Skilled Migration and Global English: The Linguistic Narratives of Sub-Saharan African Professionals

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference Abstractpeer-review


The new realities of super-diversity (Blommaert 2010; Vertovec 1997), and rapid technological change leading to time-space compression, have resulted in new professional and personal opportunities and challenges for present-day migrants. As patterns of migration become marked by increasing transnational mobility as well as multiplicity and non-linearity of migration routes, the linguistic repertoires of skilled migrants arriving in the UK are character- ised not only by diverse linguistic competencies in their native languages but, in some cases, also in the languages of their pre-UK settlement countries, alongside English – the global lingua franca.This paper explores the Bristol-based findings from a multi-site ethnographic World Universities Network project (Canagarajah et al. 2009) examining the role of language (i.e., English and other indigenous languages) in shaping Sub-Saharan skilled migrants’ life trajectories and engagement in professional and development endeavours. The project aimed to offer an alternative to previous demographic studies (Bleakley & Chin, 2004; Chiswick & Miller, 1995, 2002, 2007; Dustmann, 1994; Dustman & van Soest, 2001 & 2002; Dustmann & Fabbri, 2003) which focused primarily on the economic imperative for migration and the relationship between expertise in the dominant language and migrants’ levels of success – calculated in relation to levels of income in the host country.Drawing from ethnographic interviews and questionnaires, we examine how language influences the different channels and trajectories of migration; the impact of language in shaping skilled migrants’ levels of professional and personal success; and how skilled migrants’ linguistic repertoires are utilised and transformed within and across transnational contexts (i.e., within/outside Africa). Our findings point to the linguistic and cultural complexities of modern transnational movements but also acknowledge the central role English plays in shaping these trajectories and the ways in which it facilitates temporary and permanent settlement in the various locations, often leading to gradual attrition of native languages in the younger generations.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012
EventSociolinguistics Symposium 19 - Freie Universität, Berlin, Germany
Duration: 21 Aug 201224 Aug 2012


ConferenceSociolinguistics Symposium 19

Structured keywords

  • SoE Language Literacies and Education Network


  • sociolinguistics
  • migration
  • super-diversity


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