Several fields, in which linguistic challenges generated by linguistic diversity occur, have received considerable attention in the scientific literature. Studies on the interactions between the administration and allophones3 within the current linguist diversity are however rather limited, despite the fact that several sources indicate that the existing language laws are experienced as difficult to implement in practice. The importance of the language used in these administrative contacts cannot be underestimated, as it has an influence on an individual's access to administrative services and the subsequent enjoyment of their rights, as well as on the functioning of these services. The aim of this research is to provide an empirical insight into this lesser researched field in the recent literature.
This research project examines the existing practices and the formulated needs in interactions between allophones and local administrative services. It aims at providing an insider's perspective – from the point of view of both administrative authorities and allophones – on how the relevant actors are dealing with linguistic diversity and which tensions are generated between the applicable norms and the practice.
Within this research the focus is on the Sorbian minority and Turkish speakers in Germany, as well as on French and Turkish speakers in the Dutch language area of Belgium. This selection encompasses (possible) 'old' and 'new' minorities, which currently enjoy a different legal protection. Germany has ratified the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and recognizes the Sorbs as a minority, but not 'Turkish people'4. Belgium has not ratified the Framework Convention, given the difficulties with defining the concept of national minority in the Belgian context as well as with the legal obligations generated by the treaty.
This research considers several administrative services, selected on the basis of criteria, such as the interfering side, the urgency of the interaction and the presence of a certain target group. This has led to the following selection of administrative services, namely disaster and emergency communication, municipal registration office, waste collection, emergency calls, local ombudsmen, and social services. The selection of municipalities, where the research was conducted, is based on the presence of persons belonging to the selected groups, previous language related incidents and the apparent language policy of local authorities.