Case Study: ‘Take Care’ – A Health Care Language Guide for Migrants in 17 Languages

According to the Language Rich Europe research, the top provision of multilingual services is, perhaps unsurprisingly, in the tourist sector, with the most widely offered language being English. However, to what extent do cities look at the needs of their inhabitants before deciding which languages to offer and in which services? One of these needs is highlighted by the Language Rich Europe case study on the European Commission-funded project ‘Take Care,’ which seeks to:

[make] health care more accessible and effective for migrants who do not speak the language and are not familiar with the culture nor with the health care system in the host country

The case study highlights the importance of this, stating that the consequences of poor health can affect employability, educational achievement, social integration and job satisfaction, to name a few.

The main product of the project is a Health Care Language guide which provides methods for language learning based on the needs and experiences of the target groups, language tools on health care, and information on the health care systems in each country.

The project is currently being run in Bulgaria, the Netherlands, Germany, Cyprus, Lithuania, Portugual, Romania and Spain, but language materials will be available on the project website in up to 17 languages for use by groups from other European countries.

For more information on this and other projects, and to submit your own good practice case study, visit the Language Rich Europe website.

Languages and Immigration

This is a difficult subject to write about as I am fully aware of how sensitive, complex and political it is. To be completely honest, I would much prefer to write about this Gaelic-speaking teddy bear, due to be launched in October.

But if we are going to look at language policies and practices across Europe, this blog cannot ignore the issue of immigration. This is currently of particular relevance because of a legal case under way in the UK.  

On the one hand, we have immigration rules introduced in Britain by Home Secretary Theresa May requiring all immigrants outside the EU to have a basic command of English. On the other, we have Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights, which protects the right to a ‘private and family life,’ and Article 12 which recognises the right to marry and establish a family.
But caught in the middle of this legal battle are a husband and wife unable to reunite because of languages. Rashida Chapti is a British citizen but her husband Vali Chapti cannot join her because of his lack of English. According to an article in the Daily Mail, he is unwilling to learn English, but his reasons for this are not so straightforward. In India, he left school at the age of 9 and “he can barely read or write in his mother tongue, Gujarati.” So learning English, at the age of 57, must be all the more difficult.

To many, lack of interest in learning the language of your new home is seen as lack of interest in integrating and your motivation for immigrating is questioned. “Sponging off the state” is a comment that is frequently heard. But in Chapti’s case, he has a job offer in the UK and has family that can speak English so integration may not be such a problem, and his taxes will be paid. Another argument made is that residents have the “right to a common language” but the UK has always been a multilingual country and historically English was not spoken by everyone.

Personally, I would like to speak the language of whatever country I am living in. But my situation is very different to that of Vali Chapti’s, having studied languages at school and university. I wonder how successful forcing someone to learn a language is, or if making a country welcoming so that newcomers want to learn the language and putting systems in place so that they are strongly encouraged to do so might be better?

If you would like to read more about this case, you can do so in The Telegraph and The Independent. I would also recommend the Guardian’s podcast which looks at the different issues surrounding the English language requirement for immigrants.