Multilingualism in Immigrant Communities

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Immigrant multilingualism is a very complex topic. It is at the crossroads of multiple disciplines that have fundamentally different perspectives on the topic. Depending on the ideological approach taken, immigrant multilingualism is seen either as a deficit or as a resource. Immigrant minority (IM henceforth) languages are most often associated with problems of poverty, underachievement in schools, social and cultural problems, as well as lack of integration into the society of residence. Even though policy makers make a sharp distinction between national, regional minority, and immigrant minority languages, these languages have much in common. Depending on the status of national and minority languages, there are rigid boundaries between them. On their sociolinguistic, educational, and political agendas, we find issues such as their actual spread; their domestic and public vitality; the processes and determinants of language maintenance versus shift toward majority languages; the relationship between language, ethnicity, and identity; and the status of minority languages in schools, in particular in the compulsory stages of primary and secondary education. In line with the aims of this volume, issues surrounding immigrant multilingualism are discussed in this chapter. The focus will be on societal and educational aspects of immigrant multilingualism in a number of national contexts ranging from Australia to the EU.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage Awareness & Multilingualism
EditorsJasone Cenoz, Durk Gorter, Stephen May
Number of pages15
VolumeEncyclopedia of Language and Education
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-02325-0
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Bilingualism
  • Discrimination
  • Immigrant bilingualism
  • Language as resource or deficit
  • Linguistic integration
  • Multilingualism
  • Social hierarchy of languages


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