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Knowing a language as a resource for migrants’ integration. Spanish experience

Veronika M. Sokolova, Candidate of Philology associate of other organizaiton, , Candidate of Philology, Assistant Professor of Foreign Languages Chair to the Department of Journalism, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Area Studies, Lomonosov Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia.
mailto: veronikasokol@yandex.ru
Knowing a language as a resource for migrants’ integration. Spanish experience.
Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2016. Vol. 7. No. 3. P. 195-213

DOI: DOI: 10.19181/vis.2016.18.3.422

This Article is downloaded: 182 times
Topic: Migrants in West European Countries

For citation:
Veronika M. Sokolova. Knowing a language as a resource for migrants’ integration. Spanish experience. Vestnik instituta sotziologii. 2016. Vol. 7. No. 3. P. 195-213
DOI: https://doi.org/DOI: 10.19181/vis.2016.18.3.422


This article examines the value of knowing a language, which can be considered a resource during the process of migrants adapting and subsequently becoming integrated into multi-ethnical societies. Examined is Spain’s experience in studying this problem. Presented is a brief overview of migratory movements on the Iberian Peninsula, as well as the country’s linguistic situation, which directly influences the adaptation and integration process for migrants from various ethnic groups. The analysis resulted in identifying the distinctive features of the integration of Spanish speaking immigrants, as well as in determining the various functions of a language in the integration process for Spanish speaking and non Spanish-speaking immigrants. Based on reviewing studies by Spanish sociologists, revealed is the value of knowing the language of the host society when it comes to social and cultural adaptation. The article highlights two stages of people with various ethnic backgrounds immigrating to Spain. During the first stage (which took place in the 1960’s and 1970’s) immigrants amounted to only 1% of the country’s population, and they were mostly composed of people from other European countries. The end of the 1990’s marked a rapid increase in the influx of immigrants, and certain shifts occurred in their ethnic composition. An increased migratory flow from Latin American countries was observed. Thus immigrants became divided into Spanish-speaking and non Spanish-speaking, which posed the problem of unequal conditions for adapting and integrating into the host society. On one hand, knowing Spanish gave people from Latin America a certain advantage, on the other hand – Spanish-speaking immigrants had to adapt to the language situation in specific territories within the multicultural nation of Spain. Linguistic differences, which are present in the Spanish language and its multiple versions, become especially crucial when it comes to the adaptation of migrants. This article pays close attention to the way various versions of the Spanish language are perceived. Revealed is the fact that self-identification plays a major role in the integration of Spanish-speaking migrants. Meanwhile, the national version of the Spanish language becomes the determining factor when it comes to characteristics of group affiliation. The nature of migration, economic or personal (family reunification), also influences the adaptation or deep integration into the host environment. In modern conditions, when Russia’s society is dealing with issues such as regulating the influx of migrants (as well as their adaptation), examining the Spanish manifestations of these processes might become an additional resource when it comes to improving integrative processes in Russia.


adaptation, socio-linguistic integration, language, Spanish-speaking and non Spanish-speaking migrants, perception, identity.


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