Article abstract: Language in the context of integration policy – What importance has language as an inclusion strategy in integration policy in the Norwegian Society?

Ronald Nolet, who is associate professor at University College of Østfold, Norway and member of the research group AreaS, has been working with an article discussing how language can be used as a tool or a strategy to improve the conditions of inclusion of immigrants of the Norwegian society. This article is soon to be published. Here is the abstract.

opplaeringLearning the native language is seen in Norway as the most important tool for integration of immigrants. This article will examine which role language has in the integration processes in Norway.  When immigrants come to Norway they are offered courses for learning the Norwegian language and for obtaining some basic knowledge about the society. Asylum seekers are placed in compulsory courses or “Introduction Programs for Immigrants” where the focus lays on the Norwegian language and on certain knowledge about the Norwegian society. These courses are however not compulsory for all immigrants, but only for asylum seekers. It seems that the assumption in Norway is that learning the Norwegian language is the main and in fact also the key factor of becoming successfully integrated into the Norwegian society.

It is assumed that learning and eventually knowing the language will lead to more and better integration and inclusion into the society by itself.  This article argues that the focus on language as the main key for integration into the Norwegian society also can create unfortunate side effects. I will argue that not all immigrants will master learning and knowing the language. For the immigrants that do not succeed it should be obvious that the society should have alternatives to this approach carried out today. In this article I will examine whether there is a pattern for not succeeding learning and knowing the language amongst certain immigrants and eventually why that is the case. The questions one might raise are: When are immigrants able enough to master the language and when are they not?

Secondly I will examine whether the focus on language as the main approach and even as the universal key to a successful integration into Norway can create a common believe that as long as the immigrants are not able to speak and write and understand the language well enough, they are not becoming successfully integrated, and therefor will fall outside the society.

In this article I will examine if language can be seen as a doxa. Through examining the role of the language as an important feature throughout the modern history of Norway, since the development of Norway as a nation in 1814, and when it comes to bringing up people into a national awareness and sentiment, i.e. integration, I will try to establish the importance of understanding that language has formed a kind of a undebatable truth, a doxa. When something becomes a doxa, it is very difficult to get the ideas adjusted to fit into more realistic approaches to a holistic and inclusive integration policy. Furthermore in this article I will argue that this approach might also lead to more exclusion of immigrant peoples in the Norwegian society.