Immigration And Resulting Cultural And Language Gap

(Ahmed Mussadiq Tariq (Bahria University), Islamabad)

Immigration can be defined as moving to an international country where one was not born or does not hold citizenship, for the purpose of settling or to look for employment. People usually immigrate in search of better living conditions than their own, better employment opportunities, better educational, medical facilities or to escape war stricken zones to seek asylum and so forth. Immigration acts as both a positive and a negative force for a country. Immigration is responsible for bringing work talent and accomplished people into the field. It is also good for the economy of the country. On the other hand, immigration creates a lot of competition for employment and educational fields. The issue of immigration is one that has always been extensively discussed. While it is obvious that immigration vastly affects the population and environment of a country, the effect of the country on the immigrants should also be taken into notice.

The effect of moving from one place to another, to a totally different setup with different customs, traditions and language can come off as quite a bit of a shock. Language can prove to be a daunting barrier to overcome. Immigrants have to face many problems due to the language barrier. Not understanding the language can make day to day tasks seem a little exhausting. The language issue can also manifest itself as an inferiority complex. As an immigrant Chinese girl said about her mother: “When I was growing up, my mother’s ‘limited’ English, limited my perception of her. I was ashamed of her English. I believed that her English reflected the quality of what she had to say. That is because she expressed them imperfectly, her thoughts were imperfect”.

Language barriers lead to miscommunication which can, in some cases be dangerous. With the rise in number of immigrants, the chances for miscommunication within labour or within the office space increase. Take for example the rise in Latino and Asian workers in American factories. Most of the labour have no experience with formal education and are not well versed in English. According to an estimate: ‘25 percent of job site accidents are attributable to the language barrier’. It was also found that: ‘Latino workers were fatally injured at a rate 70 percent higher than that of their non-Hispanic counterparts.’

Another issue faced by immigrant families and their children is that of acculturation i.e. the merging of cultures. Cultural gaps occur when parents are more acculturated to their heritage or when children are more acculturated to the host country’s heritage. This goes a long way in changing language, values, cultural habits and attitudes. These changes can lead to conflicts in families. Children tend to deal with an identity crisis as they feel they don’t fit in.Take the example of a girl, Ronia Arab, who is originally from Iraq and has immigrated to Canada. She feels conflicted with both sides of her culture. While her parents try to assert her lineage and birth, Ronia acts and dresses pretty much like a normal Canadian teenager which gave rise to conflicts with her parents as a result of which she has left home. A cultural geography professor at Queens University in Canada, Dr. Audrey Kobayashi, states that many immigrant children ‘feel torn’ between their identities which leads to frustration , which then leads to the children making bad decisions.

For a lot of immigrants, ethnic and religious discrimination and racism also come into play. Difference of faith, belief and skin color also happen to be factors in creating unease in the life of immigrants. The feeling of not belonging further adds to it.Racism, combined with a cultural shock can lead to immigrants feeling depressed, stressed and in a state of despair. The constant process and effort of changing and adjusting to a new lifestyle, to new people, culture, customs traditions can leave immigrants exhausted in body, mind and spirit.

As far as multicultural societies go, the educational values for them should include recognizing difference, national cohesion and equality. Educational diversity should also be encouraged. With the number of immigrants rising in Europe and America, it is imperative that these countries focus on the educational values that they impart and be sure to make them culturally, morally, ethnically and religiously diverse for the well being of all.

It is the need of the hour for us to begin to understand the challenges faced by immigrants who make up a significant portion of our society. Steps should be taken in order to bridge cultural, social and language gaps. Language training should be available to all so that the language barrier can be overcome. Both parties should try learning the other’s language as a show of respect and solidarity. Employment opportunities should be equal for residents and immigrants alike. There should be no discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, color, religion or culture. Reducing cultural gaps will also lead to the reduction of family conflicts and will also be beneficial in improving mental state of immigrants. Policies that require children to be trained in language will also prove to be productive.

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15 May, 2018 Views: 189


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