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Linguistic Barriers in the Destination Language Acquisition of Immigrants

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  • Isphording, Ingo E.

    () (IZA)

  • Otten, Sebastian

    () (RWI)

Abstract

There are various degrees of similarity between the languages of different immigrants and the language of their destination country. This linguistic distance is an obstacle to the acquisition of a language, which leads to large differences in the attainments of the language skills necessary for economic and social integration in the destination country. This study aims at quantifying the influence of linguistic distance on the language acquisition of immigrants in the US and in Germany. Drawing from comparative linguistics, we derive a measure of linguistic distance based on the automatic comparison of pronunciations. We compare this measure with three other linguistic and non-linguistic approaches in explaining self-reported measures of language skills. We show that there is a strong initial disadvantage from the linguistic origin for language acquisition, while the effect on the steepness of assimilation patterns is ambiguous in Germany and the US.

Suggested Citation

  • Isphording, Ingo E. & Otten, Sebastian, 2014. "Linguistic Barriers in the Destination Language Acquisition of Immigrants," IZA Discussion Papers 8090, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp8090
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    Cited by:

    1. Javier Ortega & Gregory Verdugo, 2015. "Assimilation in multilingual cities," Journal of Population Economics, Springer;European Society for Population Economics, vol. 28(3), pages 785-815, July.
    2. Isphording, Ingo E., 2014. "Disadvantages of linguistic origin—Evidence from immigrant literacy scores," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 123(2), pages 236-239.
    3. Wang, Zhiling & de Graaff, Thomas & Nijkamp, Peter, 2017. "Look Who’s Talking: On the Heterogeneous Returns to Foreign Language Use at Work among Natives and Migrants in Europe," GLO Discussion Paper Series 104, Global Labor Organization (GLO).
    4. Andrew Dickens, 2017. "Ethnolinguistic Favoritism in African Politics," Working Papers 1702, Brock University, Department of Economics.
    5. Höckel, Lisa Sofie, 2017. "Individualism vs. collectivism: How inherited cultural values affect labor market outcomes of second generation immigrants in the US," Ruhr Economic Papers 669, RWI - Leibniz-Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-University Bochum, TU Dortmund University, University of Duisburg-Essen.
    6. Bastien Chabé-Ferret, 2016. "Adherence to Cultural Norms and Economic Incentives: Evidence from Fertility Timing Decisions," Discussion Papers (IRES - Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales) 2016023, Université catholique de Louvain, Institut de Recherches Economiques et Sociales (IRES).
    7. Parrotta, Pierpaolo & Pozzoli, Dario & Pytlikova, Mariola, 2010. "Does Labor Diversity Affect Firm Productivity?," Working Papers 10-12, University of Aarhus, Aarhus School of Business, Department of Economics.
    8. Bloemen, Hans, 2013. "Language Proficiency of Migrants: The Relation with Job Satisfaction and Matching," IZA Discussion Papers 7366, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    9. Alicia Adsera & Mariola Pytlikova, 2012. "The role of language in shaping international migration," CReAM Discussion Paper Series 1206, Centre for Research and Analysis of Migration (CReAM), Department of Economics, University College London.
    10. Chiswick, Barry R. & Miller, Paul W., 2014. "International Migration and the Economics of Language," IZA Discussion Papers 7880, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    11. Ingo Eduard Isphording & Sebastian Otten, 2013. "The Costs of Babylon—Linguistic Distance in Applied Economics," Review of International Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 21(2), pages 354-369, May.
    12. Wolfgang Nagl & Robert Lehmann, 2015. "Distance is crucially important, at least for neighbors' foreign employment at the district level," ERSA conference papers ersa15p366, European Regional Science Association.
    13. Ingo E. Isphording, 2015. "What drives the language proficiency of immigrants?," IZA World of Labor, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA), pages 177-177, August.
    14. Bredtmann, Julia & Otten, Sebastian, 2013. "The Role of Source- and Host-Country Characteristics in Female Immigrant Labor Supply," MPRA Paper 44544, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Himmler, Oliver & Jaeckle, Robert, 2014. "Literacy and the Migrant-Native Wage Gap," MPRA Paper 58812, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    16. Marigee Bacolod & Marcos A. Rangel, 2017. "Economic Assimilation and Skill Acquisition: Evidence From the Occupational Sorting of Childhood Immigrants," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(2), pages 571-602, April.
    17. repec:zbw:rwirep:0397 is not listed on IDEAS
    18. Fenske, James & Kala, Namrata, 2017. "Linguistic Distance and Market Integration in India," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 331, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    19. repec:zbw:rwirep:0337 is not listed on IDEAS
    20. Chiswick, Barry R. & Rebhun, Uzi & Beider, Nadia, 2016. "Linguistic and Economic Adjustment among Immigrants in Israel," IZA Discussion Papers 10214, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
    21. Jonas Helgertz, 2013. "Pre- to Post-Migration Occupational Mobility of First Generation Immigrants to Sweden from 1970–1990: Examining the Influence of Linguistic Distance," Population Research and Policy Review, Springer;Southern Demographic Association (SDA), vol. 32(3), pages 437-467, June.
    22. Ingo Isphording, 2013. "Disadvantages of Linguistic Origin – Evidence from Immigrant Literacy Scores," Ruhr Economic Papers 0397, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
    23. Parrotta, Pierpaolo & Pozzoli, Dario & Pytlikova, Mariola, 2014. "Labor diversity and firm productivity," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 66(C), pages 144-179.
    24. Donado, Alejandro, 2014. "Foreign Languages and their Impact on Income and Unemployment," Annual Conference 2014 (Hamburg): Evidence-based Economic Policy 100288, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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    Keywords

    linguistic distance; language skills; immigrants; human capital;

    JEL classification:

    • F22 - International Economics - - International Factor Movements and International Business - - - International Migration
    • J15 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - Economics of Minorities, Races, Indigenous Peoples, and Immigrants; Non-labor Discrimination
    • J24 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Human Capital; Skills; Occupational Choice; Labor Productivity
    • J40 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - General

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