Did you know that there are more than 555,000 migrants in Portugal in 2021? Coming to a new country and being able to integrate can be challenging for individuals with different cultural backgrounds. Language is an important tool for integration and an essential tool for intercultural communication. In this article we will share five main reasons why language is key for integration.
1 – Understanding each other
Language helps us express our feelings and thoughts and it allows us to share our ideas with others. A lot of human communication is non-verbal: feelings and thoughts are mostly demonstrated by facial expressions, tone of voice and emotions. But most communication takes place verbally. You use verbal communication on an everyday basis: talking with friends, asking a question to a store employee, saying hello to your neighbour etc. Language is important for personal communication. But what if this store employee doesn’t speak the same language as you do? By learning a foreign language, you’ll be able to understand ideas and thoughts from different cultures. Sharing a language is necessary for verbal interactions and is especially important for integration in a new country or city. By giving the opportunity to learn a new language, SPEAK helps people feel integrated in their new cities.
2 – Getting to know other cultures
Learning a language is important as it allows you to connect with people from different cultures. Khaled Hosseini – novelist and ‘United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ goodwill ambassador – once said: “If culture was a house, then language was the key to the front door, [and] to all the rooms inside.” Everybody’s cultural identity is dependent on different factors including gender, ethnicity, religion and not to forget: language. Therefore, it is not surprising that when people with different cultural backgrounds interact with each other, the most difficult barriers they face is the difference between their language. Language is one of the most important aspects of a culture. Language not only allows for people to communicate but also helps people build meaningful relationships and create a sense of community. If you are interested in learning more about this subject, you can read this article.
3 – Creating meaningful connections
It can be very challenging to learn how to communicate and make connections with people who don’t speak the same language. Part of making new connections is your ability to communicate with one another. Whenever you get acquainted with the language of your host country, it is way easier to connect with people. This is mainly because you get a better understanding of the culture, the way of communicating and the language itself. You can joke around and really get to know new people. One of the main goals of SPEAK is to make sure newcomers are able to make meaningful connections. Not only by learning a new language, but also by giving tips on getting to know new people and organizing events where you can meet them.
4 – Having better access to the labour market
One of the benefits of learning the language of the country you live in is better access to the labour market. Because how will you find a job after moving to a new country if you don’t speak the language? In order to find a job, it is important that you understand and speak the local language. This is important because language is vital in order to master a job interview or network with others. The inclusion of migrants in the labour market is key to ensure their effective integration. Ensuring that migrants learn the language and get their educational and professional skills validated and recognized is essential for their overall integration. It also has a positive economic impact in the receiving societies. One important aspect of language learning is that it should be accessible and affordable to all.
5 – Creating a feeling of belonging
Language is an important part of how people in a community reinforce their solidarity to one another and is often the basis of any community. Through the use of language, members of a community are able to express themselves, their culture, their heritage and their thoughts. Those are important factors when it comes to the feeling of belonging to a certain community. When you’re able to express your identity and get the feeling you get accepted by your community, your sense of belonging to that community grows. Ultimately, whenever people get a feeling that they belong to the society they live in, integration will thrive.
Do you want to learn a new language and get more integrated in the city you live in? We have free online and in-person language groups in 25 different cities. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.