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Review of  The Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants / L’intégration linguistique des migrants adultes

Reviewer: Melissa B Hauber-Özer
Book Title: The Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants / L’intégration linguistique des migrants adultes
Book Author: Jean-Claude Beacco Hans-Jürgen Krumm David Little Philia Thalgott
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Language Acquisition
Issue Number: 29.2401

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Editor: Jean-Claude Beacco
Editor: Hans-Jürgen Krumm
Editor: David Little
Editor: Philia Thalgott
Title: The Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants / L’intégration linguistique des migrants adultes
Subtitle: Some lessons from research / Les enseignements de la recherche
Publisher: De Gruyter Mouton
Year: 2017

Reviewer: Melissa Hauber-Özer, George Mason University


This bilingual (English and French) edited volume reports on research presented at the Council of Europe’s 2016 symposium in Strasbourg, part of the Council’s Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants (LIAM) project. This project offers support for member states in developing and implementing educational policy and practice grounded in human rights and respect for diversity.

The entire book is available for download under creative commons licensing at

This compilation of symposium proceedings emphasizes the crucial role of education for the social and economic integration of adult migrants, particularly in promoting the development of language proficiency and cultural competence for the new society. However, the editors and several of the authors express concern about recent trends in Europe of imposing strict integration policies requiring proof of language proficiency in order to obtain residency or citizenship, which they believe potentially violate the dignity and human rights of migrants. In response, the editors propose modifying policy and practice to more fully honor migrants’ diverse identities and linguistic repertoires and offer these contributions from recent research to inform such changes.

The 54 chapters comprising this volume are organized in eight sections: keynote chapters addressing current issues; policy considerations; linguistic repertoires and multilingualism in the classroom; content, methods and materials; testing and assessment; language in the workplace; the needs of specific groups of learners; and the intersection of teaching and research. Taken together, the contributions present a wealth of knowledge about the needs of adult language learners and highlight appropriate practices to support learning and positive integration.

Keynote Chapters

Ofelia Garcia begins the volume by situating language learning in the context of current patterns of voluntary and forced migration and the associated changes to national identities and linguistic boundaries. Garcia seeks to disrupt the exclusion and racialization of minority language speakers by encouraging teachers to employ translanguaging to support meaningful, interactive acquisition of the dominant language that also honors migrants’ voices, values, languages, and cultures. In the second keynote chapter, Claude Springer addresses the role of web-based literacies and social networks in migrant’s linguistic integration. Springer suggests that the development of social inclusion projects that incorporate learners’ digital worlds would more fully facilitate integration. In the final keynote chapter, Rosemarie Tracy contrasts the original intent of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), to positively represent Europe’s linguistic and cultural diversity, with recent deficit-focused applications used to limit immigration by enforcing language proficiency thresholds for residency or citizenship. Tracy questions the utility of the CEFR to measure linguistic competence and warns of the potentially detrimental effects of such practices on integration.

Policies for Language and Integration

The second section of the book consists of seven chapters examining language and integration policy. First, Reinhilde Pulinx and Piet Van Avermaet present findings from a study of adult migrants in a compulsory newcomer integration program in Flanders, Belgium, which indicate that the program did little to increase migrants’ social participation. François Grin and Guillaume Fürst follow with the results of a survey of young Swiss citizens’ views on language and integration, finding unanimous expectations that immigrants learn the local language despite positive overall feelings toward migration. In the following chapter, Furio Bednarz provides an overview of language training policy and practice in France, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, and highlights a need for additional resources, teaching materials, and training for teachers and teacher educators to better meet the needs of today’s migrants. Brian North and Enrica Piccardo propose an amendment of the CEFR standards that surpasses static categories of receptive and productive skills to include more dynamic acts of socially negotiating meaning and processing information. Kate Hammer follows with a study linking perceived English proficiency among Polish young adult migrants in the U.K. with sociocultural integration. Monika Jezak and Encarnacion Carrasco examine language use and attitudes among migrants in multilingual contexts and call for an epistemological shift in settlement services and integration policy in such settings. Jamel Sarraj closes this section with an examination of policy implementation challenges in Switzerland, particularly regarding religious minorities, xenophobia, and labor participation.

Linguistic Repertoires and Integration

The five studies in this section focus on the use of linguistic repertoires in society, from the classroom to the courtroom. Thomas Laimer and Martin Wurzenrainer describe a partnership between an adult education institution, two small NGOs, and a university-based research unit in Vienna aiming to incorporate a dynamic concept of multilingualism in the language classroom. The next two chapters investigate heritage language maintenance and identity constructs in minority communities in France: Büsra Hamurcu Süverdem in the case of the Turkish population and Salih Akin among the Kurdish diaspora. Isabelle Bambust then examines language use in judicial contexts, while Antonelle Benucci closes this section with a report on linguistic repertoires in the penitentiary system.

Teaching: Content, Methods, and Materials

Making up the lengthiest section in the volume by far, these twelve chapters examine the instructional needs of adult learners and appropriate responses. Emile Lebreton reports on an interventional research study in two French language training organizations and advocates for deeper reflection among stakeholders and consultation with learners to inform practice. Thomas Fritz and Dilek Donat discuss barriers to learning among young adult migrants, finding a need for stability, social connections, and trust to support educational progress. Myriam Schleiss and Margrit Hagenow-Caprez describe the implementation of the innovative _fide_ framework for migrant integration in Switzerland, and Enrica Piccardo and Danielle Hunter show the potential of an online platform to encourage motivation, confidence, learning, and awareness of community services among immigrant learners in Ontario, Canada. George Androulakis, Anastasia Gkaintartzi, Roula Kitsiou and Sofia Tsioli report on two nationwide Greek as a second language initiatives aimed at empowering immigrants and fostering social cohesion through task-based learning in a supportive environment. Next, Michel Gout discusses four language instruction approaches for newcomers: the use of identity texts for self-expression, artistic and theatrical activities to promote positive interactions in the new language, speaking from within to negotiate cultural differences, and empowerment training to increase leadership and civic engagement.

In their contribution, Peter Lenz and Malgorzata Barras examine how teaching chunks can impact beginner-level German learners’ oral and written proficiency. Christa Nieuwboer and Rogier van’t Rood outline principles of adult learning with particular attention to migrants’ needs to develop intercultural communication and negotiate changes in personal cultural identity. Katherine Swinney describes a participatory study engaging adult English language students, teachers, and providers in a super-diverse community in Sheffield, Northern England in advocacy for continued funding for community education. Sabrina Machetti and Lorenzo Rocca follow with their detailed description of the Italian Knowledge of Society test, which is required along with basic language proficiency (CEFR Level A2) for residency and citizenship, and illuminate possible ethical problems with the assessment. The following chapter, by Agnes Kukulska-Hulme, Mark Gaved, Ann Jones, Lucy Norris, and Alice Peasgood, explores potential uses of smartphone applications for extending language learning beyond the classroom through flexible, self-directed, personalized engagement with the surrounding linguistic environment. Mariet Schiepers, Annelies Houben, Annelies Nordin, Helga Van Loo, Helena Van Nuffel, Leen Verrote, and Kris Van den Branden complete this section with six guiding principles for online second language learning: authentic content, relevant tasks, learner control, instant feedback, connection of online tasks to the real world, and easy access.

Language Testing and Assessment for Integration

The six contributions in this section examine the use of language assessment in migration policy, particularly as a condition for permanent residency and citizenship. Jane Lloyd and Michaela Perlmann-Balme begin with a brief position paper addressing ethical concerns in language assessment and the use of proficiency tests to limit migration and integration, and Boris Printschitz contests language tests for residency as “instruments of power” (p. 241) used for exclusion and often based on inconsistent and arbitrary criteria. The bulk of the contributions in this section highlight concerns regarding the design, ethics, validity, and effects on integration of language proficiency instruments imposed for residency in France and Switzerland (Coraline Pradeau), Italy (Paola Masillo), and the Czech Republic (Jitka Cvejnová and Kamila Sladkovská). Sari Ohranen, Heidi Vaarala, and Taina Tammelin-Laine conclude the section with a more optimistic perspective from Finland, describing the development of a standardized assessment model that evaluates oral and written production and comprehension as well as literacy and basic mathematics skills to facilitate more meaningful educational experiences.

Language and the workplace

This section addresses linguistic challenges and potential supports for integrating migrants in the workforce. Anke Settelmeyer begins with a study of the communicative tasks employees need for success in the retail and medical sectors, which employ high numbers of migrants, to inform targeted language instruction. Aurélie Bruneau’s chapter follows with an examination of how female migrants in France acquire socio-linguistic competencies in order to participate in social life and the workforce. Using statistical analysis of Euro stat data from 26 EU member states, Michele Gazzola reports on correlations between between migrants’ language acquisition and economic integration. Matilde Grünhage-Monetti and Alexander Braddell then describe the efforts of the Language for Work Network (LfW) to support contextualized language learning for workplace integration, while Braddell and Linda Miller report on barriers to attending language classes for low-income migrants in London and recommend targeted supports. Matilde Grünhage-Monetti and Anna Svet report on an empirical analysis of the “German at the workplace” project, finding that communication skills are crucial for migrants to access employment and advance in their careers across industries and jobs. In Bradell’s third co-authored contribution to this volume, he joins Kerstin Sjösvärd in challenging common assumptions that workplace engagement leads to language acquisition among migrants and describing large-scale linguistic integration projects employed in Sweden to increase both the language and vocational skills of care providers from migration backgrounds. Sonya Sahradyan’s linguistic ethnographic study of migrants working for an NGO in Finland closes the section with an example of how employers can support migrants’ language learning through engagement in organized language classes as well as everyday workplace tasks such.

Towards linguistic integration: specific learner groups

This section of the book examines language learning among specific categories of migrants, with a focus on learners with limited formal education and literacy. Samira Moukrim explores language barriers experienced by non-French speaking immigrant women in France, exemplifying how communication difficulties decrease access to healthcare and increase costs. Marcello Amoruso and Mari D’Agostino examine the challenges of integrating learners with varying educational backgrounds in language classes in Palermo, Italy, suggesting the incorporation of arts-based activities to support literacy development. Stefano Kluzer and Rocco De Paolis propose a technology-based approach to meeting the needs of language learners acquiring basic literacy in Italy and describe the development of a thematic curriculum and accompanying teacher training protocol. Fernanda Minuz and Alessandro Borri relate the process of developing and validating CEFR-based standards and criteria for teaching and assessing Italian language and literacy, which include domains, content themes, “can do” descriptors, and a lexicon. Marie Hélène Lachaud examines the development of written language, highlighting the connection between oral and written language skills and the potential to build upon learners’ competencies to facilitate workplace integration. Antonella Benucci and Marilisa Birello bring the reader’s attention back to the penitentiary context with their contribution on best practices for rehabilitating and integrating adult migrants from diverse backgrounds in the prison system across Europe.

Linguistic integration: teachers and researchers

This final section applies a more theoretical lens to language acquisition research. In the first chapter, Massimiliano Spotti examines the use of deficit discourse in a Dutch language class for asylum seekers in Belgium, emphasizing the importance of a perspective that recognizes and draws on students’ linguistic resources. Maude Vadot’s contribution analyzes the use of the term ‘integration’ in French language education for migrants, finding the meaning and the relationship of this process with language learning to be vague and poorly understood. Eric Mercier challenges underlying assumptions in the French and dominant European emphasis on language acquisition as a necessity for integration and the effects of this ideology on policy and teaching practice. Marie-Cécile Guernier, Marie-Hélène Lachaud, and Jean-Pierre Sautot analyze two models of teaching French to adult migrants with limited education, which alternatively discount or build on learners’ existing skills. Carla Bagna, Luana Cosenza, and Luisa Salvati present a case study on Italian teachers’ perceptions of the challenges of working with migrant learners who have limited education and literacy and offer recommendations about placement, assessment, instruction, and teacher training. Rola Naeb and Martha Scholten address this need for professional development in the next contribution, which describes the collaborative development of the EU-Speak project consisting of six free online training modules for teachers of low-literacy language learners. Véronique Castellotti, Emmanuelle Huver, and Fabienne Leconte complete the volume by examining the role and ethical duties of research regarding the linguistic integration of migrants and calling into question the assumptions underlying much of current policy and practice in the field. The authors echo two prevalent themes in the volume, a problematic deficit perspective of learners with limited prior education and the use of language proficiency testing for nationality and residency, and highlight a need for additional research leading to a more nuanced understanding of learner identity and the learning context.


This dense volume contains a variety of perspectives on the barriers to and potential supports for language learning among migrants in Europe. Overall, the book provides glimpses into the current landscape of language policy and practice in Europe and is a helpful resource for researchers, policy advocates, curriculum developers, and program administrators. The selections suggesting classroom-based methods offered fresh insights and practical ideas, although additional detail would be more useful for implementing these approaches. As a result, the volume is perhaps less useful for classroom teachers than for administrators, scholars, and policymakers.

With the exception of the keynote chapters, contributions are quite short, consisting for the most part of concise explanations of particular contexts, study results, and implications for migrant integration. However, this means that they often lack depth and detailed descriptions of research design and findings. Several chapters refer readers to expanded information available online (see Schleiss & Hagenow-Caprez; Schiepers et al.; Grünhage-Monetti & Braddell), which can be useful for study replication or modification for other contexts.

Although the overall organization of the book is logical, three sections, the third (“Linguistic repertoires”), penultimate (“Towards linguistic integration: specific learner groups”), and final (“Linguistic integration: teachers and researchers”) sections lack cohesion. Several of the chapters have clear connections with other sections, and it is unclear why the editors chose to group them in this way. For example, Vadot’s and Mercier’s chapters would fit well in the policy section, and Benucci and Birello’s chapter would logically follow Benucci’s other contribution describing linguistic integration efforts in the penitentiary system. Additionally, the numerous chapters addressing literacy-level instruction warrant a separate section.

The volume also lacks balance in geographical focus and language medium. “Language testing and assessment for integration” includes a range of perspectives, from Finland to the Czech Republic, while the majority of the chapters in “Towards linguistic integration: specific learner groups” are set in the Italian context. In addition, some sections are dominated by either French-medium (“Linguistic repertoires and integration” or English-medium (“Language teaching for integration,” “Language and the workforce”) chapters. Balance is understandably difficult to achieve when compiling conference proceedings, but this limits accessibility and applicability for readers.

These limitations aside, The Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants offers an up-to-date view of the complex field of language acquisition policy and practice in Europe. The volume highlights important ethical and practical quandaries, particularly related to the use of language proficiency testing as a gatekeeper for residency and citizenship. The book’s primary value is as a springboard for further research and the development of context-specific standards, curricula, targeted instruction, and fair and valid assessment procedures. As the concluding chapter highlights, much work clearly remains to be done in this area.
Melissa Hauber-Özer is pursuing her PhD in International Education George Mason University. Her research focuses on language and literacy learning for adult immigrants and refugees.

Format: Paperback
ISBN-13: 9783110477474
Pages: 431
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