Citizenship, language tests and political participation

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This article critically examines the argument that languagetesting for citizenship is necessary in order to ensure thatnaturalized citizens have sufficient language proficiency toparticipate in democratic life. First, we contend that as theyare currently designed, language tests are normally unsuitableto assess the ability of would-be citizens to participate in thecomplex linguistic interactions that characterize democraticlife. We further claim that if language tests were redesignedin order to meet this challenge, this would unjustly exclude(or exacerbate the exclusion of) many categories of migrantsfrom citizenship, especially humanitarian entrants and adultswith low-level literacy skills. Finally, we argue that languagetests and language skills may be unnecessary for political par-ticipation, if institutions and social norms are in place whichenable speakers of different languages to participate in politi-cal life effectively and without fear of prejudice.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)449-464
Number of pages16
JournalNations and Nationalism
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022

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