Testing for citizenship

The path to naturalization in Spain: Old ideologies, new language testing regimes and the problem of test use / Language Policy (Forthcoming)

By Alberto Bruzos-Moro

This article is co-authored with Kamran Khan (University of Lleida) and Iker Erdocia (Dublin City University).

Spain has followed the lead of other Western countries by establishing new citizenship requirements for immigrants. In 2015, the Real Decreto 1004/2015 was passed, making both knowledge of culture and history of Spain and knowledge of Spanish language a requisite for immigrants wishing to become citizens. In order to fulfill this legal requirement, immigrants need to take two exams: the CSSE (Conocimientos Constitucionales y Socioculturales de España) and the DELE (Diplomas de Español como Lengua Extranjera), which are both administered by the Instituto Cervantes.

This paper analyses some of the discourses that surrounded the introduction of the new testing regime. Given the complex socio-political and historical context of Spain, establishing a requirement in Spanish for new citizens reinforces the subordination of other co-official languages such as Galician, Basque and Catalan. Beyond the ideological forces at play, we also highlight the monetization of compulsory tests and its benefits for test administrators. Furthermore, we bring attention to the fact that the DELE, a language test that was originally designed for other purposes and pre-dates the new citizenship legislation, is now being employed for high-stakes immigration, subverting the original purpose of the test. We highlight the problems this causes in terms of test effect, validity and ethics. Finally, we caution that greater reflection is required regarding the need for such tests, including more research on individuals experiencing the new naturalization process.

Full article here

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