European Journal of Language Policy

Mediating migration crises

Sicily and the languages of despair

European Journal of Language Policy (2018), 10, (2), 229–253.

Abstract

Connected with a broader project on crisis translation, this article presents the results of a small-scale survey of the linguistic response to the arrivals in Sicily of migrants who cross the Mediterranean Sea. The contribution focuses on how intercultural mediators, NGO operators working around ports and reception centres in Eastern Sicily, as well as migrants portray their experience of the Italian institutions’ language policies supporting interlingual communication.

Firstly, we provide a succinct overview of the Italian legal frameworks regulating language mediation and cultural support to migrants in the early phases of reception. Secondly, we discuss data collected through open-ended questions and observations, conducted in-situ by means of recorded interviews with a range of social actors involved in the linguistic and cultural mediations (including five interviews with intercultural mediators; five with migrants; and five with NGOs personnel and psychologists providing support in the various stages of the reception of migrants).

By adopting ethnographic methods, the interview data are analysed here qualitatively and thematically to identify shared concerns and contrasting views on the ways in which immigration laws and policies regulating language mediation are interpreted by practitioners and migrants. Finally, the article reflects on these interpretations against the applicability of the legal framework as perceived by those who implement the policies and guidelines to accommodate language needs of migrants.

Cette contribution, connectée avec un projet plus ample sur la traduction de crises, présente les résultats d’une enquête sur la réponse linguistique aux débarquements des migrants qui traversent la Méditerranée arrivant en Sicile. Cet article se concerne de la manière dont les migrants, les médiateurs interculturels et les personnels de ONG, qui travaillent dans les ports et les centres d’accueil en Sicile orientale, dépeignent leurs expériences de l’application des politiques linguistiques italiennes qui soutiennent la communication interlinguale.

D’abord, on offre un panoramique sur les cadres légaux italiens réglementant la médiation linguistique et le soutien culturel aux migrants dans les premières phases d’accueil. Depuis, on discute les données à partir de questions ouvertes et d’observations collectées pendant des entretiens enregistrés avec des divers acteurs sociaux impliqués dans les médiations linguistiques et culturelles (5 entretiens avec des médiateurs interculturels, 5 avec des migrants et 5 avec personnels de ONG et psychologues soutenant la première phase de l’accueil des migrants).

En adoptant des méthodes ethnographiques, les données des entretiens sont analysées qualitativement et thématiquement pour identifier les préoccupations partagées et les points de vue opposés sur la façon dont les politiques d’immigration italiennes, qui gèrent la médiation linguistique, sont interprétées par les praticiens et les migrants. Enfin, l’article termine en réfléchissant sur ces interprétations par rapport à leur applicabilité autant qu’elle est perçue par ceux qui doivent appliquer ces lignes directrices de la politique linguistique pour soutenir les exigences linguistiques des migrants.

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Author details

Filmer, Denise

Federici, Federico M.