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Language acquisition and occupational characteristics

TitleLanguage acquisition and occupational characteristics
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsCassidy, H.
Keywordsassimilation, language proficiency, tasks

This paper investigates the effects of occupational characteristics on the language acquisition process of new immigrant workers. Using longitudinal data of newly arrived immigrants to Canada, I test the hypothesis that destination language exposure through the work environment increases the rate at which immigrants acquire French or English language proficiency. I find that exposure to English or French at work, as measured by interacting with clients, speaking English or French on the job, and working in an occupation with higher levels of interactive task usage, accelerates the rate of destination language proficiency acquisition. These results highlight the importance of considering the work environment when examining the language acquisition process of immigrants, and suggest that the recently observed reduction in interactive task usage of working immigrants in Canada and the U.S. may have negative effects on their destination language acquisition and therefore their rate of economic assimilation.

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