[lg policy] Immigrants need help learning Canada=?windows-1252?Q?=92s_=91secret_rules=92=2C_?=researchers say

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Fri Jun 1 15:02:08 UTC 2012

Immigrants need help learning Canada’s ‘secret rules’, researchers say

By Louisa Taylor, The Ottawa Citizen May 31, 2012

OTTAWA — Immigrants need help learning not just Canada’s two official
languages, but also the “secret rules” of Canadian life in order to
fit into their new home, according to the authors of a report released

The ability to speak and read English or French is viewed as key to
the economic success of newcomers, and the federal government is
implementing mandatory language testing for immigrants in their
country of origin and increasing the level of proficiency required.
But in their report for the Institute for Research on Public Policy,
Tracey Derwing and Erin Waugh looked at the role of language and
cultural practices in how immigrants develop friendships, join social
organizations and build networks within the mainstream.

The study, Language Skills and the Social Integration of Canada’s
Adult Immigrants, reviewed the federal Language Instruction for
Newcomers (LINC) program, which is available to all permanent
immigration classes until they become Canadian citizens. It also
reviewed existing literature, including a Citizenship and Immigration
study of language proficiency levels and a longitudinal study Derwin
co-authored that has followed Mandarin and Slavic-language speakers
since their arrival in Canada, assessing their accents and fluency as
part of overall comprehensibility.

Derwing says some groups have an easier time mastering Canada’s
official languages than others, which factors into their success or
failure at social integration.

“Mandarin speakers are going to have more difficulty with English or
French than Slavic speakers, simply because the Slavic languages are
related to the same larger language family. They share some things in
common, whereas Mandarin is totally unrelated,” says Derwing. “Just
linguistically alone, it’s harder for somebody from a Chinese language
background, or Vietnamese or Cambodian, just because the languages are
so far apart.”

Still, Derwing, a professor of TESL (teaching English as a second
language) at the University of Alberta, and Waugh, an
English-in-the-workplace instructor at NorQuest College in Edmonton,
say they found that even those who made strides in language
acquisition had opportunities stifled by the newcomer’s inability to
understand the “pragmatics” or cultural customs of the Canadian-born —
something not addressed in most language programs.

“If you’re going to ask your boss for a raise, you have to be able to
self-promote in a way that isn’t going to offend,” says Derwing,
co-director of the Metropolis Centre for Research on Immigration,
Integration and Diversity. “Or if you realize someone has said
something that isn’t true and if it’s a high-stakes situation where
it’s important that the facts come out, you have to find a way to say
it without the other person losing face. Those things are culturally
determined — there is a Canadian way of doing things.”

Derwing says her longitudinal study of Mandarin and Slavic-language
speakers in Alberta demonstrates that too often, newcomers not only
lack these skills, they lack connections to Canadian-born friends and
neighbours who could help them learn.

“Among Mandarin speakers in particular, we had people coming in saying
they didn’t know their Canadian neighbours, they didn’t have
conversations in English for the most part,” says Derwing.

“They’d go to work and be at a computer screen all day or have the
same routinized conversations day in, day out. In another study done
with foreign-born engineers … very few of them reported having
Canadian-born friends or contact with Canadian-born.”

Consequently, Derwing and Waugh believe the federal government ought
to expand its language-training curriculum to include more such
“pragmatics” to help people navigate the unspoken cultural rules.

“It’s important to address that in language classes, and for
instructors to point out why this matters,” says Derwing. “It’s the
ability to make small talk and initiate conversations that go beyond
the weather. You need to seem like you know what’s going on.”

The authors also recommend broadening eligibility criteria for
language training, and expanding the government’s Community Connection
program, which funds settlement agencies to introduce newcomers to
Canadian volunteers who can act as their cultural guides.

“The thing that surprised me the most was people had so much
difficulty finding Canadian friends,” says Derwing, citing an example
from the longitudinal study of a husband and wife trying to build a
network outside their ethnic community.

“I remember interviewing that woman and she said “I said to my
husband, ‘We have to find some people to talk to us.’ They tried a
couple of churches. But they were in their mid-30s and everyone at
church was 70 or 75.”

The bottom line, says Derwing, is that Canada ought to recognize
immigrants can’t do it alone.

“They’re working five hours a day trying to learn English, but there
are secret rules, and if nobody tells you what they are, you’re going
to have a hard time figuring it out,” says Derwing. “Communication is
a two-way street and they need a little help from the people who
understand the system.”

Read more: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/life/Immigrants+need+help+learning+Canada+secret+rules+researchers/6710383/story.html#ixzz1wYPbLuPK

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