Brown Bag seminar with Dr. Ariane Macalinga Borlongan

Speaker: Ariane Macalinga Borlongan, Lecturer in Sociolinguistics Tokyo University of Foreign Studies
Title: Language Issues of Migrants in the Midst of the COVID-19 Pandemic

Date and Time: November 16 (Mon.) 2020, 12:00-13:30
Venue: Middle-sized Meeting Room, 3F,
Inamori Foundation Building, Kyoto University

Migration has been both a key driving force and the major inevitable outcome of the globalization of the human society. Yet the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019 (commonly abbreviated as COVID-19) has significantly disrupted and conceivably altered the ways human mobility takes it course. And in this global health crisis, (international) migrants are particularly made vulnerable (all the more). In this lecture, I discuss the various language issues confronting migrants in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. First, I focus on how language barriers have given them only limited access to information regarding the pandemic and have made it complicated for them to receive necessary health care when infected by the disease. Second, I look into the difficulties they encounter when communicating with health care providers at the time of detection, diagnosis, and cure.
Third, I talk about the isolation they face which results from their inability to communicate with the immediate people around them at a time when family and friends may have been separated from them because of physical distancing requests. Fourth, I point to the kind of xenophobic language directed towards foreigners, but most especially migrants, because of the stigma attached to them as potential carriers of the virus leading to the disease. I also take a look at the overall changes and disturbances in patterns of international migration, primarily those resulting from border closures and immigration policies which have prevented movement between countries. And while there are already too many issues at hand, I still find it prudent to point out lessons from all these experiences and draw implications and suggest recommendations relating to language in the context of migration. In this lecture, I therefore conjecture on the pandemic from a migration linguistic perspective, an interdisciplinary and multidimensional approach to the study of language in the context of migration which I proposed earlier (Borlongan, 2019, 2020). Of course, I do hope that this lecture (and the resulting article) could be a contribution to the suddenly — as a matter of urgency, of course — growing scholarly work on the current pandemic, particularly in relation to migration.