3.8 Language Acquisition

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Users of this online learning resource are responsible for connecting with government and local organizations to ensure access to relevant information on refugee sponsorship in their community.




Language Learning



Knowing the local language can facilitate access to employment, to services and help interact and build relationships within the country of resettlement. Your sponsorship responsibilities may include:

  • Arranging access to necessary language assessments. 
  • Enrolling family members in nearby language training. 

Language learning considerations

Language acquisition goals may vary from individual to individual. Some individuals may:

  • Want to be able to communicate with the local population. 
  • Be working toward a certain level of reading and writing in the local language as a prerequisite for certain employment. 
  • Wish to pursue higher levels of education in the resettlement country which require more advanced language skills.

Sponsor Group Tasks could include

  • Arranging access to necessary language assessments.
  • Assist in enrolling family members in basic language training. 
  • Discussing with the newcomers challenges or reluctance with taking language classes.
  • Providing emotional support as sponsored refugees take language classes.
  • Thinking of other programs and supports for language learning outside of classes such as conversation circles, online learning, and phone apps.

Support and access

If appropriate, you may have a conversation about challenges to language acquisition with the refugee newcomers.  It is important for you and your group to be aware of the potential ups and downs that come with learning a new language, to be supportive and respect each person’s learning journey. 

Your group may wish to emphasize the benefits of language acquisition to refugee newcomers, especially if the refugees’ long-term employment and/or educational goals require a certain level of proficiency in the local language. 

It is possible that the refugee newcomers may already speak the language of your country. In this case, language acquisition may be less important. However, consider that speaking and writing are different skills, and that for employment purposes, written language may be very important.  Additionally, not all family members will have the same level of language.

There may be ways for your group to help make language acquisition more accessible for the refugee newcomers, for example, deciding jointly with the refugee newcomers to ask the language centre to place them in a different level class, looking for language centres with classes at more convenient hours, or offering to tutor them outside of class. 

Like other tasks, there may be creative ways to engage refugee newcomers to learn the local language outside of formal classes. For example, in the province of Prince Edward Island in Canada, one couple decided to create an “English Corner” at a local coffee shop. Once a week, individuals from around the world and living in the community would come to socialize and practice their English.

You may also support in finding employment that encourages refugee newcomers to practice speaking in the local language. 



Language Learning Scenario



Ahmed and his family arrived in the resettlement country two months ago. In his home country, Ahmed ran his own flower shop. He would like to continue that profession in the resettlement country. However, he has so far been unsuccessful in finding a job as a florist.

Ahmed has been taking language classes, but he feels like he is not improving. Moreover, he just found a job as a dishwasher in a local restaurant. He enjoys it and wants to work there full-time instead of taking language classes. Almost everyone working at the restaurant speaks Arabic like Ahmed.

How does the principle of considering culture apply to this scenario?

How does the principle of considering power apply to this scenario?

What could your sponsorship group do to support Ahmed in this scenario?



Check In: What would you do?

Thinking about the how this scenario relates to managing expectations, considering culture, considering power, and privacy and confidentiality, in your training journal give a brief description of how you would address this situation.


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