Gut für wen? Kosmopolitismus als Ansatz zur sprachlichen und beruflichen Integration von geflüchteten Menschen

Translated title of the contribution: Good for whom? Teaching and Learning with Immigrants. A Plea for a Cosmopolitan Approach

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Economists tend to see the unprecedented influx of refugees from Syria, Irak, Iran and Afghanistan not as an obligation or a threat, but as an opportunity to counteract current demographic changes: an aging population and a shrinking birth rate.
But a note of caution is inevitable, because there is nothing automatic about the successful outcome, either in the labour market or in society at large. Managing their integration in terms of balancing between teaching the ‘hard linguistic skills’ and the ‘soft cultural skills’ represents a major challenge for language instructors, industrial placement supervisors, institutional providers and funding bodies.
The promulgation of European values within the framework of language tuition is a worthy endeavour, but it requires diligence, sensitivity and a mental agility in order to negotiate between the standards and codes of conduct prevailing in the societies immigrants have just left and of those they hope to make their new home. Hence, the learning process on cultural orientation and awareness is required on both sides of the teaching and learning equation.
There are many lessons here to be learned from the imperial, colonial and the recent German past in order to avoid the impression of imposing our value system in a counterproductive response to the threat of extremism. The question is not just how we teach German language and European culture, but what we can learn from the cultural heritage our new fellow citizens bring, and how we can adapt our teaching accordingly, to the benefit of all concerned.
An outstanding and timely asset that many refugees bring to us is the set of cosmopolitan ideals deeply anchored in Muslim culture. The perspective of a cosmopolitan community consisting of individuals from a variety of locations who live in proximity and, despite their differing ethnic, cultural and religious values and beliefs form relationships and interact with each other on the basis of mutual respect, represents both a rewarding adventure and a grand challenge. For the learners of German, troubled by their experience of repression and escape, the arrival in a safe country holds a promise yet to be fulfilled. Their tutors, on the other hand, need to understand that language acquisition and tuition in this context has wider significance than the familiar motivations of curiosity, welcoming or hospitality. While many refugees are well educated, not all are; and, more pertinently, unlike most ‘economic’ high-skilled migrants, they are not coming here for career opportunities. Hence language tuition should go hand in hand with orientation and guidance towards goals such as employability and responsible citizenship.
The success of this integration project will depend on the competition among learners for specific resources or stakes made available to them in the social arena for which language tuition and cultural awareness form the first step. Equally, however, there are skills and approaches here to be acquired on the part of the providers and facilitators.
These will, in the short term, demand commitment well beyond the currently prevailing common opinion among German politicians and the public that German language acquisition is the main prerequisite for integration. In the medium term, they will require moderation, civil courage and sensitivity towards both the experience of relocation and the cosmopolitan heritage of tutees. While the experiences of expulsion and escape as the last chance of saving one's skin are part of twentieth century German empathies, cosmopolitanism as part and parcel of Muslim culture, has little tradition in Christian Europe. Hence, in the long-term, new and essential values will need to evolve to include the vision of a European cosmopolitan community.
This vision forms the departure for the present article. I will plea for a cosmopolitan approach to language acquisition and professional integration as on-going negotiation between the lived knowledge of adult learners and the systemized knowledge of instructors, facilitators and institutional providers. Such negotiation should take the form of a mindful, disciplined and regulated inquiry to be pursued in a spirit of openness and mutual respect for the values of the other; it should not proceed by the mission to ‘civilize’ or to proselytize. While differentiating between language proficiency for employability and academic professionalization, I will argue in favour of classes, job shadowing and industrial placements as discursive events in which knowledge is acquired by both learners and tutors as an act of project-based cooperation, in which the will to understand and to communicate is considered a prerequisite for joint action (vgl. Liedke, Keller, 1987).
Translated title of the contributionGood for whom? Teaching and Learning with Immigrants. A Plea for a Cosmopolitan Approach
Original languageGerman
Title of host publicationWie schaffen wir das?
Subtitle of host publicationBeiträge zur sprachlichen Integration gefl üchteter Menschen
EditorsGabriele Kniffka, Matthias Jung, Annegret Middeke, Annett Eichstaedt
Place of PublicationGöttingen
PublisherUniversitätsdrucke Göttingen
ISBN (Print)978-3-86395-316-4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2017

Publication series

NameMaterialien Deutsch als Fremd- und Zweitsprache
ISSN (Print)2566-9230
ISSN (Electronic)2566-9281


  • Teaching and learning with immigrants


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