Integration - Teamwork The first step toward peaceful common existence in a multicultural country is integration. It can easily happen that immigrants end up isolated, unable to take part in their new society. This is a problem for both the immigrants and the country they have come to. By not participating they are not doing anything for the country's benefit, and the people of said country may start asking themselves: if they are not taking part, why should they be taken care of?
They may fall away from the system, not getting any of the advantages, and at the same time missing their opportunity to raise their voices and do anything about their situation. It all ends up as a downward spiral that makes integration, and thereby also improvement, more and more difficult. Integration is therefore something that has to start happening right away. The first step to integration is often said to be learning the language of the country, and I think this makes a lot of sense. A language barrier is a huge barrier, as communication is essential in almost every situation.
But how can we make this happen? Would it be a solution that all immigrants attend language classes in their new country? If you compare a multicultural country to a group of people with completely different personalities, values and ideas stuck together in one tiny house for an extended period of time, it is hardly that difficult to imagine that problems are going to arise; eventually they will find something to argue about. Now this might sound negative, but it is, in fact, not. Arguing, if kept on a reasonable level, is how you become fully aware of your own meanings and views.
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You may learn to see things from a different perspective, and sometimes the argument brings out new ideas that can lead to solutions. This is part of the reason I believe that migration can only be a good thing, as it makes us learn new things through our differences. (Of course, the types of issues deriving from migration do differ quite drastically from the types of issues that the members of the hundreds of reality shows we have nowadays have got to deal with, but that also means that the things we learn from them are different as well, and if I may say so, also infinitely more giving. It is not that long ago that we found the whole idea of sharing, mixing and just getting to know the rest of the world somewhat frightening. We were not very good at it, and wanted everything to stay the way it was. The modern world takes pride in being open and new-thinking however, and the word on everyone's lips is “diversity”. Yes, diversity and sharing our cultures are wonderful things that we should definitely learn to appreciate more, but through our fear of racism we are making it almost impossible to state the fact that there are actually going to be some changes for you if you move to a new country.
Of course you do not have to give up on your own culture, of course you can still speak your mother tongue, of course we want diversity. But what we sometimes forget to mention is that you really can't speak only your mother tongue in your new country and that you will have to get in touch with the culture of this new country as well as keeping your own. If you really want your new country to actually be your new country and to accept you as a part of it, then you will have to accept the fact that if you want your country to be multicultural, you will have to be a bit multicultural yourself.
Learning a new language does not erase your own language from your brain, getting to know a new culture does not mean you have to let go of your own values, just as making new friends does not mean you can never speak to your old ones again. It is a matter of expanding rather than replacing. However, no relationships are ever one-sided. There has to be will and effort from both sides for it to work. This means that for integration to work smoothly, both the country and the immigrants have to do their best to make it so.
It is much easier for us to say that all immigrants must learn the language right away than it is for the immigrants to learn a whole new language in no time at all. If the attending of language classes are to be made compulsory, then the immigrants should be given the means to do so. It can hardly be expected that they should have the money for language classes at the ready right after they have arrived in a new country. Many of them are moving in order to start up a new life, and being forced to pay for language classes before they have started working is not going to help in any way.
The fact that they will have a much easier time finding a job after the language classes does not help if they are already bankrupt before they have begun the search for a job. If the country would be willing to pay for the language classes however, that would be a huge benefit for the immigrants. It would also pay itself off for the country in many cases, once the new citizens start working. Though that does not mean that all immigrants will see and understand the necessity and the advantages of such classes, which would make the whole project a waste.
This leads me to another important aspect of successful integration: communication between the country and the immigrants. Communication is always present in a healthy relationship, the relationship between country and immigrant being no exception. Now one might wonder how there can be communication about the necessity of learning the language before the immigrants learn the language, but there are ways to get this done. It is simply another matter of will and effort, once again from both sides rather than one.
A relationship where only one part is trying to make things work is a doomed relationship. With this said, we can not blame only either immigrant or country if integration is not working, and we can not assign the responsibility of making integration possible to only either immigrant or country. Yes, it is a definite benefit for the process of integration if the immigrant makes an effort to learn the language, but it can not really be as simply put as “all immigrants should learn the language of their new country”.
No matter how much effort you put in, you will not be able to become a part of something if that “something” is not willing to accept you. It is like one of those “help me help you”-cases, if I may put it that simply, and I believe it is also know to be called teamwork. Once this first barrier, which is nothing but a barrier in the way of thinking, is overcome, all the other barriers standing in the way of integration will become a lot less insuperable.
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