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Accepted Paper:

The Role of the State in Teaching Icelandic to Foreigners: Icelanders' and Immigrant Language Learners' Opinions  
Pamela Innes (University of Wyoming)

Paper short abstract:

The Icelandic state and citizens expect immigrants learn Icelandic. At issue for Icelanders and adult learners are the state's and learners' roles in reaching this goal. Interviews show there is tension between Iceland's position as a Scandinavian welfare state and its responsibility to learners.

Paper long abstract:

The Icelandic state and its citizens expect immigrants to learn Icelandic. Those coming from outside the EU must learn Icelandic to receive residence visas and citizenship, and most take the steps necessary to receive those documents. Members of the general public expect all immigrants to develop conversational ability in Icelandic, no matter their national background, and many do. This push to have immigrants learn the national language appears to be directed only one way, with little national accommodation to the immigrant communities. As Joppke (2007), Borevi (2010), and Jensen (2014) have discussed, there is tremendous symbolic import in noting whether the direction of accommodation flows from immigrant community to receiving community, vice versa, or involves a reciprocal exchange. It would appear from the outside as though Iceland is concerned that immigrants adopt Icelandic ways without finding the immigrants' practices to be worthy of acknowledgment and interest. And yet, an issue that arose frequently in focus groups with Icelanders and individual interviews with immigrant learners is the role of the state and individual learners in accomplishing the stated goals. The comments demonstrate there is tension between Iceland's position as a Scandinavian welfare state, which should make it responsive to social need, and the homogenous requirements it has developed. But, both Icelanders and learners mitigate the state's role by positioning learners as the parties responsible for their linguistic development. These tensions and the rhetorical strategies that do little to address them will be investigated in this paper.

Panel P061
Linguistic agency and responsibility in (im-)mobility
  Session 1 Friday 17 August, 2018, -