Social Consequences of the Restricted Language Development in Migrant Youth in Austria

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:30
Oral Presentation
Verica PAVIC ZENTNER, Social Identity Research, Austria
During the biographical qualitative research with young people of migrant origin conducted in 2016-2017. we noted the variety of integrative models our interview partners adopted for internalising their spoken languages. The interview partners were chosen from groups of young people who grew up in Austria, and experienced the entire education process in this country, and are coming from the families with both parents originating from one of the three largest ex-Yugoslavian countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, and Serbia. The language environment in Austria is relatively diversified, in terms of the variety of languages one can experience in the open social spaces, but it is also very limited in the usage and expansion of administrative languages, and the languages present in the education system. The official language in Austria is German, and there is limited support for the learning of any other languages, including the first language, still referred to as “the mother tongue”, and any other languages. Along with the lack of support, there are also differences in the acceptance of foreign languages – namely, from the narratives of our interview partners one can note various situations where they or their siblings experienced the lack of support, and even discrimination, restricting the usage of their first language in social environments outside of their family. This in turn had affected their choices of and chances for social group belonging, and arguable consequently their chances in the socio-economic sphere. This perceived ripple effect caused by the differences in language development support or the lack thereof can be observed in the interpretations the young people we interviewed, describing the life chances of their siblings, and their interpretations of the causalities leading to lifestyles of their families of origin. This was among the analytical challenges before the four-country multilingual research team on this project.