Migrant Workers Also Need to Learn the Local Language

by fluffy on February 16, 2015 - 2:31pm

Nowadays, since there is some places in the world that have not the best conditions to live, there is a lot of emigration from those countries. Where do migrant go? They try to look for a better environment where there is opportunities and respect for the workers. Most of the time, these people chose to install themselves in an industrialized country as U.S.A., Canada, United Kingdom, etc. Unfortunately for the migrant workers, the language used in that country is often a different one from their own. This is why it makes me think, why migrant workers don't make an effort for learning the language of the country they decided to move? To me, it is clear that it is unethical to go to a foreign country and decide to not apply their laws and culture. Another way of seeing it is simply ignore everything established in that country and simply live as if you were in your natal country. If migrant workers came there to work, they need to speak the language in order to do a good work. Therefore, knowing the local language is a must in order to live in a foreign country so that there is no misunderstanding when it is time to work.

In a publication in Toronto Star newspaper done in 2015, there is a lawsuit between construction migrant workers who sue Ottawa for discrimination. On that situation, it is true that not knowing the local language may come up with some bad consequences especially in construction where there must not be any mistake (Thornhill). This is a perfect example that if migrant workers don't make an extra effort they will never have a work much better than those where they don't need to learn the language. I understand that their major goal is to flourish and get better and better to give a better lifestyle to your family but learning the local language is a must to get that goal. A study made by Billy Hare concluded that "cultural difference may distort comprehension" when testing migrant construction workers and their understanding of some health and safety communications (Hare). The study shows that there can be a lot of mistake risks when workers just don't learn the language, and this may be risky for some people or hurt people wish makes it unethical.

On the other side, there is people that think that learning the local language for migrant workers isn't that obviously needed. In fact, some argue that all this people are potentially needed in a community like those of industrialized countries (Whitby). It is true. Even more when we do know that migrant workers are here not only for work but to prosper in a foreign country. By that, we can see that those people are really motivated and that their misunderstanding of the language is not comparable to the work and the benefits they actually give to those countries. Therefore, in some way, they give the best they can, to help the country that actually gave them a hand and in that way, show their effort to society.The reason why I disagree is that if they really want to help the country, they need to get used to the way of living in that country anyway.

Works cited

Hare, Billy and al. "Exploratory Case Study Of Pictorial Aids For Communicating Helath and Safety for Migrant Construction Workers." Journal Of Construction Engineering and Management 139.7 (2013): 818-825. Academic Search Premier. Web. 14 Feb. 2015

Whitby,M.K. and Thornhill, R.M. "Two Takes on Migrant Worker's Lawsuit." Toronto Star Feb 16 2015. ProQuest. Web. 16 Feb. 2015


This is a very interesting view on the subject, I personally am on your side that immigrants should know the local language if they are to live here. Now, lets take another view on the stand point from a different perspective, one from the virtue ethics. Virtue Ethics takes into account the role of the person who performs the act and wether or not they are moral. It highlights the intent on the person making the action, but is not always necessarily bound by absolute laws. In this case, Virtue Ethics would look into each individual migrating to Canada or anywhere else, and see if they made the moral decision of not learning the local language.

I was not really aware that this was an issue but your post has enlightened me! My parents immigrated to Canada from Asia and had to learn French which was difficult for them. Regarding the issue, I do believe that learning the country's language is a necessity to live within it, however, I strongly disagree that it is unethical to not learn the national language.

From a teleological point of view, where the ends justifies the means, if a person manages to reach his or her goal, in this case to have a better lifestyle in a new country, it is ethical no matter how he or she does so. In essence, if one reaches a better lifestyle by any means which includes not learning the national language, then it is ethical. If one is able to attain his or her goal of better living conditions, he or she is free to do so however possible.

It can also be argued from a deontological point of view, where the means justifies the ends. Not learning a language does not violate any moral maxim. Thus, since it respects universal moral maxims, it is ethical simply to not learn the country's' language.

From my family background, I understand the value of learning the nation's language because communication and understanding is key is survival. However, it is always up to the individual. Learning is a choice. Thus, I believe that is it not unethical to not learn the language, but simply that that person will have difficulty in fulfilling his goal.

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