How Can Migrants’ Language Proficiency Be Measured? A Discussion of Opportunities and Challenges When Studying the Impact of Language Skills on Social Position

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.33182/ml.v17i5.803

Keywords:

migration, social inequalities, language proficiency, social position, language measures

Abstract

Language proficiency is crucial for migrants’ social position in the labour market and therefore plays a key role in the (re-)production of social inequalities in modern societies. There are different ways of capturing language skills in quantitative studies. However, it is important to question the extent to which existing language measures mirror migrants’ realities and relevant linguistic everyday life practices. In our paper, we contribute to this question by disentangling various measures of language proficiency. We use a large sample of migrants in Germany (GSOEP) that contains numerous language measures. We conduct detailed quantitative analyses on how various language variables influence migrants’ social position, by which we mean migrants’ socioeconomic status (as measured by ISEI). The ISEI is mainly based on occupation, but also on education and income. Our findings indicate that especially the self-assessed German speaking proficiency is an important and parsimonious predictor for migrants’ social position in Germany.

Author Biographies

Isabell Diekmann, Bielefeld University; Institute of Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS), Osnabrueck University

Isabell Diekmann studied Sociology (M.A.) and Educational Sciences (B.A.) in Bielefeld and Osnabrueck (Germany) and is now doctoral researcher at Bielefeld Graduate School in History and Sociology (BGHS). In her dissertation project she focuses on hostile attitudes towards Muslims and Islam in Germany. She currently works at the Institute of Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) at Osnabrueck University in a project on “Social Work in Migration Society” and at the Center on Migration, Citizenship and Development at Bielefeld University in a project called “Asian Educational Mobilities”. Her main research interests are migration, discrimination, and social inequalities.

Joanna Jadwiga Fröhlich, Bielefeld University

Joanna Jadwiga Fröhlich (née Sienkiewicz), dr. phil., is researcher in a project on “Transnational Mobility and Social Positions in the European Union” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) at Bielefeld University. In her doctoral thesis she studied the social protection networks of migrants from Kazakhstan in Germany and their relatives in Kazakhstan (2017). Her thesis was part of a project on “Transnationality, and the Unequal Distribution of Social Protection” in the framework of the Collaborative Research Centre “From Heterogeneities to Inequality” (Bielefeld University). She studied Sociology (M.A. and B.A.). Her research interests include migration, social inequality and (transnational) research methods.

Published

2020-09-28

How to Cite

Diekmann, I., & Fröhlich, J. J. (2020). How Can Migrants’ Language Proficiency Be Measured? A Discussion of Opportunities and Challenges When Studying the Impact of Language Skills on Social Position. Migration Letters, 17(5), 695-704. https://doi.org/10.33182/ml.v17i5.803

Issue

Section

Articles