Chapter 7 Language
A large majority of responses covered points about "language", including:
- Language as a barrier to integration
- Access to interpreters
- Information provision in multiple languages
- Availability and accessibility of ESOL classes
- Language learning out with formal language classes
- Maintenance of first language.
Each of these points is covered in more detail below.
7.1 Low English language skills as a barrier to integration
Many responses highlighted that language ( i.e. the low level of English language skills of many refugees and asylum seekers) poses a barrier to integration.
- It was suggested that it is difficult for refugees and asylum seekers to get to know local people due to the language barrier between them. It was noted that refugees and asylum seekers found it particularly difficult to understand Scottish accents.
- Accessing services, both statutory and third sector/community-based services, is rendered more difficult by the language barrier.
- More generally, language was considered to be, as one response put it, "the most important factor in integration".
7.2 Access to interpreters
Many responses emphasised the importance of having access to interpreters:
- Responses noted the need for interpreters to be available during medical appointments – a point further covered in Chapter 8.
- The importance of building capacity in interpreting was raised, including the need for interpreters to be available for different dialects, specific areas ( e.g. health or legal) and to better link service providers with interpreting services across Scotland.
- It was also felt that there is a need to develop industry-wide quality standards for interpreters who work with refugees and asylum seekers.
- Related to this, it was suggested that more service providers should hire frontline staff who are fluent in the languages widely spoken by refugees and asylum seekers.
7.3 Information provision in multiple languages
Many responses emphasised the importance of providing refugees and asylum seekers with accessible information about their rights and the services they can use, including:
- Information leaflets, appointment letters and universal credit applications translated into languages widely spoken by refugees and asylum seekers.
- Providing refugees and asylum seekers with information about health services in multiple languages was particularly noted – a point covered in more detail in Chapter 8.
7.4 Availability and accessibility of ESOL classes
The majority of responses included comments about the availablity and accessibilty of ESOL classes, including:
- The importance of refugees and asylum seekers being guaranteed a place in an ESOL class.
- It was suggested that refugees and asylum seekers should be provided with more information on how and where to access ESOL classes. This was a point also raised by two groups of young people at different engagement events.
- Responses noted that there are currently long waiting lists for ESOL classes and that refugees and asylum seekers should be provided with quicker access to these classes upon their arrival in Scotland. Considering this, it was suggested that more funding for ESOL classes should be provided, with the goal of building capacity and reducing waiting times. One response also mentioned the opportunity of providing online ESOL learning during the waiting period.
- It was suggested that ESOL classes should be full-time in order to be more effective for refugees' and asylum seekers' English language acquisition.
- Responses noted that ESOL classes are currently more targeted at basic English. They emphasised the importance of offering more ESOL classes for refugees and asylum seekers who already have an advanced command of English.
- The possibility of linking language learning with employability was highlighted, for example through:
- Linking ESOL students with local employability opportunities
- Employers running language classes.
7.5 Language learning outside of formal language classes
Many responses suggested that there should be more structures in place to support language learning out with formal language classes. The suggestions included:
- The ability to apply English in real life contexts, for example through volunteering.
- To offer language learning opportunities in their local community, for example through language cafes.
- Two-way language exchanges, where refugees teach their first language to Scots and vice versa.
7.6 Maintenance of first language
A few responses highlighted the importance of refugees and asylum seekers, and particularly their children, maintaining their first language skills in order to maintain their cultural identity.
- It was emphasised that maintaining one's mother tongue does not hinder English language acquisition, and that multilingualism should be encouraged.
- It was suggested that the children of refugees and asylum seekers should be offered language classes in their first language.
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