New Speakers in a Multilingual
Europe: Opportunities and
Heriot-Watt University, Edinburgh
High Level Group on Multilingualism
• EU Member States have by now become
multilingual and multicultural societies and
require strategies at local, regional, and
member State level for facilitating
communication across language and cultural
boundaries (EC 2007: 6)
Traditional foundations of linguistic
Defining “New speakers”
• Multilingual individuals who adopt, acquire
and to varying degrees use a language or
languages other than their “native” language
• minoritized languages
– Irish, Galician, Basque, Welsh, Breton, Faroese
First language Serbian
“new speaker” of Faroese
• immigrants and transnational workers
– Polish, Urdu, Yoruba, Chinese, Serbian etc.
speakers of the language of the host country
First language Polish
moved to Ireland in 2004
“new speaker” of English
Speak English or lose benefits: Cameron to
stop payouts to immigrants who use
• What exactly does proficiency mean?
• What counts as fluency?
• Who decides this?
• What are the consequences of these
• Computer woes: Irish vet fails oral English
test in Australian visa bid (Irish Independent
8 August 2017
• Speak English or you’re fired! Foreign workers banned from
speaking their own language or told they face the sack (Daily
Mail February 2014)
– Workers at Hobbycraft warehouse in Burton ordered to only speak
– Manager says the move is intended to create a 'good working
– But unnamed Polish employee describes the rule as 'silly'
• Beliefs and feelings about language and
speakers of certain languages or with certain
• Not truths
– New speakers as legitimate speakers?
– Standard versus dialectal varieties?
– Who has authority?
– Who gets access to resources?
– Who makes decisions?
– Whose voice is heard?
– Educational provision?