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Abstract

We present findings from an anthropological field study on the role of language and language policy in migration from Poland to Norway, and the larger implications for emerging language and immigration policy in Europe. Initial fieldwork in Norway found that Polish workers without knowledge of the Norwegian language struggled to secure employment in the formal economy. The 2008 financial crisis intensified competition in the labour market and underscored fluency in Norwegian as a means of discriminating among workers. Comparative case studies of language schools revealed that these organizations are active participants in channeling Polish migrants' movements into a segmented labour market, often in ways that involve cooperation between private companies and the State. We frame the Norwegian case within the larger context of Europe and the trend there toward favoring integration over multiculturalism. The emergence of restrictive language policies in Europe may be interpreted as a legally and culturally acceptable means for discouraging access to rights associated with permanent residency or citizenship by work migrants from CEE countries, while at the same time permitting them access to the labour market for temporary work. The long-term consequences of such policies for European society are uncertain.