Adaptation of Immigrant Women Living in Smaller Communities to the Challenge of English Language Barrier

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 09:10
Oral Presentation
Choon Lee CHAI, Red Deer College, Canada
Amal Ibrahim MADIBBO, University of Calgary, Canada
Liza MCCOY, Sociology, University of Calgary, Calgary, AB, Canada
Tabitha PHIRI, Central Alberta Immigrant Women's Association, Canada
In this presentation, we examine how the lack of the English language proficiency affects settlement experiences of immigrant women in a small city, Red Deer, and its surrounding rural communities in Alberta, Canada, and how these women adapt to the language barrier through various means.

Immigrants living in smaller cities such as Red Deer experience a different set of challenges compared to immigrants who live in larger cities (Krahn, Derwing and Abu-Laban 2005). In this Photovoice (Wang 1999) research conducted in partnership with the Central Alberta Immigrant Women’s Association, 36 immigrant women hailing predominantly from non-English speaking countries told their settlement stories through the use of photographs.

Many of these immigrant women came to Canada as dependents or refugees. Upon their arrival in Canada, they often found themselves in a new social environment where their limited command of English language led to social isolation, occupational downgrading, and diminution of self-esteem. Their efforts to overcome the language barrier are crippled by role conflicts and lack of access to educational upgrading partly as a result of, ironically, lack of English language proficiency. However, our analysis points to resilience and adaptability of immigrant women in the face of ongoing struggle to build a new and successful life in Central Alberta.

The research on which the presentation is based informs community organizations and policy makers of the availability and effectiveness of programs and services used by immigrant women in Central Alberta, and incites a critical reflection on the challenges and opportunities that immigrant women encounter as they settle in a new society.