Languages can bring communities together. We can see how this can happen in this article in Der Spiegel. When we speak a foreign language, we move outside of ourselves. We enter into area where we are uncomfortable and vulnerable so that we can communicate with someone who will be better at communicating than us. Citizens want immigrants to learn the citizens’ language, to become vulnerable so that the citizens do not have to be vulnerable or move out of themselves for the immigrants’ sake.
Citizens cannot force immigrants to learn the language of the broader community without enacting laws and punishing people. But they always have the ability to learn the immigrants’ language. Few take advantage of this ability.
The school mentioned in this article offers Turkish lessons in Berlin, Germany. Turks make up a sizable community in Berlin: about 8%–the largest Turkish community outside Turkey. Moreover, nationalist Germans often target Turks. Turks feel so unwelcome that more than half want to leave.
This school offers a brave, unorthodox way to bring communities together. In major cities in the US, people are learning Spanish to communicate with immigrant communities. Now that Chinese is being taught more broadly, however, I’m not sure how many Chinese-learners have their eye on communicating with local Chinese communities. I’m fascinated by East African immigrants and refugees in the US–but very few places teach those languages.
Would teaching “community languages” to English-speakers help heal rifts among groups in the US?
- Oh, to be bilingual in the Anglosphere (newscientist.com)
- Let immigrants come and Britain will boom (blogs.telegraph.co.uk)
- Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service Applauds Increased Funding for Refugee Resettlement (prweb.com)