Banciu | Chipea | Simona – The Sociolinguistic and Educational Approach of Romanian Migration

Nr. 18    Juli 2011 TRANS: Internet-Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften

Section | Sektion: Städtische Welten in Industriegebieten – Kulturwandel, (Sprach)Kommunikation, Wissensgesellschaft | Urban Worlds in Industrial Landscapes – Cultural Changes, (Linguistic)Communication, Knowledge Society

The Sociolinguistic and Educational Approach
of Romanian Migration

Viorica Banciu | Florare Chipea | Chelemen Ioan | Stanciu Simona
(University of Oradea, Romania)

 Konferenzdokumentation |  Conference publication



  1. Abstract
  2. Introduction
  3. Home Is No Longer a National Concept
  4. Assessing Migration
  5. The Educational Aspects of Migration
    5.1. Positive Aspects
    5.2. Negative Aspects
  6. The Sociolinguistic Consequences of Migration
  7. Conclusions

1. Abstract

The manifestation of international migration as a complex social phenomenon, the major implications in the lives of individuals and in their families and in community life could not remain unnoticed. One of the most important approaches is the sociolinguistic approach, the linguistic diversity describing several multilingual communities. The most important focus on attention is on education and its central role in the management of linguistic diversity.

It is a fact that immigrant minorities have limited access to the learning of their native languages in education. „Assimilation, including linguistic assimilation, continues to be the prevailing ideology to deal with immigrant minorities.“ (1) We live a period of greater tolerance of linguistic diversity which led to the introduction of bilingual education programs where the emphasis is still on the importance of the language of the country that received the immigrants. These programs are meant to facilitate the transition between the minorities‘ culture and education and a medium education in the language of the county that adopted the minority, rather than maintain the bilingualism.

Our paper aims to discuss the sociolinguistic and educational perspectives of the Romanian minorities living abroad and also the facilities granted by the directives of the European Council.


2. Introduction

Social movements can be broadly defined as being at the same time „cause and effect, … , carrier and motor of social change“(2). Men’s struggle to gain freedom both social and political which make up the civil rights movements have been observed throughout history. All these actions have had as their main goal „democratizing and reforming relations and politics“(3). Today’s social movements go beyond these basic issues taking into account also the life style, the individual and political self-determination concerning men and nature caused catastrophes which would trigger an irreversible alteration of these basic life rules.

If the main reason for migration some centuries ago was politics, nowadays the driving force behind such movements is the need for social and economical stability. People abandon their birth place and travel to far away countries, having as main purpose a better life.

In political theory the labor movement constituted itself in the welfare state after being established and institutionalized. Lorenz von Stein in his Geschichte der Sozialen Bewegung in Frankreich (The History of Social Movements in France 1789–1850) considered „the proletariat“ the driving force in history and gave reason for the modern social movement. In his words the labor movement expressed the „continuing contradiction“ resulting from „a society of unequals … [compared] with the concept of human being“.(4)

The new social theory understands movements as „a critical instance in modern society and the welfare state“(5). It has been generally accepted that the various civil rights, emancipation and peace or ecology movements have an extraordinary role, Jean Cohen and Andrew Arato considering these social movements as „a key feature of vital modern civil society and an important form of citizen participation in public life“(6) In their theory they place in a central spot the women’s movement explaining that its objective was to apply the standards of justice to all spheres of civil society including the family, being thus a major factor in „the de-traditionalization and democratization of social relations“(7)

Work regardless of its kind „remains as the most important determinant of [life changes] for the majority of the population… work – as employment… has been in practice the major source of the emergence of a European citizenship and associated rights“.(8) One must admit that the changes that affect work and employment will also modify the way in which life changes and social rights are constructed.


3. Home Is No Longer a National Concept

During their history each country has placed its national values above all others considering them to be superior and more important than the rest. This, in many cases, has even led to smaller or bigger conflagrations. Examples in this respect are wars. Bearing this in mind it is now an astonishing fact that nations „willingly and without leading wars choose to neglect or diminish if not to abandon or give up these specific traits. Who could have imagined, some years ago, that nationalism would be put aside and that the birth place would no longer be that important for those who run from poverty not in another part of the same country but in a different country all together. Who could have imagined that the proud German people would give up their Deutsch mark in favor of a European currency. All these changes are remarkable and reflect in the way that „Europeans feel above their individual nations and how they relate to them“(9).

Europeans have given up old traditions and adopted new ones, giving their best to make these new traditions and the newly created institutions work. Examples in this respect are the European Union, the European Council, European Parliament, etc.

Renouncing or giving up old established values and adopting new ones that is renouncing the nationalism is only one side of this matter. There are still a lot of people in the world today, who place nationalism above all things even if such a thinking is destructive. During the cold war, this kind of nationalism has brought about destruction to the European continent. Nowadays nationalism is rather more indulgent, yet one has only to turn on the TV and look at the news to realize that many conflicts that are going on in the world are generated or motivated by nationalist ideals. Some ideologists believe that nationalism cannot disappear and even such an act as the destruction or the collapse of the Soviet Union did not right a wrong and bring freedom to the oppressed but left instead of tyranny two ideologies in Europe „nationalism and the market.“(10)

There are those who give credit to the nationalist movements making the right wing parties gain more ground. In France the extreme right-wing National Front gained an important percentage of the people’s votes in national and regional elections throughout the 1990s. Neo Nazi groups and skin heads in Germany also gained ground and electoral strength in the recent years. Gerhard Frei – head of the German people’s union – declared: „in France, Italy, Denmark, everywhere the right wing is entering politics and shifting the main stream body politic to the right… voting right wing for young people in Germany today is now part of their culture like techno-music and roller blading.“(11)

Such a political change in Germany also implied attacks against the EU. Former Premier Edmund Stoiber considered the situation of Germany intolerable attributing its country the epithet of „milking cow“ for its neighbors.

The real situation of the European nations today is somewhere in between these two situations that is not all the people willingly give up their national background and not all the people stubbornly hold on to this national background. Adopting the term supranational one can see the antinomy between national and supranational, the national form being seen „as the norm and the European identity is measured against it… a European identity for example cannot be based on anyone language, as most national identities are. A European identity is also not based on any clear borders, a capital or a preexisting state with long-held symbols and institutions. A European identity is not necessarily created in conflict with a national identity… :

Europeans have been capable of inventing their own responses to a problem common to the whole world: how to keep one’s cultural identity and at the same time adjust to the modern world, i.e., the technological revolution. In a way building Europe is being able to find one’s own direction, something, I feel that is no longer possible at a national level.(Vignon, 1997.) (12)

Beginning with the 1990s, when Romania became a democratic country, no longer having to obey the strict conditions of the communist regime people found it easier and easier to go abroad. If some were driven by their need to satisfy their curiosity going places they hadn’t seen before, while others sought only material gain. While the first category managed to impress in a positive way, the people in the country they visited some of the people in the second category caused nothing but shame to the name of Romania.

Money and social status have become recently an objects of quest for those trying to improve their lives while some go in search of a better paid job others try to improve their knowledge attending conferences, being part of international programs and projects, giving different speeches and so on. Regardless of their goal these needs have caused a rather large migration of population in the last few years. Among the categories whose representatives have gone abroad in rather large numbers one can enumerate the unemployed and later teachers, doctors, engineers, different specialists, etc. Many of them were seduced by the good conditions of life and work abroad, some came back, and some became citizens of their new countries. The first social class who made a fashion out of going abroad was mostly made up of unemployed people, of desperate people who had nothing to loose from living an unsecured and unstable environment. Abroad they made the money that they couldn’t dream of by staying at home and when they returned they gave others hopes as well.

This situation went on for some time until the world entered an economical crisis: jobs became more and more difficult to find, loosing a job meant even years of struggle to get a new one and the result was that being abroad was no longer something positive. People returned home in large numbers adding to the already existing economical and social instability.

Talking about Romania in general and about the residents of Bihor county in particular we can say that the main shortcomings of these goings abroad have been seen not on those abroad but on their families who remained at home. One can talk about school dropping, a loss in work power, crisis situations for many families, deviant behavior for both children and adults, even desperate acts. All in all when assessing or weighing the advantages against disadvantages the conclusion is not that optimistic. The beatitude felt when earning their first big wages and being able to afford unreachable things was later paid by seeing their families break apart, their children becoming truants and even their own health deteriorating.


4. Assessing Migration

It is a known fact that the „international migration of labor force appeared at the same time as the deepening of the social division of work and was amplified with the multiplication of mobility means in the geographical space.“(13)

When analyzed, social mobility implies much more than the moving of the individuum from one place to another. One should also take into account the mobility of some elements of the social status. The following elements can be mentioned here: instructional mobility, residential mobility, professional mobility, political mobility, level of living mobility, and so on. When the individuum decide to seek his/her welfare somewhere else, moving from one place to another he/she not only alters his/her social status but also the other elements of mobility which are interrelated. Explicitly, when an individuum seeks a higher wages and moves to another country, the main goal, the wish to earn more money and improve the quality of life also means changing his/her home (the mobility of residence) he/she also accepts and takes for granted new values, has higher aspirations according to his/her new social status, moves higher up the hierarchical ladder, all these meaning adaptation and transformation.

All this migration of populace with all its short-term and long term effects has come to represent the object of study for specialists of the socio-human studies. It can be argued here that the decision to emigrate, regardless of the reasons for doing so, has major and sometimes negative effects on both the individuum and the family. Most emigrants try to create stable conditions in their new country so that they can bring their families there too. Thus the separation period is rather short (depending on the luck they are finding better conditions) and a family reunites after just few years. Others consider that it is better for their children to remain in their native county, not wanting to separate them from their rest of the family (that remains in the country), friends, schoolmates, traditions, habits, etc. But this decision is a two edge sword: while the parents have only the best interests of their children in their minds, in reality, lacking parental authority may disrupt family bonds and family order. Not being at home to supervise their children the parents might end up either divorcing (if one is at home and one abroad), or (if both abroad) their children might become juvenile delinquents.

The best case scenario is that when children learn the language of their new country, continue their studies abroad and manage to find jobs. In Romanian families the national tradition is still strong and even abroad the native tongue is preserved and passed to the next generations. Thus, we can talk about multiculturalism because the information is conveyed in two languages: the informal information is conveyed in the native tongue while the formal education, the schooling process is conveyed in the language of the new country.

The decision to emigrate should be a very difficult one and all the above mentioned aspects should be taken into consideration, weighed so that the outcome of this action should be a positive one.


5. The Educational Aspects of Migration

It has become clear in the recent years that the problem of international migration is no laughing matter. This is exactly the reason why the Romanian specialists have approached this issue with a large interest in the short and long term implications which are literally unknown. Their job, their goal is to come up with solutions and advice for those who resort to such an action so that the possible problems that can occur and will occur will be prevented. Thorough studies have been made in this respect to try to counteract the negative effects and the possible uncontrollable situations which can later occur in the lack of proper management. According to a study realized by PHD professor Chipea Floare and associated scientific referents about this phenomenon in the North-West side of Romania (Banat, Crisana and Maramures) and especially in the Bihor county, establishing that this region is the one which has the largest number of children whose parents work abroad, mounting to 27% followed closely by Moldova with 25%.

The same study offers further examples of data regarding this matter, data which have been collected by specialists within the School Inspectorate of the Bihor County. This study was performed in August 2008 and entailed all 210 school units. The analyzed data refer to 102 units out of which 49 in communes, 40 in Oradea and 13 in smaller towns. After further data gathering this study has established that the number of children with ages between 0–18 with emigrant parents in 2008 was:

  • 634 in the first trimester;
  • 563 children in the second trimester;
  • 777 children in the third semester.

The same study shows that in August 2008, in Bihor county alone, there were 2134 pupils and pre-school children with emigrant parents.

Expending the situation the National Authority for Child Care indicated that in 2007 there were 82,464 children with ages between 0 to 18 coming from 56,202 families which had at least one member abroad, while the Gallup survey estimates a figure twice as much, talking about a number of 170, 000 children which represents 16-18% from the total of one million registered students, in the fifth to eighth grades in the school year 2006/2007.

Fig. 1: The Distribution of Cases in the Bihor County According the Level of Education(14)

Quoting the same study we must bear in mind that most children with parents abroad come from gymnasium, followed by those in high-school and primary school while the pre-school level is situated on the last place. The reason why we mentioned these statistics is the following: the logic that is behind all these facts and behind the action of migration is that the need for affection from the parent is inversely proportional to age. That means that a younger child would feel more difficult and more acutely the leaving of a parent not being able to understand the motivation of such an action, while an older child would be able to cope with such a situation, understand it and even benefit from it. We have learnt that the predominant number of migrating parents is made up of fathers – 46.7 %, followed by mothers – 28.1% and 25% represent the situation when both parents are abroad. These situations have a direct influence on the children. We can mention in short that according to the parent that remains with the children we can have either a stable family and social situation or a rather loose situation.


Fig. 2: The Number of Cases Registered Both in the Rural and Urban Environment According to the Parent That Left (15)


5.1 Positive Aspects

Knowing the fact that children are affectionately closer to the mother than the father, it is only logical that the higher percentage of the parents who go abroad to work is represented by the fathers. A mother better relate to the situation of being far away from her husband and having to take care of the children. Today mothers are more authoritative than they were in the past being able to impose themselves in front of their children and maintain stability in the family. That is why the percentage of mothers abroad is rather reduced and the tendency is to entrust the children to their grandparents rather than to their fathers.

Regardless of the case, be it the mother, father or grandparent, the child that has been brought in a normal, stable and caring family environment will continue the studies and not stray from the path he/she was started on before one of the parents went abroad to work. Leaving aside the fact that the leaving of a parent throws the family environment a bit out of balance the child will find other motivations to better himself/herself to complete his/her studies and to normally integrate in society.

The leaving of a parent can be positive from several points of view. If, in the native country the family has a rather lower social (not intellectual) status the money sent by the parent working abroad will be put to good use and the capable children will be able to attend good schools, have a higher social status, raise their self esteem and self confidence and reach a status which wouldn’t have been economically possible before.

Another positive aspect is when the parent abroad works in an elevated environment and thus becomes motivated to draw his/her family from home into such an environment. Thus the children will continue their studies in a new and more professional educational environment, having the opportunity to integrate themselves more easily in a totally different society. In many cases, the parent at home will change his/her optic, and will be able to go through with the process of social re-conversion, the most important factor in this process being the motivation.

Regarding the learning process, the continuing of the learning process of the children who follow their parents to a new country, there are also many positive aspects. If the motivation for learning a foreign language at school in his native country was small to average and the environment was only half achieved living in a foreign country changes all of these. Having to speak the new language in order to be understood, to make friends, and to integrate is a very powerful motivating factor. Seeing the advantages of the new environment will determine the child to want to make the most of it. He/she will learn the language of the new country and possibly one or two more foreign languages. At the same time the child’s native language will be preserved at least within the family where he/she will continue to speak it.

Most universities have special educational programs for emigrants and hard-working students will win scholarships that will enable them to ultimately reach their intellectual, economical and social goal.


5.2 Negative Aspects

Although, with no exceptions, all the parents who go to work abroad do this effort bearing in mind their families‘ best interests, sometimes things may take a wrong turn. Although the general trend is that of positively benefiting from their parents being abroad, sometimes some of the children that have parents abroad will misunderstand their parents‘ investment in them and adopt ostentatious behaviors by showing off their welfare within the community they live in.

The primary source of negative effects when talking about children with parents abroad consists exactly of the lack of authority of the missing parent. In most cases the parent that sacrifices himself by going abroad to earn money is the father. It is considered that while the mother can better provide for the emotional part of children rising, the father can endure the hardships imposed by a new working, social and language environment. This concept is often wrong. Being far away from his children a father cannot be viewed as an authority figure in the family, the part of the father falling on to the mother. Many studies consider that leaving abroad produces more damage when the children are younger and they undoubtedly need the presence of the father in their lives. Growing without a father or with one they see only several times a year will throw a bit out of balance their system of family values. The effects of such an up bringing can later be seen and rarely corrected. The same studies consider that an older child has already been formed and his system of family values has been completed and, as a result the child is more independent at this age. All these will help the child understand the absence of the father for the benefit of the family.

Further commenting on the negative aspects the leaving of the parent to earn money abroad affects most of all and primarily the child’s educational behavior in school. Thus the lack of the authority of the father will be reflected in the child behaving badly at school, getting average to low marks, accumulating absences and finally in some cases dropping out of school.

Another negative aspect of the father being abroad determines distorted view of reality on the part of the child. The child will come to value not the parent who has a stable, respectable but average paid job, but the parent who makes more money even if working in an unqualified position which does not require many studies or proficiency diplomas. Thinking like that the child will be tempted to adopt it as a model and place only little value on the continuation of his/her studies.

A further negative aspect, triggered by the lack of father authority will consist of the child being drone into a bad entourage which will lead to absence from school, juvenile delinquency, drug abuse and violence towards his/her fellow classmates, teachers, family, people around him/her.


Fig. 3: Negative consequences of the migration of parents (16)

Further developing the idea about children with ostentatious behavior we can say that such a behavior is triggered by a lack of control from the parent and a lack of balance between the support that the parent gives to the child and the requirements that the parent has from the child.

A child with money but without a father to control him or her will misunderstand the newly gained economical status and will show off in front of his/her schoolmates and friends. Such a behavior will lead to two possible situations: the child will either be attracted by a bad entourage or be expelled from his/her old environment.

In the study Social Territorial Development by Floare Chipea we have found even a worse case scenario regarding the effects that the leaving of a parent has upon the family at home. This scenario offers two dangerous situations that can occur in such separated families. One situation is that the parent abroad, although providing for the family will at some point no longer find the motivation to come back home from various reasons. This will lead to the dissolution of the family, most affected being also the children. In the above-mentioned study when asked about such a situation 26 of the subjects declared that they had met with such a situation while 57 of the subjects declared that they hadn’t come across such a situation. The study considers that if a quarter of those interviewed do know such situations the percentage of family dissolution with a parent working abroad is rather big.

The second situation mentioned in this study refers to the lacking of parental control taken to the extreme. The situation they present is the following:

„…in 2008 two children whose parents were gone to work abroad and that were left in the care of their relatives had a fight. Not being supervised, one of them stabbed the other causing his death“ (17)

Most people who turn to migration in order to gain a higher economical status are either unaware or they simply disregard the potential negative effects of their actions. There are only a handful of those who carefully weigh all the aspects and take the necessary precautions to ensure the happiness and stability of their family before migrating. In consequence in most of the cases, migration is not a voluntary deed but rather an imposed last resort.


6. The Sociolinguistic Consequences of Migration

Language change may be thought of as having internal (intra-systemic), external (contact-based) and extra-linguistic (socio-political and economic) motivations.“ (18)

As the above mentioned paper states migration can and must be considered a „leading cause of contact induced change“ (19). This can be explained as follows: whenever migration is involved, being an extra-linguistic factor, people undergoing this process will find new external motivations that will help them to see this process through.

Migration not only affects the individuum moving from one space to another but it will also affect the individuum’s former and future environment. Thus, according to the same paper migration has profound sociolinguistic consequences. Surveys have shown that most of the people who emigrate are those with ages between 20 and 40, therefore young and economically active people. The process of migration will lead to a lowering of the active population in the country where people migrate from and to a rising of the population in the country that people go to. The benefit of the host country will be not only of gaining new labor force but also of enriching the cultural heritage with new habits, customs and other cultural manifestations.

The process of migration is a very complex one which triggers a lot of changes. Many studies have treated it only from the point of view of relocation. However it involves a lot more and only for sometime specialists have managed to comprise all the repercussions of such a process. That is why, until sometime ago the linguistic effects of migration were approached separately from the expansion of linguistic features, comprised in a study known as geographical diffusion. Today, however all these aspects are parts of a common study involving psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic processes which are the result of language and dialect contact. In order to explain these phenomena specialists have used terms such as expansion diffusion, geographical diffusion, hierarchical diffusion, relocation diffusion, etc.

When talking about linguistic areas expansion diffusion and relocation diffusion involve a language contact which determines a modification or alteration of the language resulting in „pidginisation, creolisation, second-language acquisition, multilingualism, borrowing and language shift“ (20).

Whenever people migrate they have to take into account several factors: space, time, motivation and socio-cultural factors. Each of these factors are equally important.

When talking about space specialists make the difference between a migration in the same areal unit and a migration beyond this areal. That is why in the first case the term in-migrants is used while in the second case the out-migrants is used.

Talking about distance it is an obvious fact that a short distance migration involves an easier way of maintaining a link with the family while a long distance migration the intensity of the link is at a lower level.

In terms of direction when talking about simple moves within the same areal the migration is from the rural to the urban areas. If the movement is beyond the boundaries of an areal this rule doesn’t always apply. Emigrants into their new country don’t always seek highly urbanized areas as their next residence. There are many known cases of people leaving from rather large cities, in their country of origin to live and work into smaller settlements.

The time factor is a very important one since periods of migration differ. People can migrate for short time engagements (daily and seasonal) or for long term engagements (long-term contracts).

In Romania the main two motivating factors for migration are: a higher economical and social status and a migration scene as a means of continuing ones studies and professionally developing themselves.

We can talk about the socio-cultural factor whenever people try to reach a higher status be it in terms of social position or in terms of cultural recognition.


7. Conclusions

Migration, education and language interact in a complex way. Chiefly, migration leads to profound changes from the point of view of education, family and language or dialect contact. Although migration is not always positive for many Romanians today it seems like a chance worth taking. Many of the causing factors of migration are really noticeable not only on a second hand experience but in many cases at first hand. Whatever action that is taken to the extreme cannot but have negative effects. In Romania’s case this „overflowing“ of intelligence leaves the country deprived of a large part of its elite. The worst thing is that many of them find no reason to return.



1 Hellinger&Pauwels, Handbook of Language and Communication: Diversity and Change, Mouton de Gruyter2009; p. 3. 2 Boje, Thomas, P. , European Societies: Fussion or Fission?, Routledge, London, 1999, pg. 105. 3 Idem, ibidem. 4 Idem ibidem p.106. 5 Idem ibidem p.106. 6 Idem ibidem p.106. 7 Idem ibidem p.106. 8 Idem ibidem p. 143. 9 Robyn, Richard, The Changing Face of European Identity: A Seven-Nation Study of (Supra)National Attachments, Routledge, New York, 2004 p. 1. 10 Idem ibidem p. 2. 11 Idem ibidem p. 3. 12 Op.cit. pg.8-9. 13 According to the original Chipea Floare, Dezvoltare sociala teritoriala. Premise conceptuale si date empirice (Social Territorial Development. Conceptual Premises and Empirical Data) Editura Universitatii din Oradea 2010, pg. 225. 14 According to the original Chipea Floare, Dezvoltare sociala teritoriala. Premise conceptuale si date empirice (Social Territorial Development. Conceptual Premises and Empirical Data) Editura Universitatii din Oradea 2010, pg. 235 graphic. 15 According to the original Chipea Floare, Dezvoltare sociala teritoriala. Premise conceptuale si date empirice (Social Territorial Development. Conceptual Premises and Empirical Data) Editura Universitatii din Oradea 2010, pg. 237 graphic. 16 According to the original Chipea Floare, Dezvoltare sociala teritoriala. Premise conceptuale si date empirice (Social Territorial Development. Conceptual Premises and Empirical Data) Editura Universitatii din Oradea 2010, pg. 242 graphic. 17 According to the original Chipea Floare, Dezvoltare sociala teritoriala. Premise conceptuale si date empirice (Social Territorial Development. Conceptual Premises and Empirical Data) Editura Universitatii din Oradea 2010, pg. 241–242. 18 Kerswill, Paul (2006). Migration and language. In Klaus Mattheier, Ulrich Ammon & Peter Trudgill. (eds.) Sociolinguistics/Soziolinguistik. An international handbook of the science of language and society, 2nd edn., Vol 3. Berlin: De Gruyter.…/Kerswill2006Migrationlanguage.pdf. 19 Idem ibidem. 20 Op.cit. pg 2.



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