This House would stimulate (or subsidise) mother tongue education for large immigrant groups.

In 2008 Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Germany, surprisingly for a national leader visiting a country with a large number of Turkish migrants he declared assimilation a “crime against humanity” and argued that Turks in Germany should study in their mother tongue, the language of one’s parents which is usually that learned from birth in the home, in schools and universities.[1]

Large immigrant groups can be found all over the world. The United States and Canada are particularly known as immigrant nations but immigrants go elsewhere as well and there are many countries that are net recipients of migrants such the European Union and it is not restricted to richer states, Oman and Malaysia were among countries with more immigrants than emigrants from 2008-12.[2] Examples relevant to this debate are Hispanics of Mexican origin that reside in the United States, the Turkish and Polish population that is currently living in Germany or Austria and also large Asian communities living in Canada.

The form of stimulating (or subsidizing) mother tongue education for large immigrant groups taken in this debate is allocating money from the national education budget to permit foreign parents that are part of such a group to build and implement school programs taught in their native language.

A different model of implementation would change the line of reason, the advantages and disadvantages of the motion and therefore the debate. Ideas will still be valid if they are the consequence of your proposed policy.

It is difficult to generalise about the situation of mother-tongue learning among immigrant groups. Some countries demand more integrated than others. In Europe migrants are often perceived as forming closed-circle societies with low and sometimes no interaction with people who are not immigrants, in the United States the opposite is the case and it is assumed a migrant will integrate. In reality almost all states are somewhere between the two poles. Parents that are the first and sometimes the second generation of immigrants understandably choose to talk to their children and within the family in their mother tongue. This phenomenon leads most of the times in children who are struggling to get education and achieve a better integration with the local people.

[1] The Economist, ‘Two unamalgamated worlds’, 3 April 2008,

[2] United Nations Population Division, ‘Net migration’,, 2013,


Minorities deserve linguistic rights

Everyone should have the right to communicate in their own mother tongue so enabling them to maintain their roots with their mother country. In a world of change, where people are able to move their residence from a country to another country, protecting minority rights becomes necessary. Some migrations are historically and economically driven, take place over decades, and involve large numbers. For example, an estimated 33.7 million Hispanics of Mexican origin live in the United States, with 11.4 million immigrants born in Mexico, accounting for almost 3.5% of the US population[1]. In Europe, a lot of migration there have been successive waves of migration, as a result of World War II, the end of empires, economic boom and the European Union. To take Germany first there was an influx from lands Germany lost as a result of the war, of Turks to help power the economic miracle meaning that now more that 2.6 million Turks live in Germany[2], and recently there has been an influx from Eastern and Southern Europe as Germany’s economy has held up in the Economic crisis. Each wave, or group of immigrants, forms a distinct community within their host nation. There is no reason why these groups should be forced to entirely give up their old identity as they embrace a new identity as a part of their host nation. Just as every human has rights so does every immigrant. Part of these rights should be education in the mother tongue. Language is what connects people and makes them able to communicate their feelings, emotions and ideas. A person should be able to communicate and express ideas in its own mother tongue in order to be able to create a connection with their family and the immigrant community that they live in.

[1] Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana, and Lopez, Mark Hugo, ‘A Demographic Portrait of Mexican Origin Hispanics in the United States’, PewResearch, 1 May 2013,

[2] The Economist, ‘Two unamalgamated worlds’, 3 April 2008,


The state has indeed certain obligations towards the immigrant groups both to individuals and if they represent a large part of the population to the group. Once you leave your country, you are no longer under the legislation of the country. You decide to sign a new social contract with the country that you emigrated to and therefore you are under their jurisdiction, obliged to respect their laws. Minority rights are respected in the sense that immigrants are not obliged to use the local language everywhere and at any time. You are still able to use your mother tongue language to talk to your family, your foreign friends and other people from the same country. These are the fundamentals and there are cases where linguistic rights are not respected, where the minority population is forbidden to talk or write in their mother tongue. This was the case if Turkey which forbade Kurds to speak their native language until 1991.[1] While these rights should be respected there is not ‘right’ for the state to provide, or subsidize, education in languages that are not the official language of the state. If large minority groups wish to provide such education that is their prerogative.

[1] Akreyi, Minhaj, ‘19th Century mentality in 21st Century: Kurdish language still banned in Turkey’, Alliance for Kurdish Rights, 12 March 2011,

Educating in their mother tongue is the best option for children’s education

Because parents that are immigrants teach their kids only the mother tongue, at the age in which they should go to school they barely know the local language. Their parents sometimes don’t know the language of the country that they live in and other times they choose not to use it at home. Therefore, at the age when children have to go to school, they have little or no interaction with the language of the country they live in. In the United States, 72% of immigrant families speak a language other than English at home and 26% live in households where no one has a strong command of the English language.[1] This simply hands over the problem of language to the school damaging education across all subjects. This is because the children will not be able to communicate with other kids in school or understand what the teacher is saying. Because of the exclusion that the immigrants feel when going to school and the fact that they are not able to understand much of what is taught, they choose to leave school early. 70% of Turkish children in Germany have no General Certificate of Secondary Education[2]; as they leave before completing secondary school. By far the most sensible way to solve this problem is to send these children to a school where they do understand the language in which they are being taught.

[1] Shields, Margie K., and Behrman, Richard E., ‘Challenges Faced by Children of Immigrants’, Children of Immigrant Families, Vol.14, No.2, Summer 2004,

[2] Greenfield, Daniel, ‘80% of Turkish Muslim Settlers in Germany Live off Welfare’, Frontpage Mag, 31 March 2013,



This idea is rather flawed if you decide to take into consideration the whole aspect of one’s life. This just kicks the communication problem down the road when it needs to be dealt with early rather than essentially discouraging the child from learning the language until they have to get a job.

It is also in many cases likely to be wrong; the child will already have started learning the language of the country in which they are living. Even if the father and the mother are only able to talk their first language, kids go to nursery school or have child minders because their parents have to work. A perfect example would be the one of Mexicans in the United States. Two-thirds of Mexican-origin Hispanics ages 5 and older speak English proficiently. More than that, about nine-in-then native-born Mexicans speak English proficiently.[1] The whole idea of parents not being able to talk the local language might be true for first generation immigrants, but not for others. Even when the grasp of the language is less than perfect school is the obvious place to learn it.

[1] Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana, and Lopez, Mark Hugo, ‘A Demographic Portrait of Mexican Origin Hispanics in the United States’, PewResearch, 1 May 2013,

Conserving languages and immigrant community cultures

Being able to learn and teach in our own language will preserve the culture of large immigrant groups as part of another state, this is both good for that community and for the nation. For the community and the individual speaking and learning their own language will give immigrants a sense of belonging. They are part of a community that they know and understand because it speaks the same language even before they come to know the rest of the country. This provides security, belonging, and close contact with relatives. For the community it means keeping their own customs and identity alive, in a few cases this may actually be contributing to conserving a language. For the country as a whole this does not represent a threat as there can be many different levels of identity that all intermix. Instead it provides an opportunity; it diversifies the country. It gains the benefit of a different perspective on problems and new ideas as people who speak different languages think about things in different ways so it is useful for innovation to have many different communities brought up in different languages interacting.[1] It also gains from having another culture add diversity to its own; there are new festivals, concerts, art, and perhaps most commonly encountered a greater diversity of cuisines to be sampled through restaurants.

[1] Bordoditsky, Lera, ‘Lost in Translation’, The Wall St Journal, 23 July 2010,


The idea that immigrants that are part of large groups are not able to conserve their language and culture without the help of the foreign state is flawed.

First of all, on the broadest level large immigrant groups come from countries with big population and their culture or language is not in danger of any kind. Just to take a couple of examples, Turkey has almost a 76 million population, while Mexico has a population of almost 120 million.

Secondly, there is no clear link between education in the mother tongue and the willingness of the people to conserve their own culture. Those who are educated in the language of the culture in which they are living are just as likely to be interested about their roots and culture as those in their mother tongue.

Thirdly while there may be a link between language and thought does this extend on to culture; are Japanese unable to enjoy and take part in Taiko drumming if they don’t speak the language as well as the language of their host nation? Only in a few areas, like literature is it vital and if someone is interested in the literature of their mother country they will learn the language as a part of that interest.

Finally this assumes that all immigrants should desire to preserve their own culture rather than partake in the culture of the country to which they have migrated. Integration is the best solution. In order to achieve integration for large immigrant groups you need to convince them to be opened towards your national culture and language and not make them learn in their mother tongue. 

This policy would benefit the state and provide trade

If the government decides to promote mother tongue education for large immigrant groups it will be enhancing mutual understanding between its own population and another nation as the immigrants provide a go between. The state will send a positive message towards the large immigrant groups by allowing them to study in their first language. It will acknowledge the importance of such groups in the national society by providing this additional opportunity. The importance of cooperation between immigrant groups and the state is often recognized, for example in combating extremism, this kind of measure encourages such cooperation as it brings with it the good will of the immigrant community.

On the other hand, promoting diversity will promote understanding between countries. A favorable treatment towards the large immigrant groups will be seen positively by the country the immigrants come from. Having migrants creates a link between the two countries. This may produce clear advantages for both parties, in the form of collaboration, diplomacy and trade. The effect of migrants on trade is often ignored but studies have shown that in the case of Spain from 1995-2008 exports are boosted by having immigrant communities; “doubling the number of immigrants from a certain country in a province leads to an increase of the export values from the destination province to the country of the immigrants’ origin by around 10%.” The reason was because new exporting firms are created – immigrants know the conditions in their own country so can access that market, something that would be impossible without a native understanding of the language.[1]

[1] Peri, Giovanni, and Requena-Silvente, Francisco, ‘Do immigrants create exports? Evidence from Spain’, VOX, 26 January 2010,


Actively promoting mother-tongue education for immigrants that are part of a large group will create a segregated society in which people are not able to communicate and relate one to another. Integration will be harder to achieve in these conditions -  the state may gain some goodwill from the concession but it is unlikely to last. The difficulty in communicating with the state, even for everyday tasks such a doctor’s appointment, will surely sour relations more. Different languages create a segregated society in which foreigners are not able to integrate.

Secondly, diplomacy and trade matters have no connection with the way immigrants are treated on a minor issue like this. Those immigrants who want to trade and promote links between their old home and their new one will continue to do so regardless. 

A common language is necessary for a unified national community

The moment when the governments starts subsidizing mother tongue education for large immigrant groups is the moment when they will lose any incentive to learn the local language. Because most of these children do not interact with the local language until the age they should go to school, under the proposition plan they will not interact with it at all and therefore creating a major gap between native population and immigrants. A common language represents a unifying framework under which a state can function properly by promoting mutual help and understanding inside the population.[1] When people talk different languages, there is no unifying framework and the state as a whole loses its ability to promote unity within its borders. This is the case of Papua New Guinea where there is no central authority. The tribes live separately and are not able to one with another because there are over 800 different languages spoken at this moment in the country.[2] As a result during the post-colonization era efforts were made to create and promote a common language to help trade and understanding between tribes. The language that was called Tok Plsin is now the most widely spoken language in the country and one of the three official languages.[3] Because mutual-help and overall social stability can be achieved only with a strong communication between different parties, promoting mother tongue language for immigrants will only slow the road towards progress.

[1] Center for Child Well Being, ‘The Importance of Language’,, 15 July 2013,

[2] ‘Papua New Guinea’s tribes and traditions’, The Telegraph,

[3] Siegel, Jeff, ‘Tok Pisin’, Hawaii.edu


The premise that states that second generation immigrants lack incentive to learn the local language is flawed. Although they might choose to learn in their mother tongue, they will still have a big incentive to learn the local language. Learning the language of the country in which they live will provide to them more opportunities and better integration. Those who find they don’t know the language will take courses to learn the language of the country in which they reside. Most certainly, their friends will not only be from their own community so they will feel obliged to talk German, or English or French. The example of Papua simply shows this is the case; promoting a national language is not incompatible with learning in another language.

Services offered the government cannot be used if the user does not know the language

Anyone who does not know the native of the place where they reside will find themselves having problems with health-care, job centers or the taxman because they are not able to understand or communicate with these people. It doesn’t matter where you live, as a citizen you will have to use different services provided by the government. A good example will be hospitals. Hospital staff are unlikely to know the immigrant’s language so making communication difficult, a problem exacerbated by all the specialized language that may be required. Being incapable of telling your doctor what the problem is or not being able to tell a police officer what happened may have devastating consequences. Sarah Bowen, a professor at the University of Alberta and expert on access to health care believes that language is the most important barrier preventing some immigrants from staying healthy.[1] This is a barrier that remains if a little of the native language has been learnt because it is still unclear if there is mutual understanding when communicating. It is therefore clear that second generation immigrants need to be taught in the language of everyday life in the country in which they live rather than just learning it on the side as a ‘foreign’ language.

[1] ‘For newcomers, language is the most important barrier to staying healthy’, Canadian Immigrant, 27 February 2012,


It is wrong to assume that people who can’t speak the language will not be able to access government services; the government also provides interpreters. For example in the United States and Canada, interpreters are trained and paid by the health authority to address the problems of large immigrant groups. In Ottawa, you additionally have the option of hiring interpreters from local agencies. [1]

[1] Taylor, Louisa, ‘For immigrants, language barrier is a health barrier’, The Ottowa Citizen, 27 April 2012,

Migrants need to learn the language to improve job prospects

An immigrant that studies in the local language will be a citizen that is better integrated in the society, respected by the natives and with more economic opportunities. First of all, we have to acknowledge that going to a school for natives will permit the development of personal relations with people that are not from the same community community. Interaction will be possible with everybody in school and in the country. The first step towards becoming friends with someone is by understanding them. This is only possible if they can communicate properly in a single language. Secondly, the native language is necessary for most jobs. Jobs require interaction with natives and ability to discuss and work alongside co-workers. Immigrants are forced most of the time to do low-skilled jobs like working in constructions or agriculture because they are not able to speak the local language, though even in these sectors language skills would be useful. By promoting mother tongue education this problem will exacerbated. Language proficiency for immigrants that are trying to find a job in the United Kingdom increases employment probabilities by 17% to 22% and gives them an earning advantage of 18-20%.[1] Getting a new job is already hard, so why should the state through its education policy wish to damage the chances of immigrants of finding one that requires them to know the language of the country they are in?

[1] Dustmann. Christian, and Fabbri, Francesca, ‘Language proficiency and labour market performance of immigrants in the UK’, The Economic Journal, Vol.113, July 2003, pp.695-717, p.707


The simple premise of this argument is wrong. Immigrants are not discriminated by the fact that they don’t know the language. Discrimination is much more often a matter of skin color, religion and social background. Mexicans in the United States, at least American citizens of Mexican origins know very well how to speak English but they are still discriminated by the majority population. This shows in the unemployment statistics. In 2011, while the rate of unemployment for Whites was 7.9%, the jobless rate was 11.5% for Hispanics.[1]

The link between language and low skilled jobs is also open to question. Immigrants are not finding these jobs because they don’t speak the native language but because these are the jobs the natives don’t want. There is a demand for labor that the native population will not fulfill. Less fussy migrants however are more willing. These are also likely to be the jobs that the migrants have done in the past if coming from less developed countries so they have the relevant skillset. On the other hand where the migrant is skilled they will go into a job that suits those skills.

[1] ‘Labour Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2011’, U.S. Bureau of Labor, August 2012,


Akreyi, Minhaj, ‘19th Century mentality in 21st Century: Kurdish language still banned in Turkey’, Alliance for Kurdish Rights, 12 March 2011,

Bordoditsky, Lera, ‘Lost in Translation’, The Wall St Journal, 23 July 2010,

‘Labour Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity, 2011’, U.S. Bureau of Labor, August 2012,

‘For newcomers, language is the most important barrier to staying healthy’, Canadian Immigrant, 27 February 2012,

Center for Child Well Being, ‘The Importance of Language’,, 15 July 2013,

Dustmann. Christian, and Fabbri, Francesca, ‘Language proficiency and labour market performance of immigrants in the UK’, The Economic Journal, Vol.113, July 2003, pp.695-717

Gonzalez-Barrera, Ana, and Lopez, Mark Hugo, ‘A Demographic Portrait of Mexican Origin Hispanics in the United States’, PewResearch, 1 May 2013,

Greenfield, Daniel, ‘80% of Turkish Muslim Settlers in Germany Live off Welfare’, Frontpage Mag, 31 March 2013,

Peri, Giovanni, and Requena-Silvente, Francisco, ‘Do immigrants create exports? Evidence from Spain’, VOX, 26 January 2010,

Siegel, Jeff, ‘Tok Pisin’,,

Shields, Margie K., and Behrman, Richard E., ‘Challenges Faced by Children of Immigrants’, Children of Immigrant Families, Vol.14, No.2, Summer 2004,

Taylor, Louisa, ‘For immigrants, language barrier is a health barrier’, The Ottowa Citizen, 27 April 2012,

The Economist, ‘Two unamalgamated worlds’, 3 April 2008,

‘Papua New Guinea’s tribes and traditions’, The Telegraph,

United Nations Population Division, ‘Net migration’,, 2013,