Integration is more than a word

Dr Tim Blakemore, former senior law lecturer at the University of Northampton, living in France, looks at whether integration is about more than just language

Received opinion is that a good knowledge of the French language is essential for integration into French society. Indeed, in his presidential election manifesto, Emmanuel Macron said unequivocally that “we will make mastering the French language the principal criterion for obtaining French nationality”, adding “what better proof is there of the willingness of someone to integrate and become French?” 

He might be convincing on the issue of nationality, but how true is his second assertion? I can understand that a candidate for the French Presidency must show enthusiasm for the French language, as it is a source of national pride. It is also a classic source of irritation for the nationals of any country when foreigners do not integrate, and their inability to speak the language of their adopted country makes their separateness stand out even more so, and so becomes an easy stick to beat them with. 

Yet even the nationality process concludes with questions about French culture, history and society. It is more of a memory test than of a real willingness and intention to integrate, simply expecting a knowledge of ...

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