For ordinary immigrants, dealing with the language barrier problem is not easy. Communicating with people who speak a different language and come from a different culture is not going to be a walk in the park. Expect it to be worse for the children involved in the current European migrant crisis. Aside from the critical problem of survival, there’s also the need to interact with people who don’t speak the language they speak.
Problems encountered by children affected by the European migration crisis
To offer solutions or help, it’s important to identify the language-related problems encountered by immigrant children. In what specific aspects does the language barrier adversely affect them? The following are the top three problems that directly impact the children of families in the current European migration crisis.
- Deprived Childhood. It’s certainly unfortunate being born in the midst of conflict. Migrant children may be given the sympathy they deserve but their childhood will have changed forever. Unless they get adopted by a family that will provide them genuine care and love, it is very unlikely for these children to experience a normal childhood. They get robbed of their childhood and are even traumatized by the kind of circumstances they get to live in. They can’t play with other children because of the language barrier. They fail to live a fulfilling childhood because they tend to feel isolated or unwelcome.
- Interrupted Education. Migrant children cannot easily get enrolled in the schools of the countries they are brought to, even in countries that happen to be signatories of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Aside from the problems with the required documents, they will also encounter the difficulties of attending classes conducted in a foreign language. Not many governments are willing to provide special services to help foreign-speaking children in adapting to their new environment. Similarly, it is difficult for migrant children to make friends at school when nobody can understand them in the same way they are unable to understand their teachers and schoolmates.
- Healthcare Difficulties. Availing of quality health care services also becomes very difficult for migrant children. Hospitals and clinics find it hard to diagnose and properly treat them in the absence of a qualified medical interpreter. Parents or relatives might be able to converse with the doctor or nurse to some extent but they are mostly unreliable medical interpreters. They may even end up aggravating the problem with their faulty or confusing translations.
Helping migrant children deal with language barrier
So what assistance can be given to children to help address the aforementioned problems? Aside from the very important role of the government and citizens of the receiving countries in accepting and sympathizing with the plight of migrant children, basically, there’s just one basic and immediate solution – language service or assistance.
Language service or assistance can be provided in the following forms:
- Multilingual psychologists to help evaluate and address the trauma or stress suffered by migrant children
- Interpreters to help migrants in communicating with the authorities
- Medical and legal interpreters
- Informal language education (usually provided by volunteers) to help children in learning and using the language of their host country
- Government-provided migrant education and skills training programs handled by multilingual instructors
Language is like the key to assimilation for migrant children. The need to be able to communicate with the people of the country that has accepted them is non-negotiable. They need to learn to interact. They can’t be left isolated. While it is true that there are many migrant communities in places like the United States that don’t find it compelling to properly learn and fluently use the English language, such a privilege is not bestowed to migrant children especially if they are being hesitantly accepted by their host country. They must interact with the local population and they can only do it if they learn how to use the language used by the locals. They have to be the ones to adapt, not that people who welcomed them.
Language service/assistance is fundamental
All of the countries that have become destinations of the current European migration crisis are signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, it’s unfortunate that not all of them are willing to extend the assistance they have committed themselves to provide. Not all of these countries are even willing to accept migrants. At the very least, though, all countries should provide the necessary language services or assistance to help migrant children. Governments cannot simply drive away migrants by force or expect them to adapt and assimilate without helping them understand and use the local language.
It’s important to emphasize the need to address the language barrier to properly help migrant children. Migrants deserve to have the capacity to understand and be understood. It’s virtually impossible to provide other forms of assistance if there’s a communication problem brought about by the differences in the languages used.