Berbersprecher im Rhein-Main Gebiet

Berber speakers in the Rhine-Main region: Migration, minority status and masculinity


The project looks at communicative practices among younger male Berber-speakers of North African background. Upon arrival in Germany they need to navigate a foreign language environment. As speakers of Berber, or Imazighen (sg. Amazigh), they form part of a minority already in their home countries and they are usually multilingual. Typically, Imazighen speak several varieties of Berber and Arabic, often in addition to French, as well as sometimes English and/or Spanish.

In our project we investigate to what extent the experience of belonging to a minority and being multilingual may impact positively on mastering a new language ecology. Or is it rather the case that minority status implies experiences of oppression and/or ambivalent self-images with possibly negative effects in the context of migration. Special focus lies on unmonitored language acquisition. So far, we know little about the specific of these mechanisms.

Criteria considered significant in the contexts of second language acquisition include age, gender, level of education and duration of exposure to the target language. Observations show that these are not necessarily good predicators for success (or failure) in (unmonitored) second language acquisition. One technique we rely on is the collection of language portraits which initiate in-depth ethnographic interviews with emphasis on participants’ language attitudes.

Our hypothesis is that the mechanisms and dynamics of unmonitored second language acquisition are, to some extent, languages-/culture-specific. This implies we need to investigate practices of language learning commonly relied on in specific communities which may prove particularly robust and possibly more successful for a particular group than other learning strategies.


  • (2021) Fanego Palat, A. Mimesis and the Acquisition of Gay Voice Timbre. Journal of Postcolonial Linguistics 4: 59-82.
  • (2021) Fanego Palat, A. & Nassenstein N., Linguistic road works ahead: a commentary on language, integration and unfulfilled obligations. The Mouth Critical Studies on Language, Culture and Society 8: 202-216 (Special Issue „Migration, Language, Integration“, edited by Klaudia Dombrowsky-Hahn and Sabine Littig).
  • (2021) Dombrowsky-Hahn, K., Fanego Palat, A., Littig, S., & Nassenstein, N. Jenseits des Referenzrahmens: Erfahrungen afrikanischer Migrant*innen mit sprachlicher Integration im Rhein-Main-Gebiet. Osnabrücker Beiträge zur Sprachtheorie 98: 157-187. (Special Issue „Afrikanische Sprachen in Europa“, edited by Jürgen Erfurt and Peter Reimer)
  • Boutemin, Hamza and Axel Fleisch. Language trajectories of Berber-speaking male migrants in Frankfurt. Conference paper accepted for presentation at the 24th Afrikanistentag, Frankfurt am Main (May 14th-16th, 2020).
  • (2018) Fleisch, A., Colonial legacies and linguistic repertoires in European Amazigh. In: In the Footsteps of Spanish Colonialism in Morocco and Equatorial Guinea. The Handling of Cultural Diversity and the Socio-Political Influence of Transnational Migration, edited by Yolanda Aixelà Cabré, Wien / Zürich: Lit Verlag, pp. 185-207. (Tanslation into English of Fleisch 2015).
  • (2015) Fleisch, A., Legados coloniales y repertorios lingüísticos en el amazigh europeo. In Tras las Huellas del Colonialismo Español en Marruecos y Guinea Ecuatorial, edited by Y. Aixelà Cabré, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid, pp. 169-193.

Reading North African minority experiences from linguistic biography  interviews.

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