Living with Multiple Languages, Being Forced to be Monolingual: Turkish Skilled Migrants in Norway

Meltem Yilmaz Sener [1]

DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.10278521

[1] Meltem Yilmaz Sener. PhD in Sociology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign in the USA. VID Specialized University, Oslo, Norway. ORCID: 0000-0003-2333-3396, email:


Based on an analysis of 44 semi-structured, in-depth interviews with Turkish skilled migrants living in/around Oslo and Drammen in Norway, this article aims to point out the tension between the monolingual emphasis of public discourses and the multilingual reality of migrants in the context of Norway. It demonstrates that these migrants perceive the monolingual emphasis as a norm that they are expected to conform to, but that does not take their different life situations into consideration. The difficulty or impossibility of living according to that norm (because of their age, short duration of stay, the will to preserve the mother tongue, their multilingual realities) makes their lives difficult and creates confusion and anxiety in them. While they are trying to do their best to maneuver through the complexities of their multilingual lives, they are facing a system that tends to simplify their linguistic realities. This study demonstrates that there are multiple languages in migrants’ lives and many of them see it as a richness that they want to preserve. Migrants also see it as a violation of their right to retain their mother tongue when they see reactions against their speaking of the native language. Overall, the monolingual emphasis in Norway both ignores the multilingual reality of migrants’ lives as well as putting unrealistic pressures on them. This study also highlights the importance of a pluralistic approach to a migrant group with respect to their linguistic practices.

Keywords: Monolingual, plurilingual, Europe, Norway, Turkish, skilled migrant, civic integration.


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