Some societies have sought to promote the inclusion of immigrants who are not proficient speakers of the majority language(s) by providing services for them in their own languages.

Immigration, language and disadvantage. Presented by Andrew Shorten, University of Limerick

Immigration, language and disadvantage. Presented by Andrew Shorten, University of Limerick

Some societies have sought to promote the inclusion of immigrants who are not proficient speakers of the majority language(s) by providing services for them in their own languages.

For instance, they print administrative forms or ballot papers in different languages, publicly fund translation and interpretation services in places like courts and hospitals, implement transitional bilingual programmes in schools, and employ bilingual staff in institutions providing public services. These are ‘supplementary inclusion measures’, or SIMs.

They are supplementary because they are intended to complement rather than displace the opportunity to learn the majority language, and they are inclusionary because they aim to promote the interests of migrants in accessing the opportunities of wider society. Importantly, although SIMs have a linguistic dimension, they are arguably not language rights proper, because they do not entail supporting, promoting or extending official recognition to any particular language - apart from, perhaps, the majority language(s). This paper defends two claims about SIMs from the perspective of normative political theory.

First, I suggest that the best justification for them has to do with addressing disadvantages rather than securing people’s rights or promoting equality. Second, I further argue that although SIMs can reduce and even eliminate many linguistic disadvantages, they are an imperfect substitute for familiarity with the majority language. In particular, for at least two potential linguistic disadvantages – related to democratic control and independence, respectively - there can be no substitute for learning the majority language.

This event has been organised by the School of Applied Social and Policy Sciences at Ulster University with the kind support of Esperantic Studies Foundation (ESF) and the Centre for Public Administration.

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