Chapter in:Advances in Interdisciplinary Language Policy
Edited by François Grin, László Marácz and Nike K. Pokorn
[Studies in World Language Problems 9] 2022
► pp. 488–507
Language use in international retirement migration
The case of Scandinavian retirees in Alicante, Spain
Most research on migration and language has examined labour, refugee or family migrants. International retirement migration provides a different perspective on mobility, inclusion and multilingualism. The present chapter examines language use, linguistic challenges and linguistic strategies in the context of retirement migration from Scandinavia to the Alicante province in Spain. Interviews with retired migrants and local key persons showed that retirees often found it difficult to learn the local language, but that a range of other linguistic strategies were available to them. These strategies involved using either their native language or English. Use of the native language occurred in expatriate communities and in settings where interpretation or translation was available. Intercomprehension among retirees speaking different Scandinavian languages was also observed. A final native language strategy was exit – a temporary or in some cases permanent return to the retiree’s (former) home country. The chapter summarises these observations in a typology of linguistic strategies. It also highlights a number of context-specific conditions for these strategies in the case under study – the presence of well-established expatriate communities, the association between retirement migration and tourism, and the widespread use of English as a lingua franca. Given this particular linguistic landscape, Scandinavian retirees were mostly able to manage everyday communication without knowing much Spanish. Serious language-related problems appeared in specific situations, mainly related to health and elderly care, contacts with legal authorities, certain housing-related matters, and emergencies.