Linguistic Changes of an Individual in Migration

Topics: Language, Official language, Language policy Pages: 7 (2051 words) Published: January 18, 2013
Introduction and Overview of Topic:

As the world becomes increasingly globalised, we observe a rising trend where individuals migrate for educational and economic opportunities. The prestige of being educated in a highly ranked university and the prospects of higher paying jobs are definitely important pull factors for both internal and international migration (Welch, 1970). When people move, they also transfer the use of their existing linguistic repertoire to their host country. However, what might have been effective at home might be interpreted differently when placed in different socioeconomic contexts. Hence, the relative value of linguistic repertoire one possesses and how mobile are one’s language skills in the world determines how a migrant interacts with a new community.

Consequently, this paper seeks to provide insight on how the relative value of linguistic resources affects one’s mobility and decisions in community interactions. Drawing on Blommaert’s study on the sociolinguistics of globalisation, this discussion will focus on how an individual’s linguistic repertoire is being used to one’s advantage within the community. It also highlights the changes which occur when one attempts to transfer the same linguistic repertoire as the shift to a place of varying cultural and linguistic ability. As Blommaert suggests, “placed resources are resources that are functional in one particular place but can become dysfunctional as soon as they are moved to other places” (Blommaert, 2003). Essentially, this essay seeks to expound on the changes of one’s linguistic repertoire and how it affects one’s interactions with new communities resulting from migration.

Linguistic repertoire refers to linguistic varieties acquired by an individual to different degrees of proficiency and for different uses (Crystal, 1990). The acquisition of linguistic repertoire thus extends not only to the procurement of different types of language codes like English and Hindi, but also the speech styles and genres within each language.

In light of this definition, this paper chooses to trace how one’s use of language repertoire might change in the context of internal migration and international migration. With this in mind, a migrant from India who experienced both types of migration was chosen. India boasts twenty-two official languages as per the Constitution of India, where English is determined as the secondary official language and is used as lingua franca throughout India. Within the context of this paper, the experiences of the migrant serve to provide personal insight on language mobility within the transmigrational arena.

Research methodology and background of interviewee

With this in mind, a fifty minute interview was carried out on 16th October 2012 to gather substantial data in order to provide a comparison between internal and international migration. The sole participant is Joshua Cherian, aged 24 who is currently pursuing a postgraduate education in Singapore. He was born and raised in Kerala, Southern India, after which he moved to Jamshedpur, Northern India to pursue a tertiary education before working in New Delhi. He was taught English at a young age and learnt Hindi during university, while his mother tongue is Malayalam.

During the interview, questions were asked ranging from the interviewee’s experiences of language acquisition and his experiences in India and Singapore to language policies in India. Utilising his personal insights on adapting to different communities and observing it through the concepts provided in Blommaert’s study, the relative value of linguistic repertoire consequently becomes more obvious not only from country to country but also within different areas of the community.

Language repertoire in internal migration

Within India, it is said to have a de-facto three plus minus one language policy. Those who neither speak the language of the state nor the two official languages,...

References: 0. Blommaert, J. (2003). Commentary: A Sociolinguistics of Globalization. Journal of Sociolinguistics 7/4, 2003: 607-623
0. Crystal, D. (1990). A Liturgical Language in a Sociolinguistic Perspective. In D. & R.C.D. Jasper (eds),Language and the worship of the church (Basingstoke: Macmillan), 120-46
0. Laitin D. D. (1989). Language Policy and Political Strategy in India. Policy Sciences, Vol. 22, No. 3/4, Policymaking in Developing Countries (1989), pp. 415-436
0. Welch F. (1970). ‘ 'Education in Production ', Journal of Political Economy, 78 (1), January/February, 35-59
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