Linguistic Integration Policy and its Impact on the Construction of Language Identity: The Vietnamese Migrant Community in Czechia

Issue 4 (Autumn 2017), pp. 31-51

DOI: 10.6667/interface.4.2017.39


Linguistic Integration Policy and its Impact on the Construction of Language Identity: The Vietnamese Migrant Community in Czechia

Melissa Shih-Hui Lin

National Chengchi University


In the 1970s and 1980s the Vietnamese arrived in Czechoslovakia as a group of guest-workers. According to the census in 1985, there were 19,350 Vietnamese living in the Czech territory (Heroldová & Matějová, 1987), but the number decreased to approximately 8,000 by 1994 (Mladá Fronta Dnes, 8th October 1994). However, based on the census data from CZSO (Czech Statistical Office) in 2014, due to changes in the political and economic environment, the number of Vietnamese in Czechia increased remarkably from 18,210 in 2001 to 52,612 in 2011. Nevertheless, even this figure greatly underestimates the real number of Vietnamese in the Czech Republic, mainly due to substantial illegal migration. According to CZSO, the Vietnamese community constituted 12.5% of immigrant population in Czechia in 2014, the third-biggest migrant community in this territory. This paper sets out to explore the role of current linguistic integration policy in the construction of language identity, mainly related to the migration of language communities in the period of globalization in Central and Eastern Europe contexts, by examining the case of a non-European language community, Vietnamese, in Czechia. The data served for discussion in this paper consider censuses and surveys conducted by several different researchers and official state bodies. The conclusion of this paper emphasizes the fact that the identity construction of Vietnamese and their second generation is developing reversely mainly due to two reasons: their internal cultural isolation and an education level which is supposed to be influenced by the current linguistic integration policy.

Keywords: migration, integration, language policy and planning, Vietnamese, Czech

Linguists and philosophers have traditionally identified the fundamental functions of language as communication and representation. Language is used to understand the world around us, to represent the reality in our minds, and to communicate with others. In a multilingual society, the mother tongue holds a special role. According to Joseph (2004, p. 185), “the mother tongue is central to the construction of the speaker’s linguistic identity. The mother tongue is itself a ‘claim’ about national, ethnic or religious identity (or any combination of the three) that speakers may make and hearers will certainly interpret.” However, the question here raised is whether one’s mother tongue can be maintained the same or is changeable. Skutnabb-kangas (1999, p. 55) considers that “you are born into a specific ethnic group, and this circumstance decides what your mother tongue will initially be. But what happens later to your ethnicity, your identity, and your language(s) and how they are shaped and actualized is influenced by economic and political concerns and by your social circumstances and later life. These things also influence to what extent you are aware of the importance of your ethnicity and your mother tongues and the connection between them.” His argument implies that external circumstances and internal personal factors may bring influences on shaping people’s linguistic identity.

Global mobility nowadays brings high numbers of migrants into many countries, and at the same time forces governments to face the problems which a multilingual society may have. One of the most important problems is how to integrate the whole society, and further to create a sound social circumstance for all people. According to Skutnabb-kangas (1999, p. 42), a successful linguistic integration policy must accomplish the goals of “high levels of multilingualism; a fair chance of achieving academically at school; and strong, positive multilingual and multicultural identity and positive attitudes toward self and others”.

The main goal of this paper is to investigate the construction of linguistic identity of the Vietnamese migrant community in Czechia, based on the data collected from censuses and surveys conducted by different researchers and official state bodies. It is assumed that the current Czech linguistic integration policy has an impact on the formation of linguistic identity, especially for its second generation, who have a good knowledge of Czech, with most of them being well-educated. In this paper, first, historical background and general information about the Vietnamese migrant community in Czechia will be briefly introduced; second, EU approaches for linguistic integration and current Czech linguistic integration policy will be presented. This will be followed with a discussion of the linguistic identity construction of the Vietnamese migrant community and their second generation in this territory.

1 Vietnamese migrant community in Czechia

According to data from the Czech Statistical Office (i.e. CZSO) in March 2014, the immigrants to this territory were mainly Slovakian, Ukrainian, and Vietnamese. From Table 1 below, it is an interesting observation that of all non-EU states, Vietnamese is the third major migrant community in the Czech Republic, with its population increasing from 18,210 in 2001 to 52,612 in 2011.

“The first groups of Vietnamese arrived in the Czech Republic as a consequence of the 1955 agreement on economic, scientific and technical cooperation between Czechoslovakia and the Vietnamese Democratic Republic” (Neustupný & Nekvapil, 2003, p. 213), the renowned international program among socialist/communist countries in the 1950s (Drbohlav & Dzúrová, 2007, p. 73). The number of Vietnamese moving to Czechoslovakia increased gradually. By the beginning of the 1980s, approximately 30,000 resided in the territory of Czechoslovakia (Neustupný & Nekvapil, 2003, p. 213). The Vietnamese arriving in Czechoslovakia in the 1970s and 1980s were mostly guest-workers, mainly to fill some gaps in the Czechoslovakian labor market. In 1981, two-thirds of the Vietnamese in this territory were workers (Drbohlav et al., 2004). According to Drbohlav and Dzúrová (2007, p. 73), judging the time of arrival of each Vietnamese group in Czechoslovakia, there were “mediators” who had come years ago to greatly monitor, politically, the stay of each newcomer. The “mediators” normally spoke Czech and were familiar with the local administration and legislation. They functioned seemingly as the interface between Vietnamese and Czech, though illegally. On the other hand, the existence of “mediators” brought less motivation for Vietnamese to learn more of the Czech language and culture. The Vietnamese community at that time was quite isolated in the territory. In 1986, the number of Vietnamese migrants started decreasing when economic reforms ‘Doi Moi’ started in Vietnam, but increased again after the Velvet Revolution in 1989 (Drbohlav & Dzúrová, 2007, p. 73).

Nationality 20012011
number % rate% number % rate%
malefemale malefemale
Foreigners in total
124,668 100.0 53.4 46.6 422,276 100.0 57.4 42.6
Slovakia 24,201 19.4 54.1 45.9 82,251 19.5 53.7 46.3
Ukraine 20,628 16.6 47.2 52.9 116,139 27.5 57.3 42.7
Vietnam 18,210 14.6 61.4 38.6 52,612 12.5 58.9 41.1
Russia 7,696 6.2 44.1 55.9 31,545 7.5 45.2 54.8
Poland 13,350 10.7 36.1 63.9 16,800 4.0 47.6 52.4

Table 1: Population of foreigners in the Czech Republic in 2001 and 2011 (Czech Statistical Office, 2014)

Nowadays, according to CZSO, the survey data focusing on the economic activities of foreigners in the Czech Republic in 2011[1] showed that 43.8% of the Vietnamese in the Czech Republic worked in the field of wholesaling or retail. This ratio is relatively a higher number compared with the other foreign communities working in the fields of wholesale and retail in Czechia: 8.3% Slovakian, 6.2% Ukrainan, 16.2% Russian, and 7.2% Polish. Among economic activities, wholesaling or retail is the field in which the Vietnamese in Czechia have a plurality. The field with their second-highest ratio, 7.6%, of the Vietnamese population in Czechia is manufacturing industry. These numbers reveal that the main economic activities of the Vietnamese in Czechia are more labor-intensive. In fact, it seems that only the first generation of Vietnamese immigrants work in wholesaling, while most of the second generation work in other fields. According to Souralová (2014, p. 325), Vietnamese parents in Czechia, who primarily work in the labour market, may subject their second generation to a situation marked by considerable pressure and expectations. They do not want their children to follow in their parents’ footsteps. As a result, the second generation dedicate themselves to reaching higher educational levels and intensive academic competition not only for their own good, but also under such expectations from their parents, hoping for a better economic status. Nevertheless, on the other hand, the result of the survey focusing on the economic activities of the Vietnamese in Czechia may be directly related to their educational level. Figure 1[2] reveals some useful facts.

Figure 1: Educational level of foreigners in the Czech Republic (Czech Statistical Office, 2011)

In Figure 1, light blue represents the proportion of population who hold an elementary education level or lower while yellow indicates the proportion of population who hold some university education level. The result of this survey in 2011 shows that the education level of the Vietnamese in Czechia was relatively lower than those of other foreign communities: 46.1% had an elementary education level or lower, and only around 4.5% had some university education level.In this paper, it is claimed that the education level not only reflects on their economic activities, but also contributes as an important factor in their identity construction, which will be discussed further in the following sections.

2 Linguistic integration policy in Czechia after 2004

After WWII, from 1948 to 1989, Czechia was under the rule of the Communist Party. “Throughout this period, especially after the unsuccessful attempt in 1968 to liberate the country from Soviet influence, the Communist government emphasized the necessity ‘to learn’ from the Soviet Union. Principles of status management directed to ethnic community languages were strongly influenced by Soviet models” (Neustupný& Nekvapil, 2006). In 1977, the first directive related to the language education of children from a migrant background appeared: Council Directive 77/486/EEC (Hoffmann, 1991, p. 307); however, it was more of a formal method, not particularly being put into practice. Until the end of the Communist period, the problems of ethnic communities, including language education, were not given adequate attention. Until 1989, control and regulation of emigrating Czechs and the return migration of overseas Czechs were the main focus tackled by the government. However, the situation has slowly changed since the beginning of the present century.[3] The Zákon ze dne 10.července 2001 o právech příslušníků národnostních menšin a o změně některých zákonů (Law on the Rights of Ethnic Minorities and Amendment of Some Laws made on 10th July 2001) (No. 273/2001) appeared as the only basic legal instrument during that period; however, it was noteworthy only as a distinction mainly between the majority and the minorities (Neustupný & Nekvapil, 2006). The key role in the change of the ethnic situation was the entry of the Czech Republic into the EU in 2004, within the EU enlargement.

In 2005, right after the EU enlargement, the 3rd Summit of Heads of States and Government of the Council of Europe’s 46 member states took place in Warsaw. The Summit Declaration was committed to ensuring that cultural diversity would become a source of mutual enrichment and to protecting the rights of national minorities and the free movement of persons:

In order to develop understanding and trust among Europeans, we will promote human contacts and exchange good practices regarding free movement of persons on the continent, with the aim of building a Europe without dividing lines… (Council of Europe, 2008a, p. 5)

This political Declaration was accompanied by an Action Plan, which proposed measures to ensure social cohesion and address the management of migration, including the acquisition of visa, residence, and citizenship. Presently, constant global migrations have brought the EU to face the growing difficulties of integrating its newcomers. The linguistic integration of adult migrants has accordingly been appointed to be the subject of two intergovernmental conferences, held in June 2008 and June 2010, under the auspices of the Steering Committee for Education (CDED) and the European Committee on Migration (CDMG). The 2008 conference focused more on the Council of Europe principles; the 2010 conference provided a forum, in which representatives of member states could discuss language requirements linked to entry, residence, and citizenship, and the quality of language courses, language tests, and alternative approaches to assessment.[4] These two conferences formally confirmed the emphasis on the host language requirement in linguistic integration for migrants. In other words, the host language requirement is becoming a significant element of migration and integration approaches in most EU member states (Council of Europe, 2014). Consequently, there is a steady increase in the number of countries enacting legislation to make language proficiency a requirement for residence, citizenship, and even entry-visa.

According to the 2013 survey, the number of countries participating that reported a language requirement for entry, residence, or citizenship is increasing. Out of the 36 Council of Europe member states, 26 reported that adult migrants are legally required to take language courses and/or a language test for citizenship, 22 states for residence, and 9 states prior to entry; a total of 29 reporting that to take a language requirement is legally necessary for at least one of the three mentioned administrative situations (Council of Europe, 2014, p. 7).

The core principle of this language requirement is that language skills are an essential component of intercultural skills, an absolute for everyday life in a multicultural world. Further, migrants benefit from cultural diversity, to be involved in intercultural dialogue, to be informed, and to understand. Language skills and knowledge of the host society are necessary for adult migrants to be involved and be responsible to the host society, and further to contribute themselves to social cohesion (Council of Europe, 2008b, pp. 8-9). However, the question of the language requirements of several states in relation to admission, residence, or citizenship is becoming a major issue. Host language requirements seem to be the only and the most appropriate approach to achieve the goal of linguistic integration, although at the same time it possibly results in building up more distance from the ideal of multilingualism, which will be discussed more below.[5]

As mentioned, there are generally two approaches to the requirement of host languages: language courses and/or language tests. According to the Council of Europe Survey 2014, the number of states which officially provide language courses has increased from 9 for residency requirement and 6 for citizenship requirement in 2009 to 11 for residency requirement and 10 for citizenship requirement in 2013, regardless of whether the courses were compulsory or optional, free or fee-based (Council of Europe, 2014, p. 15). On the other hand, there is also a growing tendency of taking language and knowledge-of-society tests, in order to verify the degree of migrant language proficiency. Language requirements are usually expressed in terms of the proficiency levels of the Council of Europe’s Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).[6] From Table 2 below, it is obvious that the requirements for a specific CEFR level for residency and citizenship among EU member states have been increasing over the years.

20072009 2013
Residence Citizenship Residence Citizenship Residence Citizenship

A1 2 1 2 3
A2 2 1 1 1 5 4
B1 2 3 5 2 6
B2 2 1
A1/A2 2 2
A1/B1 2 1 2 1
A2/B1 1 2
A1/B2 1 1

Table 2: Number of countries requiring different CEFR levels for residency and citizenship in 2007, 2009, and 2013 (Council of Europe, 2014, p. 18)

The level required for residency is mainly from A2 to B1, but for citizenship the required level is higher, mostly B1. This requirement of language proficiency creates some problems to be solved, mainly lying in the related language courses, textbooks, teachers, and so on.

The Czech Republic has been a member of the EU since 2004. Growing flows of international migration complicate the language and cultural situation in this territory. Following the new amendment supporting linguistic integration in the Council of Europe, some changes have been conducted in Czechia. According to the Council of Europe (2008b, p. 17), migrants have the right to residence after an uninterrupted stay of five years in Czechia, and the right to citizenship after ten years. Under the amended law, migrants have to present a certificate of knowledge of the Czech language from January 2009. In 2009, the Czech Republic required level A1 of the Czech language for residency but in 2015 changed that to introduce a level A1 test for long-term stay and level A2 for permanent residence. For citizenship, the Czech Republic replaced the interview in 2008 to a level B1 test result from 2014. The government does provide optional Czech courses free of charge that make it possible for migrants to attain the level required by law, but surely the courses are conducted for limited hours. According to the Council of Europe (2014, p. 21), this measure is unique among the eastern European countries, while the other eastern European countries don’t provide such courses for free.

Another important amended policy concerning the linguistic integration for children from a migrant background is free Czech language courses for all foreign pupils in primary schools. According to the research result carried out by Kostelecká and Jančařík (2014, p. 7), in 2009, 2010, and 2011, one of the most important factors significantly affecting the successful integration of children with a foreign mother tongue into the Czech primary school system is the ability to communicate in Czech. In 2012, Czech legislation was amended to ensure free preparation for entering the primary school system, including Czech language classes tailored to the needs of learners, extended to all foreigners (Kostelecká & Jančařík, 2014, p. 12). All in all, according to the new amended policy based on the idea of linguistic integration, it is apparent that the Czech Republic follows and adapts to the trend of learning the host language for migrants as it is one of the most important steps for integration.

Nevertheless, although learning the host language for migrants is one important step towards integration, there are still a lot of other measures or ideas complementing this linguistic integration. As Grin (1995, p. 33) pointed out, “The present-day migrants are more likely, on average, to claim a right to maintain the language and culture of their native country in their new surroundings. This gives rise to a new category of minorities, who ground their legitimacy not in a historical connection with the piece of land on which they happen to live, but in a non-territorial right to the maintenance of cultural and linguistic identity.” He further presented two well-known principles to implement linguistic rights by the authority of language plans and policies, which are the territorial principle and the personality principle (Grin, 1995). The former is tied to land. Individuals derive their linguistic rights from their communities’ geographical location. The personality principle means that linguistic rights are granted to individuals, regardless of their location. Although there are obvious contrasts between these two principles, Grin (1995, p. 35) argues they can be seen as complementary, which is also supported in this paper. He claims that the countries conducting the personality principle could switch to the territorial principle, and vice versa, in order to realize multilingualism.

Linguistic rights should be considered basic human rights. Lack of linguistic rights, taking, for instance, the absence of the minor languages from school curricula, would possibly lead to the invisibility of minority languages. “Alternatively, minority mother tongues are constructed as nonresources, as handicaps which are believed to prevent minority children from acquiring the majority language so that it becomes in the interest of minority children to abandon them” (Skutnabb-kangas, 1999, p. 57). According to the present state of the linguistic integration policy in the Czech Republic, learning the host language is the most important approach to “successful” integration, regardless of the importance of mutual understanding, including the migrants’ languages and cultures. That also implies the current linguistic integration policy tends to neglect these migrants’ right to the maintenance of cultural and linguistic identity. One question arises: Does such a linguistic integration policy impact migrants in a territory, and on their second generation?

3 Ethnic identity and language identity of the Vietnamese in Czechia

According to the data shown by CZSO in 2014 June, i.e., Table 3, the percentage of the population which declares to hold single ethnicity was decreasing: 98.2% in 2001 to 73.1% in 2011. On the other hand, among them the percentage of population declaring themselves as Vietnamese increased a bit: 0.2% in 2001 to 0.3% in 2011.[7]

Ethnicity 20012011
total % total %
Residents in total: 10,230,060100.0 10,436,560 100.0
who claim to hold
single ethnicity
10,044,25598.2 7,630,246 73.1
Czech 9,249,77790.46,711,624 64.3
Moravian 380,4743.7521,801 5.0
Silesian 10,8780.112,214 0.1
Slovakian 193,1901.9147,152 1.4
Polish 51,968 0.539,096 0.4
German 39,1060.418,658 0.2
Romany 11,7460.15,135 0.0
Hungarian 14,6720.18,920 0.1
Vietnamese 17,4620.229,660 0.3
Ukrainian 22,1120.253,253 0.5
Russian 12,3690.117,872 0.2
Other 40,5010.458,289 0.6
who claim to hold
double ethnicities
12,9780.1 163,648 1.6
Czech and Moravian 99,028 0.9
Czech and Slovakian 2,7830.017,666 0.2
Czech and Romany 6980.07,026 0.1
Czech and German 6,158 0.1
Other combinations 9,4670.133,770 0.3
others172,8271.7 2,642,666 25.3

Table 3: Ethnicities in the Czech Republic in 2001 and 2011 (Czech Statistical Office, 2014)[8]

As to language identity, according to the data shown by the Czech Statistical Office in 2011 March, i.e., Table 4 below, around 84.7% of the Vietnamese in the Czech Republic consider Vietnamese their mother tongue, 10.9% consider both Vietnamese and Czech their mother tongues, and only 3% claim the Czech language as their mother tongue.

State na-
Selected mother tongue
Language % Language % Language %
Slovakia Slovakian 86.1 Czech & Slovakian 5.7 Hungarian 2.5
Ukraine Ukrainian 75.7 Russian 11.5 Czech & Ukrainian 7.3
Vietnam Vietnamese 84.7 Czech & Vietnamese 10.9 Czech 3.0
Russia Russian 90.3 Czech & Russian 5.2 Other 2.6
Poland Polish 80.5 Czech & Polish 13.8 Czech 2.8

Table 4: Mother tongues of foreigners in the Czech Republic through March 2011 (Czech Statistical Office, 2011)[9]

It is necessary to note that in this survey the heritage language is not mentioned. A heritage language is a language which is a minority language in a society, learned by the speaker as a child at home, but because of the influence from a dominant language, the speaker has better competence in the latter one. Since this survey does not take the heritage language into account, the referent of the mother tongue here may not be clear to the participants in this survey, especially for the second generation of these foreign communities in Czechia. However, the numbers in Table 4 still reveal some interesting phenomena: a relatively higher ratio of the Vietnamese population in Czechia considers Vietnamese their mother tongue while a quite low ratio considers the dominant language, Czech, their mother tongue.

There might be many reasons to support the data mentioned above. However, it is interesting that the ethnic identity of the Vietnamese community in Czechia is so strong, despite the fact that the related authorities put a great deal of effort into the work of integration especially after 2004. Certainly, there is no direct relation between the effects of integration and ethnic identity, but the isolation of the Vietnamese community in Czechia is well-known. According to Drbohlav and Dzúrová (2007, p. 88), “their isolation is supported by their very intensive ‘internal’, not ‘external’, social communication and perhaps also by their perceived cultural distance from the Czech majority population…They did choose a path that combines rapid economic advancement with deliberate preservation of the immigrant community’s values and solidarity.” This statement might precisely explain the phenomenon, which can occur in almost all the small Vietnamese shops in this territory: the shop owners are always watching Vietnamese TV programs or listening to Vietnamese music when you enter the shop, or a small Buda is placed somewhere in a corner. The Vietnamese community until now still maintains its own cultural values, lifestyle, and even much internal solidarity in Czechia, although the community has existed in this society for more than half a century.

Another important factor that seems instrumental in immigrant inclusion into Czech society, particularly via cultural activities, is the existence of ethnic institutions. There are around ten registered Vietnamese associations working in this country; however, only a few are well-known (Drbohlav and Dzúrová, 2007, p. 75). One of them is the Association of Vietnamese Entrepreneurs (in Czech: Svaz vietnamských podnikatelů), established in 1992; in the same year, Vietnamese Association (in Czech: Svaz Vietnamců) was formed in Prague to protect the interests of the community. They have a branch in Ostrava. A new magazine Bambus was founded in 2003 (Neustupný & Nekvapil, 2003, p. 214). Among these associations, there is one interesting phenomenon that the language in use mostly is Vietnamese, no matter on their web pages or publications even though the Vietnamese language is still a lesser-used language in this territory. This phenomenon might reveal that the activities of these associations are still quite closed and isolated from the mainstream society.

Nevertheless, there is one particular association named Club Hanoi[10] (in Czech: Klub Hanoi). This association was founded in 2003 by some Czechs interested in the Vietnamese language and culture, including several Vietnamese students who were studying at the Faculty of Philosophy at Charles University in Prague. These Vietnamese founders belong to the 4.5% of the Vietnamese population who hold some university education level. The language in use at this association, i.e., their web pages and publications, is mainly Czech, not Vietnamese. The language they choose to communicate with each other and to the public is not their heritage language. The reason might be the image they want to build or the objects they intend to communicate with. Nevertheless, language choice is a pervasive phenomenon in multilingual societies, especially for their socially and economically marginalized groups, who tend to learn the mainstream language at the expense of their own. By choosing the language, first the language identity is implicitly conveyed; second, a larger socio-political context which shapes their choice of language is reflected.

This association, Club Hanoi, might represent the second generation of Vietnamese in Czechia: most of them were born in the Czech Republic and have a higher education level. They have very good knowledge of Czech, as Czech locals. According to the discussion in the previous paragraph, their language choice reveals their Czech identity, which is in contrast with the identity of the first generation of the Vietnamese migrants in the Czech Republic.

4 Further discussion

Regardless of proper understanding in depth of the nature, culture, and religion of migrants, the authorities hold the main principle of linguistic integration: good knowledge of the Czech language seemingly serves as the only gateway to integration. Additionally, it appears that successful inclusion into Czech society is connected to the assimilation mode, which might bring some negative effects, not only to the Vietnamese community, but also to the host society.

For the host society, according to Neustupný and Nekvapil (2003, p. 214), the attitude the public holds towards the Vietnamese community is disparate. Pejorative descriptors such as “cane people” and “reed warblers” are sometimes used to refer to the Vietnamese people in Czech society. A survey conducted by the public opinion research center of the Institute of Sociology at the Academy of Sciences of the Czech Republic (CVVM) in March 2016 on the relationship to the ethnic communities living in the Czech Republic is presented in Table 5 below:

Ethnic com-
nor un-
Very un-
1 2 3 4 5 Average
Czechs 50 35 13 1 0 1.66
Slovakians 35 46 17 2 0 1.88
Poles 10 34 38 12 3 2.61
Germans 6 28 39 19 5 2.87
Jews 5 22 42 12 6 2.91
Hungarians 5 21 44 15 5 2.93
Vietnamese 6 26 42 17 8 2.96
Russians 4 18 41 25 9 3.18
Ukrainians 3 17 42 25 11 3.26
Chinese 3 14 39 23 11 3.27
Arabs 1 3 15 31 44 4.20
Gypsies 1 2 14 34 48 4.26

Table 5: Self-described relationships with ethnic communities living in the Czech Republic (CVVM, 2016)[11]

In Table 5, number 1 means “very pleasant”; number 2 “rather pleasant”; number 3 “neither pleasant nor unpleasant”; number 4 “rather unpleasant”; and number 5 “very unpleasant.” This Table is presented in percentage of the rolls. The relationship to the Vietnamese community is 2.96 on average, with the highest evaluation “neither pleasant nor unpleasant.” However, in fact, this number is already more positive than that in previous years. Please see Table 6:

Ethnic communities ΙΙΙ/2013ΙΙΙ/2014ΙΙΙ/2015ΙΙΙ/2013
Czechs 1.69 1.58 1.59 1.66
Slovakians 1.79 1.72 1.76 1.88
Poles 2.47 2.40 2.47 2.61
Germans 2.87 2.83 2.82 2.87
Jews 2.80 2.67 2.83 2.91
Hungarians 2.96 2.80 2.882.93
Vietnamese 3.26 3.09 3.112.96
Russians 3.11 3.27 3.313.18
Ukrainians 3.57 3.36 3.44 3.26
Chinese 3.35 3.28 3.253.27
Arabs --- 3.79 4.024.20
Gypsies 4.24 4.21 4.304.26

Table 6: Relations with ethnic communities living in the Czech Republic from 2013 to 2016 (CVVM, 2016)[12]

In Table 6, the evaluation of the relationship with the Vietnamese community decreased from 3.26 in 2013 to 2.96 in 2016, a drop of 0.15, revealing a more positive attitude. This phenomenon also corresponds to some new commentaries on the Vietnamese community in the Czech society. For example, in a speech of current Czech President Miloš Zeman delivered in Bratislava, Slovakia on February 12, 2016, he described the Vietnamese people as more “industrious” and having “no barrier” of communication, especially compared with the current refugee migrants. He also emphasized that the migration of the current refugees is due to “Islamic migration,” and which is “not possible to integrate and is not capable of being assimilated into European culture.” He might not represent the entire Czech nation; however, his opinion reflected one popular myth that current refugee flows into Europe are all Islamists. This also explains the importance of understanding the objectives properly to achieve integration; there won’t be any successful integration if correct knowledge about the migrants is non-existent. In Table 6, the relationship to the Arabic community appears to have grown more negative over the years, from 3.79 in 2014 to 4.20 in 2016, close to “very unpleasant.”

5 Conclusion

As mentioned by Drbohlav (2011, p. 420): “The Czech Republic is drawing nearer to the characteristics and trends observed in Europe’s much more developed immigration countries.” Nevertheless, a successful integration requires consideration of the interaction of languages and culture among migrants themselves and the host community. If it is only conducted one-sided, integration has a greater chance of failure.

Most of the language policies for migrants are passively oriented, i.e., forced by the circumstance/flows of migrants. However, the authorities must think thoroughly on this issue actively in order to prevent problems caused by any lack of foresight. The current EU language policy for migrants emphasizes more on the acquisition of the languages of host societies. Although the promotion of intercultural dialogue has been also stressed as a political priority, the European society generally is lacking in such recognition. For example, as discussed in this paper, the second generation of the Vietnamese community in Czechia, who are mostly young and well-educated, seem to be assimilating, and their language identity has developed disparately compared with their native families isolated from the host society. This second generation of Vietnamese is exactly the objective sought under the implement of the linguistic integration policy. This paper concludes that the identity construction of the Vietnamese and their second generation is developing in contrast; most Vietnamese maintain their heritage language and keep living in cultural isolation, but on the other hand the language identity of their well-educated second generation has been changed and needs to be reexamined along with the host country’s linguistic integration policy.


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[1] See:

[2] For the source see footnote 1.

[3] From 1989, the immigrant community in Czechia has increased up to 406,000 registered migrants in 2011, about 4.1% of the total population at that time, with the exception of decreases in 2000 and 2009 (CZSO, 2011).

[4] See:

[5] It is necessary to note here that more and more EU member states have already conducted impact studies of this language requirement for adult migrants. Until now, 14 states have reported the importance of such studies (Council of Europe, 2014).

[6] CEFR: Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. 2001. Council of Europe/Cambridge University Press. Available on line:

[7] It is noted here in Table 3 that Moravians and Silesians are not immigrants. They are inhabitants of the parts of Czechia which have some historical genealogy.

[8] See:

[9] See:

[10] The website of this association is:

[11] See:

[12] See:

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[received March 15, 2017
accepted October 6, 2017]


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