‘It’s Like You Are Trapped in a Small Place’: Language Skill Acquisition and Settlement Outcomes of Ageing Cambodian Refugees

Shamette Hepburn


Language skill acquisition is one of the main challenges encountered by refugees and immigrants entering and transitioning to a new society. In Canada, adult newcomers’ language education is primarily tasked to English as a Second Language (ESL) programs. These programs aim to provide English language training, preparation for the labour market and integration into Canadian society. This paper presents findings of a larger qualitative study that explored the experiences of 15 community-dwelling Cambodian Canadians (aged 55 and older) in northwest Toronto. Drawing on critical transnationalism and postcolonialism, it examines Cambodian Canadians’ reflections on their language skill acquisition and integration vis-à-vis the education and migration regimes which form part of the resettlement bureaucracy supporting these activities and processes. Decades after participating in language education programs, ageing Cambodian Canadians’ narratives reveal that inadequate resources and support have resulted in lower than desired language skill acquisition and differential inclusion within their communities.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5296/ijsw.v7i2.17422


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