Immigrants And Learning Language

The learning of a language when an individual migrates to a new nation is critically important in initiating the process of integration. I was raised in an immigrant family in which neither of my parents could speak English on arrival, but they took night classes and learned English in the course of daily life. Canada’s citizenship minister is concerned because “only a quarter of newcomers are enrolling in the programs that are offered by organizations…Common sense just tells me that 25 percent is too low and we’d like to see more people enrolling.” He fears children will grow up in neighborhoods in which old ways dominate over Canadian ones. jason Kenney wants to ensure immigrants understand Canadian history and values.

The good news is that most immigrant children absorb their new country’s past as well as its language. The bad news is that parents will always lag behind children in becoming emotionally and intellectually part of their new society. Perhaps, it is time for Canada to explore alternative strategies that lead to learning language as well as to becoming part of the Canadian experience. But, history suggests in most societies the process is never 100% successful.

  • Mouloud ALOUANE

    The integration of newcomers* and their children requires more than learning the English language. Among others, the recognistion of inherent human rights and equality of opportunity form the foundation for freedom, justice and social cohesion. Parents may be fluent in English, but can face for instance racism, discrimination within public and private spheres of the host nation. In such case, they will be more determined to nurture their cultural and religious identity and revive their links with their home countries(culture, language and religion).

    Thus, it could be argued that if the newcomers’ various needs are accommodated, respected, understood, they will develop self-esteem and will seek to integrate . Your perception or belief that learning a language alone could lead to integration is a little misleading. You are rather suggesting a process of assimilation, which could have negative impact on social inclusion and cohesion.

    * the use of the term “immigrant” or “migrant” could give a negative perception of these people.(i.e. that they are poor etc). Newcomers is perhaps more relevant and appropriate .

  • Fred Stopsky

    At no time did I ever say that learning a language in itself leads to integration. I was raised with immigrants(that is the word we used, not “newcomers”), some became fluent in English, others did no. But, they learned to enjoy the right to vote, to have their children gain access to education, they learned the political process that using their voting power gained other rights, etc..