Linguistic diversity and asylum 

Susanne Becker

- completed -

Within the framework of the larger project, ‘Diversity of Asylum-seekers’ Needs and Aspirations’, the linguistic diversity and linguistic needs of asylum-seekers were examined. The project’s findings show that institutions and their actors often have only a little knowledge and awareness for the huge linguistic diversity of asylum-seekers. Legitimized by an integration discourse that views learning the German language as a main factor of integration, German is privileged as a language in the interactions of German institutions and volunteers with asylum-seekers. The incorporation of this discourse by asylum-seekers can be observed, which leads to an extensive need for German language courses. While state-funded courses are only available in limited numbers and for selected groups of asylum-seekers, a huge number of locally funded or voluntary German language courses are trying to fill the gap. This development is accompanied by challenges arising from a huge diversity of course arrangements and highly diverse teacher qualifications. In addition to the German language courses, there is an extensive need for interpretation and translation services in the field of asylum. Since legal entitlement to interpretation is restricted to only a very few circumstances like court procedures, interpretation and translation needs are mainly addressed by volunteers and language mediators. Institutions often allocate interpreters of official languages due to better accessibility and the staff’s lack of knowledge of the high linguistic diversity of the asylum-seekers they are interacting with.

Initial findings on linguistic diversity in the asylum process have been presented at several national and international conferences.

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