Integration, automatic or an individual decision?

by Sian Taylor

In this essay I will analyse some different levels of integration of immigrants in certain places of the world. I will then state that immigrants aim to achieve different levels of integration depending on the reasons that brought them to migrate and what they want to do when they are in that determined country.

In the second part of the essay I will give my personal opinion on the utility and necessity of immigrants being bilingual, knowing both their original language and the language of the host country they are living in.

The reading “Salsa and ketchup: transnational migrants straddle two worlds” analysed the immigration and integration levels in America, but that is not the only way of integration. In Europe, for example, people decide to migrate to one country or another depending on what their aim is.

In Great Britain, for example, the situation is quite similar to the one of the U.S.A., immigrants are interested in settling down for a long period of time in the country, and manage to become integrated in society, but still nurture some traditions and sense of belonging of the country they are from. They will normally return to their home towns to see their relatives once or twice a year.

Many people will also decide to run a shop selling their typical products, as a way of keeping their two worlds connected.

In Italy on the other hand, the situation is considerably different. Immigrants plan on staying in the country only for a few years, just until they make a satisfying amount of money to take back home to their families. Immigrants won’t therefore try and integrate themselves, but consider living in Italy as merely a way to send the money back home. By not integrating themselves, people don’t have a sense of belonging to Italy and I think that is a negative and potentially dangerous both for them and the  country itself.

If immigrants, who decide to live that way tend to go to Italy and not the UK for example, that means that consciously or unconsciously the Italian State is promoting this type of relationship with immigrants, and that should get to an end.

In conclusion, depending on what migrating people are looking for, they will decide to go to one or another country and decide what level of integration they want to pursue. The process, in my opinion is not that automatic as we may think it is, but it is rather decided by the single individuals.

At this moment in time, I will briefly focus on the bilingualism of immigrants. Once immigrant families get to the country they want to live in, their children will have to go to school and learn the local language. It is shown that immigrants lose the ability of speaking their original language in the third generation of offspring.

I consider knowing both languages an opportunity that cannot be lost. Immigrant children should be able to speak the host country’s language in order to communicate and integrate in society, and should be able to speak their parents and ancestors language in order to communicate with their families and nurture at least a little part of where they originally belong to.

Moreover, the study the reading was analysing proves that bilingualism is positive in many different ways for children, starting from when they are going to school and before, regarding cognitive performances and self esteem, to the better job opportunities they will have in the future, being able to speak two or more languages fluently.

I was brought up as a bilingual child myself, and I think that this really paved the roads of the world for me. So I would like to conclude by saying that bilingualism, is most definitely a positive aspect that should be pursued by everyone and especially by the immigrants for the reasons I previously stated.

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