How Language Predicts Future Wealth And Success Of Immigrants

Livelihood and success in a person’s career depend a lot on communication with other people – things will have to get done with the help of principals, partners, suppliers, co-managers and colleagues. It then becomes understandable why immigrants would face a bigger hurdle in terms of being successful in their careers, in the new country that they are living in. Participation and cooperation becomes a more fluid process when parties involved are able to express themselves in succinct terms, in all aspects of communication. Nuances in body language and verbal communication are understood more perfectly by a native than by an immigrant, and understandably so.

Maybe people don’t really state it concretely, but the fact is, it is not just what or how a person speaks that determines his success in a new environment – it is also how familiar he is with the culture, and how he is able to assimilate and integrate this in his way of living. For kids of the immigrant laborers, it is evidently much easier – they enter into the new culture as sponges, being easily influenced by their schoolmates and immediate peers. But for their mother and father, the process is much harder, what with all the previously learned language and customs they have already inculcated and have to gradually, sometimes painfully, unlearn in order to make room for new practices, principles, and ways of living.

With all these barriers, the least that the new host country can do for their new permanent guests is to have language assistance classes that are easily accessible for their new immigrants. The basics will have to be taught, especially for those who have very far language distances from their native tongue. This language distance theory was introduced in a paper by Ingo Isphording, a Ruhr University Bochum economist, with the thesis being that the efficiency of an immigrant in terms of performing well in the new host country depends on how different or how far his native language is from the new one. He used cognates – these are words that are from two different languages that sound almost the same and are quite synonymous to one another – and measured languages from seventy countries where immigrants usually come from, nine host countries, and 1,559 statistical distance measures.


The charted results display the countries that are closest and farthest away from the host country’s language. These results can be used to form a more targeted instruction program for those who may be having a more difficult time with the new language and culture. For any country looking to increase their number of immigrants, this is a worthwhile endeavor, and a policy that must be enacted quickly – we all know how tedious and lengthy the process for immigration is, and the faster the immigrants are able to settle in and find the job that will give them a ticket to a stable career, the more worthwhile their initial sacrifices become in their eyes. This will also be a good incentive for their friends and relatives back home who are looking at a future in their new homeland of choice.

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