Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Facilitating Linguistic Integration of Immigrants: An Overview of ICT Tools

Academic journal article Issues in Informing Science & Information Technology

Facilitating Linguistic Integration of Immigrants: An Overview of ICT Tools

Article excerpt

Introduction

Linguistic integration has long been recognized as an important factor in the overall immigration process (Beacco, 2008; Kluzer, Ferrari & Centeno, 2009). Briefly, linguistic integration has been accomplished when immigrants have the capacity to use one of the languages that is current in the host society for public communication (Lapierre Vincent, 2004), as opposed to personal communication (e.g., at home). This does not imply mastery of the language, comparable to a native speaker, but it means having sufficient ability to use the language to participate fully in the host society. It is easy to see how the inability to communicate in the host country language could make daily life difficult and at the same time hinder social, political, and economic integration. However, this does not mean that linguistic integration and overall integration are symmetrically related to each other. In fact, mastery of the host country language does not predict integration by immigrants, and vice versa. For example, some French-speaking immigrants to Canada find it difficult to integrate professionally (Statistics Canada, 2007). Linguistic integration and overall integration are therefore linked in a complex relationship where other factors are at play, including social, cultural, and professional factors (Kluzer et al., 2009; Piche, 2004).

Against this background, this study looks at the current state of linguistic integration in Western societies (North America and Europe) at a time when immigration is undergoing profound changes (Pellerin, 2008) and the pervasive use of technologies since the end of the twentieth century has opened new outlooks, calling for redefinitions and a reframing of references. In addition, the potential contribution of information and communications technologies (ICT) to the linguistic integration of immigrants is explored, inspired by both the relevance of ICT for immigrants and the recent development of various online linguistic integration tools. The aim is to provide an international overview, albeit partial, of the role of ICT in the linguistic integration of immigrants at the social level, including descriptions and comparisons of ICT tools for linguistic integration. But first, and because ICT tools for linguistic integration constitute a very recent research area, we explain their relevance.

The Relevance of ICT for the Linguistic Integration of Immigrants

ICT have a major impact on migration trends by considerably diversifying and augmenting opportunities for mobility (Codagnone & Kluzer, 2011). They also encourage people to fundamentally review their perceptions of immigrants as members of a globally interconnected community (Borkert, Cingolani & Premazzi, 2009; Diminescu, 2005; Ros, 2010). Furthermore, like the information society (Castells, 2001) in which they live, immigrants, and more broadly speaking the immigration process, can no longer be addressed without considering the technological dimension. In this sense, mastery of ICT has become an indispensable skill for immigrants who wish to integrate into the host society and become full participants (Codagnone &t Kluzer, 2011). In other words, technologies are everywhere in developed countries, such that successful integration demands technological integration as well as the traditionally studied social, linguistic, political, and economic integration. Inversely, lack of access to technologies, and particularly failure to appropriate them, have been proposed as exclusion factors for social integration in developed countries (Cadagnone & Kluzer, 2011). The results in the literature are inconsistent on this point. Many studies report that immigrants and ethnic minorities have limited access to technologies and are less equipped than the host population (Benitez, 2006; Fairlie, 2005; Ono & Zavodny, 2008). Other studies show that immigrants and ethnic minorities are better equipped technologically than the host population, notably because they use ICT to remain in contact with people back home (Cadagnone & Kluzer, 2011; Statistics Canada, 2008). …

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