What impact does language and migration have on families?
Currently in Ireland:
- 3 children in every classroom
- 1 person in every small business
- 8 people who travel on a bus every day
speak a language other than English or Irish at home on a daily basis. There are presently 612,018 people in Ireland, or 13% of the overall population, who are multilingual.
This growing number has implications for a changing Irish society as the report on Language and Migration in Ireland (launched today, 7 November 2017 at the Royal Irish Academy) highlights.
The report was launched today by the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, who said: “Language is recognised as the essential step towards successful integration of migrants and their families, ensuring they can reap the benefits of living in Ireland. I am delighted that I have the opportunity to support vital research in the key role of language in this important area.”
Key recommendations from this report fall into two categories, practical assistance and cultural appreciation.
- Professionalise, test and monitor interpreting services in Ireland.
- Provide accessible English language classes for all levels and in all educational contexts.
- Examine the diversity of staff in the public service.
- Support language teaching, particularly of ‘heritage’ languages.
- Publish a national Foreign Languages Strategy and establish a Languages Advisory Board.
- View multilingualism as an asset to Irish society and not a problem to be fixed.
- Create cultural spaces for the expression of multilingual experiences.
- Create greater opportunities for linguistic interchange in Irish society.
Commenting on the recommendations, report author Dr Anne O'Connor, NUI Galway, said: “In the rhetoric about migration in society, the migrant’s story is often lost. This project aims to create a space for the visibility of these stories, so that by sharing their experiences, migrants can engage in fruitful conversation with Irish society, ultimately encouraging inclusion and recognition.
“In an increasingly multilingual and multicultural Ireland, it is important to examine the role language plays in the communication of cultural identities. This research project has looked at how migrants have to translate themselves into new words and new socio-cultural contexts in order to become part of a new society. It aims to bring migration and language into the public sphere in order to question models of citizenship and language policies.”
Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland, said, “People often don’t realise the level of diversity in Ireland and the sheer number of nationalities and languages being used. Working with immigrants we see the challenges which arise when people aren’t able to communicate effectively. Not only does can this create barriers accessing basic rights including healthcare, education and jobs, it also robs Irish society of the enrichment brought by diversity. On the flip side, we have seen how language can be exclusionary, not just explicitly in racist incidents, but also more insidiously such as when very complex language is used in official documents and settings, putting people ill at ease and acting as a barrier for non-native speakers.
“We endorse the two-way recommendations in this report calling for more widespread access to English language classes, especially for those newly arrived. Equally, the full benefits of our increased diversity will only be embraced when we also create spaces to celebrate the array of languages and cultures represented in Ireland today.”
About the report Language and Migration in Ireland:
- According to data from the 2016 Irish census, 612,018 people in Ireland speak a language that is neither Irish nor English in their homes.
- The report Language and Migration in Ireland is the result of a collaborative research between NUI Galway and the Immigrant Council of Ireland, funded by the Irish Research Council.
- It pays attention to the linguistic challenges that migrants face on an everyday basis, the migrants’ experiences of language barriers and the centrality of language to an individual’s identity.
- The research involved surveys of migrants, focus groups, interviews and also an analysis of language policies in Ireland.
- The research focuses not just on how migrants interact linguistically with their new environment, it also looks at the creative output of migrant artists and writers in a new language.
- The findings of the research have been gathered in the report and have been combined with observations and recommendations for approaches to language and migration in an increasingly diverse Ireland.
Note to editors:
The report, Language and Migration in Ireland, was launched at 4pm, Tuesday 7 November, in the Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson St, Dublin 2, by Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, TD, Dr Anne O’Connor, report author and project leader, NUI Galway, and Brian Killoran, CEO of the Immigrant Council of Ireland.
The launch also featured poetry readings by Nithy Kasa and Ozgecan Kesici.