Language matters: Metropolis seminar on language acquisition and newcomer integration

Metropolis Canada presents Language Matters: A Policy-Research Seminar on Language Acquisition and Newcomer Integration on Thurs Oct 22/09, 8am-4pm at Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa.

From the flyer at Metropolis Canada:

“It is widely believed that acquiring the language(s) of the host society is critical to all aspects of the integration of newcomers – economic, social, cultural and political. And while linguistic diversity has always been a hallmark of Canadian society, this diversity has deepened with recent waves of immigration. In cooperation with provincial governments and other partners, the Government of Canada offers a range of official language training and related programs across the country to youth and adult newcomers.

“Despite these initiatives, language remains a barrier to labour market success for many newcomers, including skilled workers. A mismatch exists between employers’ expectations and newcomers’ perceptions of requisite linguistic ability for many occupations. At the same time, newcomers’ linguistic integration also depends on the receptivity of those listening to them, especially native speakers of English and French.

“Maintenance of heritage languages and the existence of ethnic enclaves pose further complexities. Passing on the ancestral language to subsequent generations is an important way for linguistic minorities to maintain their cultural diversity. On the other hand, heavy dependence on the enclave may weaken linguistic and overall integration into mainstream society. In an era marked by increasing globalization and international trade, knowledge of languages other than English and French could also be an asset to Canadian institutions and individuals.

“This seminar will provide both national and international perspectives on the complex relationship between language acquisition and newcomer integration, with the twin objectives of informing policy discussions and identifying future research directions”.

immigrantchildren.ca hopes that the seminar speaks to the (2nd, 3rd, and subsequent) language acquisition for newcomer children and has a comprehensive approach to addressing the disconnect that can occur between immigrant parents – who want their children to learn English or French as a 2nd language, in order to fit in to Canadian mainstream society – and the importance of retaining the home language to not only support 2nd (and more) language acquisition, but which speaks directly to the relationship (and attachment) between parents and their children. Particularly young children take on a 2nd language well and as a result may severe themselves from their first language/culture and create a separation from their families and countries of origin. See mylangauge.ca for information on the importance of retaining home languages.

immigrantchildren.ca is heartened to hear that Prof Jim Cummins of OISE is on the panel for this seminar and know he will bring foward the notion of – and importance of – multiple literacies.

immigrantchildren.ca hopes that the Honourable Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is invited to attend the seminar. MinJK (as he’s known on twitter) has made a few public statements about immigrant children learning English or French as they integrate into Canada. Select examples: