Reference : Super-diversity and self-employment: The language use of ethnic entrepreneurs
Scientific Presentations in Universities or Research Centers : Scientific presentation in universities or research centers
Arts & humanities : Languages & linguistics
Super-diversity and self-employment: The language use of ethnic entrepreneurs
Serwe, Stefan Karl mailto [University of Luxembourg > Faculty of Language and Literature, Humanities, Arts and Education (FLSHASE) > Languages, Culture, Media and Identities (LCMI) >]
Sociolinguistic Symposium 19
21-24 August 2012
Freie Universität Berlin
[en] Ethnic entrepreneurship ; Language practices ; Language at the workplace ; Language biographies
[en] In the wake of globalization, technological and infrastructural changes have substantially increased the mobility of migrants all over the world. Across Europe these developments have added more variety to migration populations, a fact that has been identified as super-diversity (Vertovec 2007, 2009). Studying linguistic diversity and variation, sociolinguists have begun the examination of language in super-diverse settings, in order to describe the interweaving and meshing of languages, identities, and language practices (Creese & Blackledge 2010, Blommaert & Rampton 2011). One particularly interesting field within which migrants make use of these transnational and ethnic resources is self-employment (Light & Gold 2000). In this professional domain the knowledge of (multiple) languages and ways of communicating has been presented as an asset and a challenge. To date studies that investigate the linguistic life worlds of migrant entrepreneurs in detail are only few in number. Focusing on the border region between Germany and Luxembourg, this paper aims to explore two aspects of the link between language use and self-employment among non-EU migrants. Firstly, I intend to understand the entrepreneurs’ linguistic trajectories into self-employment. Another aim is to explore how the professional endeavour has shaped each migrant’s linguistic repertoire. The analysis is part of a dissertation research project investigating the language practices of non-EU ethnic entrepreneurs. Following the approach of linguistic ethnography (Creese 2008), oral narrative interviews were part of the data generation. The analysis was informed by the study of language biographies as described by Franceschini (2002) with the aim of focusing on the entrepreneurs’ everyday reasons and experiences using and learning languages at and for their professional practices. The results show that for these migrant entrepreneurs the workplace becomes a site of informal acquisition of the majority languages. On the other hand language practices linked to business activities are sites of language maintenance of heritage languages. The data thus reveals patterns of language diversity management that is directly connected to the entrepreneur’s practical, occupational needs. Moreover, it shows the usefulness of employing language biographies as one of the methods to explore language use and learning in super-diverse workplace settings.
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