Talking About Global Migration

4 May 2016

This week we published Talking About Global Migration by Theresa Catalano which explores the narratives of 70 migrants and examines the language they use when talking about their experiences. Here, Theresa introduces some of their stories.

Talking About Global MigrationMartez was born in Mexico City to Spanish parents. He met his wife in veterinary school in Costa Rica. They then moved to Alabama, then Canada, back to the US and eventually back to Canada. Even though he has lived in four different countries and gone back and forth among them, he has always felt Mexican. Martez has noticed how different countries have different terminology to talk about the legal status of migrants in their country such as calling migrants “legal aliens” (US) versus “landed immigrants” (Canada). The latter makes him feel more welcome.

Even though Thinh was very young when he arrived in the US, he remembers what a ‘struggle’ it was. He and his family did not speak English, and they had to rely on others for translations. Thinking back, Thinh recalls how shocked they were by everything in their new home, ‘bright city lights….Everything was amazing.’ Thinh was enrolled in English as a second language classes but when he was in third or fourth grade, he decided he did not want to be in those classes anymore because he felt that he had ‘grasped the language’.

Xui moved from China to Qatar for three years and then followed her husband to the US. She found it difficult to adapt to her new environment, but says that once you understand the culture of your new home, you might realize that your life there is more meaningful and colorful.

Cristina always dreamed of seeing the world. Born in Colombia, she moved to Spain for a job and then later moved to the US where she is now a professor. Cristina believes that immigration is a great risk, but it is a risk she would be willing to take again, even though she often feels as if she is living ‘in a limbo’— part of her in Colombia, part in Spain, and part in the US.

The above vignettes demonstrate the very diverse and complicated lives of globally mobile people in an increasingly mobile global landscape. This dynamic interplay of migrants of multiple-origin has changed city and rural environments around the world (referred to by Vertovec [2010] as ‘super-diversity’) and the increased movement of transnational migrants underscores the need for educational responses to migration that attend to the linguistic and cultural diversity of demographically changing student bodies and address the educational needs of newcomer students.

Hence, Talking About Global Migration attempts to re-complicate the often simplified and stereotyped stories of migrants who reside in increasingly diverse places in diverse contexts by talking with over 70 participants in 12 different countries, and providing useful information for language teachers (as well as anyone who comes into contact with migrants). In addition, I examine the metaphors and metonymies (see bolded words above) that migrants use when talking about their experiences. In doing so, I hope that people can better understand the way migrants perceive themselves and the migration experience and how this differs greatly from the way they are portrayed in the media. Furthermore, I hope to shed light on how migrants are affected by the way others refer to them, such as how Martez notes the different effect on him that the terms “legal alien” vs. “landed immigrant” have. In this way, I aim to raise consciousness about our own way of thinking and talking about migration.

If you would like to contact me about the book I can be reached by email: Theresa Catalano, tcatalano2@unl.edu

References:
Vertovec, S. (2010). Towards post-multiculturalism? Changing communities, contexts and conditions of diversity. International Social Science Journal 199, 83-95.

migration booksFor more information on Theresa’s book please see our website. You might also be interested in some of our other migration titles Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan and Language, Immigration and Naturalization edited by Ariel Loring and Vaidehi Ramanathan.


Language, Immigration and Naturalization

5 April 2016

This month we are publishing Language, Immigration and Naturalization edited by Ariel Loring and Vaidehi Ramanathan. In this post, Ariel introduces the main themes of the book

Language, Immigration and NaturalizationLanguage, immigration, and naturalization – the title of this book in fact – are three topics with a steady influence across both time and space. Historically, language policies and ideologies have affected, and continue to affect, immigration and naturalization laws, immigration quotas, citizenship tests and nationalistic discourse. Geographically, recent world events have ignited impassioned disagreements concerning im(migration) and national borders. Prior research on citizenship has been embedded in numerous fields of inquiry (including applied linguistics, sociology, education, legal studies and policy studies) and often views “citizenship” through its legal definition of “rights and responsibilities.” What characterizes this volume is its holistic consideration of citizenship in terms of access, participation, engagement and culture.

Our edited volume not only considers the everyday legalities of naturalization but also broader identity and sociopolitical concerns. Its chapters are organized into three subsections – Policies, Pedagogies and Discourses – and includes discussions about:

  • The means by which a particular country accepts naturalized citizens
  • The language of citizenship tests and classes
  • The labeling of who is or isn’t a “citizen” or “member” of society
  • The lived experiences of immigrants in bordered areas
  • The depictions of citizenship and immigration in media discourse

The authors pursue these topics from various research backgrounds and in different areas of the world. Collectively, they explore the experiences of immigrants/outsiders as they make a life in their adopted/native country. In addressing these issues, the following three questions come to light:

  • What does the process of becoming a citizen look like?
  • In what ways are people excluded from full participation?
  • How does language position and frame insiders and outsiders?

We, the editors, are drawn to this research because of the universality of immigration and naturalization issues and the debates and policies that ensue. We realize that even those who live far from a national border are still exposed to political language that dehumanizes migrants and fears differences. And those who themselves are descendants of immigrants are able to rationalize the exclusion of new immigrants. As ramifications of citizenship and naturalization are infused in everyday meaning-making and constructions of identity, this volume brings a needed critical and linguistic lens to these topics.

Ariel Loring, University of California, Davis and California State University, Sacramento, USA
afloring@ucdavis.edu

Refugee Resettlement in the United StatesFor more information about this book please see our website or contact the Ariel Loring at the address above. If you found this interesting, you might also like Refugee Resettlement in the United States edited by Emily M. Feuerherm and Vaidehi Ramanathan.


“With my parents I speak integrated Arabic” – Integration, linguistic contrasts and social status relations

21 October 2014

Lian Malai Madsen has recently been announced as the winner of the 2014 Ton Vallen award.  This is an annual award for papers written by new researchers  on sociolinguistic and educational issues in multicultural societies which we at Multilingual Matters are proud to support. In this article Lian discusses the background to her paper which examines integration and linguistic styles in Denmark.

My husband moved to Denmark 12 years ago from the UK. When we met he used to live off microwave meals and industrial white sandwich bread, but now he bakes his own rye bread. Rye bread can be considered a key sign of Danish national belonging (as Martha Karrebæk has shown in her research, e.g. in What’s in your lunch box? 2012), and not only does he consume it, he creates it himself – from basic organic ingredients. I like to joke about this change by calling him well ‘integrated’.  In the most common sense of ‘integrated’ he certainly seems to be, when it comes to food habits: He has adapted to the eating practices of the majority population in the country he immigrated to. When it comes to speaking a standard variety of the national language, however, he is not as successful, and the mastering of the national language is of course also highly significant to integration as it is understood in Western European political and public discourse.

Among the teenagers I have followed with my colleagues during our fieldwork in an urban school in Copenhagen, the term integrated is used in a different way. These teenagers are not unaware of the common meaning and its connection to the wider integration discourse, and their use is not unrelated to this, but the way they employ the term with reference to language use is intriguing and revealing to a sociolinguist. The young Copenhageners use ‘integrated’ as a label for a speech style and claim to speak integratedly to teachers and other adults, for instance, to show respect. They do not only report to speak ‘integrated Danish’, but some of them also speak ‘integrated Arabic’ with their parents, and students with ethnic Danish family background describe it as appropriate to speak integratedly to the elderly. Finally, they playfully illustrate typical integrated speech and speakers with very high-pitched, exaggerated polite and tea-drinking parodies. In this sense, a term otherwise associated with different national and ethnic relationships and newcomers’ adaption to language use and culture, clearly has a new meaning that also includes a more general stylistic and hierarchical dimension.

In the recent academic paper “High” and “Low” in urban Danish speech styles I look into this when I discuss how youth in Copenhagen use and understand different ways of speaking. A significant insight gained from the research documented in the article is that a speech style previously described and conceptualised as multiethnic youth language is understood in contrast to the ‘integrated’ speech style by teenagers regularly using this way of speaking. The ongoing social value ascriptions to the contrasting styles, in fact, seem to map on to a set of opposing binaries involving low/high; street cultural/academic; masculine/feminine; tough/polite; emotion/reason; youthful/adult, and this, I argue, points to a sociolinguistic transformation. Linguistic signs that used to be seen as related to migration, on an insider/outsider dimension of comparison, are now related to status and social class on a high/low dimension as well.

Since language and linguistic styles as tools for daily communication come to be associated with particular people, places, purposes and values, the way young people use and understand language can tell us a lot about how they experience similarities, differences and inequalities in the social world. Public discourse about minority youth tends to emphasise ethnic, cultural and religious differences to explain social inequalities today and thereby perhaps overlooks dimensions of social status and class. But the teenagers I have studied articulate aspects of social inequality (indexed by different ways of speaking) that most of the current discussions about the challenges of diversity fail to capture. So this kind of research on the speech styles and language ideologies is not only interesting for sociolinguists but can also contribute to qualifying societal debates.

My husband would probably never be accused of speaking integratedly (he is from a city in East Yorkshire), and I am not sure he captures the hints at poshness in my ‘integrated’ joke (he grew up in a very working-class environment). But the relatively more high-status signals it stereotypically sends – of having the resources to value environmental and health concerns – when you make your rye bread from organic ingredients (and happily share experiences and recipes), is perfectly in tune with the associations of integrated as it is used by the young Copenhageners about speech.

Perhaps he will get if he reads my paper. Or perhaps I should just work a bit on my jokes.

Lian Malai Madsen

Lian’s webpage at the University of Copenhagen can be found here.

References

Karrebæk, M. S. (2012), “What’s in Your Lunch Box Today?”: Health, Respectability, and Ethnicity in the Primary Classroom. Journal of Linguistic Anthropology, 22: 1–22. doi: 10.1111/j.1548-1395.2012.01129.x

Lian Malai Madsen (2013). “High” and “low” in urban Danish speech styles. Language in Society, 42, pp 115-138. doi:10.1017/S0047404513000018.


The Language of Adult Immigrants

26 June 2014

Earlier this month we published Elizabeth R. Miller’s latest book The Language of Adult Immigrants. Here, she explains a bit more about how the book came about.

The Language of Adult ImmigrantsI am excited to have my research finally appear in book form. The folks at Multilingual Matters have been remarkably helpful, courteous, efficient, and professional throughout the long process.

I have been interested in learning more about the experiences of adult immigrants for a number of years and most of my publications draw on the things I have learned as I interacted with these individuals, in ESL classrooms and in interview conversations. I am repeatedly impressed by their ability to create lives for themselves and their children in situations where so much of the linguistic, cultural, and social activity around them is strange or inaccessible.

One woman whom I interviewed for this book told me that her husband helps out in her nail salon because of a workplace injury that had occurred a number of years before and that left him unable to do heavy physical work with his hands. She recounted that while he was fixing some equipment owned by the cement company he worked for, he cut his hand and arm badly. But instead of letting the injury heal properly, he took off the binding wrapped around his hand and went back to work because he was afraid he would lose his job if he didn’t. She said, “We don’t know and we don’t know everything and we don’t understand. We don’t speak English.” As a result of not knowing what he could or could not do in that situation, and fearing the worst, his hand and arm are permanently disabled.

It doesn’t take an applied linguist to discover that the lives of first generation immigrants are often difficult and marked by feelings of helplessness, as illustrated in my interviewee’s account of her husband. And yet the individuals whom I interviewed for this book had all managed to open their own businesses. In many cases they were rearing families. And all had managed to learn English—often not in ESL classrooms but through informal interactions in their workplaces.

How did they see themselves as able to pull off these accomplishments despite the daily difficulties that are part of the immigrant experience? That was one of the questions that motivated my attempts to better understand the notion of agency, especially in relation to their acting to learn English.

The understanding I have come to at this stage in my research is that it is problematic, sometimes dangerous, to “place” agency “inside” people.  But, as with all complex human experiences, there is another “side” to this perspective.  I have also come to understand that when we accept or perceive that we are agentive beings, we are motivated to take actions that are often difficult and require extreme effort. There is no simple, tidy explanation for agency and language learning. In fact, it took a whole book for me to grapple with it.

If you would like more information about this book please go to our website.


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