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The Capital's 'language shortfall'

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Investigating the link between economic survival, language, and migrants in the UK who live in communities where English is not spoken or needed.

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About the project

This project is funded by ESRC from October 2006 for 20 months. The research team is headed by Roger Hewitt.

Despite the clear case commonly made for fluency in the English language being vital to the integration of minority ethnic groups and their prosperity in the UK, there is also evidence that some forms of integration are open to minorities that do not necessarily involve cultural or even linguistic, integration. Many migrant communities in British cities contain some successful, productive businesses in which English is not spoken by any member of the workforce in the course of their duties, and where, even at the level of senior mananagement, English is not used or deemed necessary.

These businesses, nevertheless, make a significant contribution to the economy. The contexts of English language non-use in entreprenarial activity closely relates to the embeddedness of ethnic entrepreneurs within their social networks as well as within the financial and state institutional environments which shape the forms that their economic activities take. An apparent divergence of economic and cultural integration in any multicultural society raises important questions concerning popular versus strategic notions of integration that warrant careful analysis. This project will be investigating these issues in relation to three London communities.