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13 May 2013

Language Distance and Immigrants' Trouble Assimilating from The Atlantic

Did you guys see the post from The Atlantic, "Language Distance: The Reason Immigrants Have Trouble Assimilating"

Image via The Atlantic
It talks about the difficulty immigrants have assimilating and learning the target language when their native language is very far away from the language they're trying to learn. Think English and Vietnamese. On the other hand, immigrants tend to have an easier time when the languages are more similar. Think Spanish and Italian. Here is a chart showing close and far languages are:
Screen Shot 2013-05-05 at 8.04.25 PM.png
Image via The Atlantic

And it is not only native language that affects ability to assimilate. The author, Olga Khazan, wrote, "How quickly immigrants learn to navigate their host countries plays a big role in how likely they are to thrive in their new homelands." This is pretty intuitive, right? If immigrants immerse themselves in the target language and culture, they will be more likely to thrive. She also wrote that age, literacy, and employment status must also be taken into consideration with ability to assimilate. 

While I don't teach English to community members, I believe it's important for all language teachers to have sensitivity to language learning and assimilation difficulties. Do you have experience with helping students assimilate? What difficulties have you come across?