Immigrant experience of one New Zealand community as a second language learning environment : a thesis completed in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Second Language Teaching at Massey University
This study investigates one New Zealand community as an English language learning environment for NESB immigrants. Formal and informal sources of English are identified, and the degree to which the immigrants are able to access them. Immigrant perceptions of ideal language learning situations are investigated, as are perceived links between English language acquisition and success in gaining employment. The relative importance of different sources of English, and critical events impacting on the development of English language skills, is investigated by means of individual interviews followed by discussion sessions. Immigrants are also asked to indicate barriers which they have encountered in their efforts to become part of an English-speaking community, and their responses to such barriers. Results indicate that there is a considerable gap between immigrant perception of the community before arrival, and actual experience after arrival. There is a strong belief among immigrants that interaction with native speakers is the most effective means of acquiring both English and a knowledge of local ways. There is also a belief that lack of relevant information, coupled with unhelpful government policies, are major factors contributing to language and employment difficulties. Other barriers indicated by the immigrants include the high cost of formal English and other courses, the lack of bridges to help professionals re-enter their fields of expertise, and the difficulty of interacting with native speakers on a more than superficial level. The difficulties of maintaining a balance between second language acquisition and first language maintenance are also investigated. The thesis concludes with a tentative model of what are seen to be vital and important factors in successful language acquisition. A number of avenues for further research are suggested, including investigation into the barriers which prevent "outsiders" from becoming accepted as "insiders" within a community. The study highlights the importance of defining and implementing fair government and organizational policies, and stresses the need to research and set in place measures to prevent the unnecessary sacrifice of first-generation immigrants.