International Colloquium on Language Skills for Economic and Social Inclusion

Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
End Date

General goals
This conference aims at exploring the relationship between individual language skills and people’s integration in the economy and in society in general with a special focus on the labour market. Language skills can be viewed as human capital having a positive influence on people’s income, employability and social inclusion. This holds for immigrants, refugees and mobile people who can benefit from the knowledge of the official language(s) of the host country, but also for citizens learning foreign languages and using them in the workplace.

Learning foreign or second languages has for a long time been associated with openness to other cultures. In recent decades, nevertheless, the discourse on language learning has gradually changed. Language skills are viewed as part of individuals’ human capital that can contribute to their economic welfare, increase productivity and foster growth. At the same time, language learning can promote social inclusion. As a result of recent massive migration flows to Europe both the Council of Europe and the EU have emphasised the importance of language skills for the economic and social integration of migrants and refugees.
There are some sound economic reasons behind these claims. Being a particular form of human capital, language skills may have a positive effect of the economic and social inclusion of individuals in different ways. Language skills in the official language of the host country may have a positive impact on immigrants’ income, measured in terms of earning differentials; foreign language skills may be associated with a higher employability, and with a lower probability of being dismissed when the costs of the workforce increase. Language skills, therefore, may facilitate the participation and the inclusion in the labour market, higher earnings and the possibilities of finding a job or holding it. Language skills can also promote a better inclusion in society. Employment, in fact, is one central aspect of inclusion.
Languages are necessary (although not sufficient) for social inclusion and cohesion. The Social Policy and Development Division of the United Nations defines Social inclusion as the process by which people resident in a given territory, regardless of their background, can achieve their full potential in life. This, of course, includes the economic life of individuals, without neglecting other social and political aspects. Social cohesion is a related concept that can be defined as a feature of a society in which all groups have a sense of belonging, participation, inclusion, recognition and legitimacy. This requires, among other things, avoiding the emergence of “parallel communities” that are divided (or even segregated) by language barriers within a given society.
Language policy can contribute to avoiding exclusion and segregation by promoting the linguistic integration of refugees and migrants, also in the labour market, and by fostering foreign language learning for mobile people who wish to spend a shorter or longer period of their lives abroad (e.g. international students). Language skills facilitate inclusion and cohesion because, among other things, they increase the capability of citizens and migrants to understand and communicate with the other members of society. It facilitates the access to (higher) education, which plays a key role in the development of an individual’s human capital.

Date and Venue
12-13 October 2017
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin,
Berlin, Germany
Fees and payment methods
The participation fee is €150 until 1 September and then €200. It includes four coffee breaks, two lunches and the social dinner on Thursday 12th October.
The participation fee for students of Humboldt-Universität is €50,-.
It is possible to pay either by bank transfer or by Paypal.
Submission and deadlines
The length of abstracts should not exceed 350 words. Abstracts must be submitted to the address “” by 15 May 2017. The successful applicants will be notified by 30 June 2017.
Working languages
You can send abstracts in English, Esperanto, French, German, Italian, Spanish, or Swedish.