Processes of Migration

This page lists selected resources that explore diverse aspects of how language — and the search to understand and be understood — impact the experiences of migrants, whether they find themselves on the move or settled in a new country.

Why a Theme on Migration?

Most academic scholarship focuses on migrants' rights to legal representation or specific legal remedies, such as asylum, family reunification, or the right to study and/or work. However, little scholarly attention has been given to migrants' communicative needs and rights, for example in accessing interpretation and translation. Moreover, a gap persists between the formal rules, laws and policies regarding language access, and the ways that language access is (or is not) provided in practice.

Another crucial aspect of migration and language pertains to interpreters' roles and professionalism levels. Different legal and nonlegal contexts may have certain expectations about what interpreters should or should not do, as well as whether interpreters must be professionals or if they can be nonprofessionals (typically family, friends or community members). These expectations may differ from interpreters' own understandings of their roles. Such misaligned expectations can create linguistic frustrations and may even adversely affect the individuals on whose behalf the interpretation is provided.

Equally important are "language ideologies," defined by sociolinguist Kathryn Woolard as the "socially, politically and morally loaded cultural assumptions about the way that language works in social life and about the role of particular linguistic forms in a given society." Language ideologies can affect how attorneys perceive their clients, and can have important ramifications for how they approach important aspects of immigration cases, such as declaration-writing, preparing their client to provide testimony and even deciding whether or not their client needs an interpreter.

This resource page highlights some of the scholarship as well as more publicly accessible commentary that speaks to these points. We hope that these resources are helpful in promoting dialogues around these important themes, both in academic and practitioner circles.


Click on the type of resource below to explore scholarly publications, reports, commentaries and more. Many of the items listed below without links may still be found gratis online through a simple Google search.