Migrants' Languages: Assets or Liabilities? an Empirical Study of a Russian-Speaking Community in Tarragona, Spain

Tuesday, 12 July 2016: 15:00
Location: Hörsaal 24 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Nune AYVAZYAN, Universitat Rovira i Virgili, Armenia
The large-scale European project on multilingualism MIME: Mobility and Inclusion in a Multilingual Europe, tries to identify the best language policies that include both “mobility” and “inclusion”. Our research group that belongs to Work Package 4 “Mediation”, has carried out a research project in the Tarragona area, Spain, where some 50 respondents from ex-Soviet countries were interviewed on their language background, but not only that. Questions were asked about how these individuals deal with simple, day-to-day issues, such as going to the doctor, lawyer, government offices, since many of these individuals have very limited (sometimes null) knowledge of the local languages. This fact necessarily creates social inequalities, since the majority of these individuals are permanent inhabitants of Spain who have no access to basic services because of their language limitations. These social inequalities become even more apparent since the respondents feel excluded from the host society, and this puts social cohesion under real threat.

Languages of one country can be seen as assets of that country.  It does not matter whether these languages are local or brought from abroad: each of them can contribute to the general well-being. In our research, it is obvious that Russian (the language shared by all of our respondents) is an asset rather than a liability. Since Russia entered the lists of emerging economies, there is high demand of people who can handle intercultural relations: translators, interpreters, multilingual professionals in all spheres that do not need any specific training in that language. This in conditions of monolingualism would suppose certain monetary investment. If it is so clear that languages are assets and not liabilities, how can they be better employed? Will that usage result in higher prestige of migrants’ language and culture that will consequently lead to higher level of social cohesion?