French migrants’ language habits and attitudes in England in the age of Brexit

Castellani, O., 2022. French migrants’ language habits and attitudes in England in the age of Brexit. PhD, Nottingham Trent University.

Ophélie Castellani 2022.pdf - Published version

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The UK EU membership referendum in June 2016 was followed by a rise in anti-European hate crimes. Early studies about Brexit and xenophobia showed that many Eastern Europeans were targeted by these attacks and felt unsafe when speaking their native languages in public places. Nevertheless, to date, little is known about other Europeans’ experiences of xenophobia before and after the EU referendum and how it could affect the way they use their native languages. Therefore, this thesis intends to determine whether French speakers in England are changing their language habits and the way they express their identity in a period of heightened antagonism towards the EU brought on by Brexit. It will analyse whether linguistic pride has been affected by Brexit and observe the consequences of societal change on languages.

In 2020, 514 French nationals living in different English cities answered an online questionnaire about their language habits pre- and post-EU referendum, changes they may have noticed and the languages they speak with their children when applicable. Thirty-two of them were invited to discuss their answers in online focus groups. The responses to the questionnaire were analysed quantitatively whereas a qualitative approach was used for the focus groups.

This research found that most French migrants felt unwelcome, anxious, and disappointed by the outcome of the EU referendum. After the referendum, some felt uncomfortable when speaking in French whether they had been victims of hate crimes themselves or not. Nevertheless, most of them still evaluated their experience in England as positive and thought that these feelings, as well as the occurrences of xenophobia towards them, tended to fade a few months after the referendum. Many did not perceive a change in their language habits and believed they had a privileged position in England compared to Eastern Europeans whom they thought were more often victims of hate crimes. However, some participants still feel uncomfortable four years after the referendum and admitted being more careful when speaking French in public places, and some are planning to leave the UK as they no longer feel wanted there. This study highlighted the importance of studying how Brexit affected migrants speaking different languages, as even those considered privileged reported cases of linguistic discrimination.

Item Type: Thesis
Creators: Castellani, O.
Date: December 2022
Rights: The copyright in this work is held by the author. You may copy up to 5% of this work for private study, or personal, non-commercial research. Any re-use of the information contained within this document should be fully referenced, quoting the author, title, university, degree level and pagination. Queries or requests for any other use, or if a more substantial copy is required, should be directed to the author.
Divisions: Schools > School of Arts and Humanities
Record created by: Jeremy Silvester
Date Added: 06 Jul 2023 13:57
Last Modified: 06 Jul 2023 14:48

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