - in 1996 foreign citizens accounted for 1.3% of the total population; in 2004, 6.6%. For all of these groups the constitutional acknowledgement of Spain’s multilingual makeup with the establishment of regional autonomies has generated a complex web of competing linguistic demands on those wishing to work and potentially settle there.

In 2005, Romanians were the fourth largest migrant group in Spain and current estimates suggest that around 450,000 are resident in Spain. The prosperity of Catalunya and the Comunidad Valenciana has attracted a disproportionately high number of these and some 40,000 alone are located in the city of Castelló (Comunidad Valenciana) that now hosts the greatest concentration of Romanians in Spain. This paper will analyse the results of recent fieldwork in this community to examine how it is negotiating the demands of multiple belonging and what linguistic strategies are evolving that enable access to work and welfare entitlements, new social networks and also maintain family and local ties.

Despite its accession to the EU in January 2007, there are ongoing restrictions on migration from Romania and ‘clandestinity’ or illegal residence affects a large proportion of the Romanian community in Spain. We will examine to what extent this functions as a barrier to linguistic integration. Changes in the demographics of migration that will result from accession – more families and older people - will also alter strategies of language acquisition and maintenance.

In addition, the renewed emphasis on the protection and promotion of regional languages in the recent renegotiation of statutes of autonomy with the central government in Spain has marked a site of tension particularly in the ambiguity of language attitudes in the Comunidad Valenciana. Research with stakeholders in both governmental, regional and migrant communities is revealing to what extent there is convergence and divergence in differing perceptions of belonging, articulated as linguistic competence.

Reported notions of a shared ‘Latinidad’ give a particular linguistic turn to the experience of Romanian migration to Spain and this paper will examine whether they have proved relevant or have had to be re-evaluated in the light of the receiving communities’ perceptions and expectations. Signs of hybrid linguistic identities as a response to remaining transnational rather than settled, the emergence of contact phenomena such as the development of ‘rumañol’, a mixture of Castilian, Romanian and Valencian and ‘rap manele’, where hip-hop tangles with Romanian folk, will all be explored.

Finally, given Bulgarians have also chosen the same locations as the Romanians as foci of migration, we will ask whether these intercommunal relationships based on other cultural practices (Orthodox Christianity, Balkan music, food etc.) have fostered new sociolinguistic practices.

Session: Workshop (part 1)
Constructing Multilingual Europe? Micro and Macro Perspectives
Friday, April 4, 2008, 10:30-12:00
room: 18