English Language Ability of Recent Immigrants

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					  Special Feature: English Language Ability of Recent B.C. Immigrants

. . . half of the immigrants arriving in B.C. in 1994 could speak and understand English

One of the most important aspects in immigrant settlement is the English language ability of
immigrants. The time needed for settlement and integration is longer for immigrants who are
deficient in English than for those who are not. Non-English speaking immigrants are not
only faced with the burden of learning the language, they might also have difficulty in
accessing some settlement services, understanding the Canadian culture, and establishing
themselves to become independent. In addition, government spending on immigrant related
programs increases as the number of immigrants requiring English language training and
language assistance increases.

                                                           During the last two decades, the source of
        B.C. Immigration By Source
                                                           immigrants to British Columbia has shifted
                                                           from mainly European countries to largely
      1970 Total = 21,859         1994 Total = 48,529      Asian countries. The result of having a
                     Europe                                high proportion of immigrants coming from
                     35.0%                                 different non-English speaking countries
    Asia                                           Europe  is a drop in English fluency in the overall
   22.0%                       Asia
                                                    Other  immigrant landings. In 1994, 51.0 per
                                                    6.0%   cent, or 24,195 immigrants, possessed no
                        Other                      N. & C.
                        15.0%                      America English language skills upon arrival to the
           N. & C.                                   4.0%
           America                                         province.     This proportion has been
            28.0%                                          relatively stable over the last ten years.
                                                           Census data shows that the proportion of
the B.C. population that did not possess any English language ability went up from 1.5 per
cent in 1981 to 2.0 per cent in 1991. Census figures indicate that 64,000 persons in B.C. did
not possess any English language ability as of 1991, while more current statistics show that
the total number of non-English speaking immigrants who have arrived in B.C. since 1991 is
79,878 persons.

The top five home languages spoken by            B.C. Immigrants Without English Language Ability
the non-English speaking immigrants
who arrived in 1994 were Cantonese,
Punjabi,    Mandarin,     Tagalog,   and           30                                                       60

Vietnamese. They came primarily from               25
Hong Kong, India, China Mainland,
                                                   20                                                       40
Taiwan, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

Female immigrants are slightly more                10                                                       20
likely not to have English language skills
than their male counterparts. According             5

to the 1991 Census, 2.4 per cent of the             0                                                       0
                                                        1985 1986 1987 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994
female population, compared to 1.6 per
cent of the male population, did not speak or understand English. In 1994, of those new
immigrants who did not have English       B.C. Immigrants Without English Language Ability
skills, 45.1 per cent were men and 54.9
                                                      By Mother Tongue - 1994
per cent were women.          With the
exception of female immigrants in the       10                                     100
0-18 age group, male immigrants
tended to have higher English language     7.5                                     75
ability than female immigrants in all
other groups, especially in the older        5                                     50
age groups.
                                                                          2.5                                                 25
Immigrants       admitted    under   the
social/humanitarian       classes   and        0                                               0
                                                 Cantonese Punjabi Mandarin Tagalog Vietnamese
business classes exhibited a higher
likelihood of having no English language ability. In 1994, 60.1 per cent of immigrants in the
Family, Designated and Refugee Classes were non-English speaking, and 68.4 per cent of
immigrants in the Entrepreneur, Investor and Self-Employed Classes were non-English
speaking. By comparison, only 24.1 per cent of the Independent Class and 33.9 per cent in
the Assisted Relatives Class had no English language skills. This difference is mainly due
to the fact that Independent and Assisted Relatives Classes of immigrants are assessed
under a point system in which English language skills is one of the criteria for admission.
One reason for the high percentage of immigrants in the business classes without English
skills is the high number of accompanied dependents who came with the principal applicants
under those classes. English language ability of the principal applicants tends to be better
than their spouse or dependents in all classes.

The recent immigration plan announced by the federal government which favours more
skilled worker immigrants will have the effect of improving the overall English language
ability in future landings. However, with the current trend of immigration to B.C., it is
expected that the percentage of immigrants coming to settle in the province without any
English language skills will remain high due to the large inflow of immigrants coming from
non-English speaking countries.

 B.C. Immigrants Without English Language Ability B.C. Immigrants Without English Language Ability
               By Class By Family Status - 1994                                             By Gender By Age Group - 1994
            Refugee                                                                                   Male
         Designated                                                             60

        Entrepreneur                                                            40

   Other Independent                             Principal Applicants
   Assisted Relatives                            Dependents
                        0   20         40         60      80        100         0
                                 % of Total in Each Group                            0-18     19-24    25-44   45-64   65+   All Ages