Migration, Xenophobia: Challenges for the Language Curriculum

Christoph Merkelbach


Many Europeans ignore the fact that Europe always has been –and always will be– a multilingual and multicultural society that includes more cultures than the number of member state national cultures which emerged in the 18 th century. In the course of the foundation of national states in Europe, minority cultures, along with their respective languages –even those which originated in Europe– were systemically suppressed in favor of the often forced identification with one national culture and one national language. This act of identification usually led directly to xenophobia by all concerned.In the decades after WWII, it seemed that Europe had rediscovered its humanistic values in the approach to the 21st century. However, when crisis struck, old stereotypes reemerged, which served to allow deeply-seated xenophobic structures to reemerge.It was forgotten that European values, including language and cultural values, had to be carefully nurtured and tended in order to survive. But this is not what happened: research in the field of foreign language acquisition and cross-cultural communication was often sidelined.In the face of the current immigration crisis, it is largely the volunteers and language teachers who are longing for support from the academic world as a means to maintain and foster the concept of a humanitarian Europe. The author argues that a closer understanding of cross-cultural communication issues is directly connected to the necessity to include all languages spoken in Europe in foreign language classes, and that only a multilingual curriculum which comprises a multifaceted concept of culture will lead to mutual respect and understanding among the stakeholders invested in the linguistic and cultural well-being of today’s Europe.


culture; multilingualism; European refugee crisis

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.6667/interface.5.2018.50


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