Skaptadóttir, U.D. & Innes, P.
Immigrant Experiences of Learning Icelandic and Connecting with the Speaking Community.
Skaptadóttir, U.D. & Innes, P. (2017). Immigrant Experiences of Learning Icelandic and Connecting with the Speaking Community, Nordic Journal of Migration Research 7 (1): 20-27.
The Icelandic language has a central role in defining Icelandic nationality. Given its importance in defining Icelandic nationality and as a precondition for citizenship, the article studies what learning the Icelandic language means for the growing numbers of immigrants who have arrived in Iceland in recent years. This ethnographic study presents immigrants’ perspectives on learning the language to be able to participate at work as well as gain access to the language community and Icelandic society in order to examine theory-based questions regarding processes of inclusion, exclusion and integration. Our study shows that although language is promoted as an important aspect in inclusion into Icelandic society, many of our participants who have attended classes but work mostly with other immigrants experience the language requirements instead as a boundary marker in terms of participation and belonging in Icelandic society.
Nationality, Icelandic language, immigrants, inclusion, exclusion
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Language learning and use in the host country can be both inclusive and exclusive. Too much diversity can be an obstacle to effective language learning. ‘’One thing that those who took classes point out is that the group they were with in class affected how productive the course was for them. When the student body was too diverse in terms of mother tongue, former education or desire to learn Icelandic, they did not feel satisfied with their growth in class. Both authors spoke with people who had taken classes including students from divergent geographic and national backgrounds. In class, English often became the go-to language for explanations, particularly when the teachers suspected that students could not understand directions and clarifications in Icelandic. Some reported that they thought they learned more English than Icelandic in these mixed classes, whilst others complained that this use of English effectively excluded them. Especially in rural villages, highly educated and illiterate learners were together in a class, often with teachers not trained to teach about literacy. This occurred in classes within Reykjavík, too, and the second author witnessed frustration amongst teachers and students in classes with diverse levels of literacy preparation’’.
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