Benchmarking Adult Rates of Second Language Acquisition & Integration: How long and how fast?

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By: David L.E. Watt and Deidre M. Lake
Date: 2004

This study responds to the broad question:

How long does it take adult immigrants to learn enough English to meet their needs?


Based on the findings in general, there are some conclusions that can be drawn in support of optimizing the process of language acquisition and integration for adult immigrants in second language instruction settings.

  1. It would be beneficial to increase the availability of language instruction classes at the higher benchmarks of proficiency. Access to higher levels may have a positive impact on the transition to work or college.
  2. Greater investment is needed for the future development and maintenance of the national assessment instrument for English language proficiency: the Canadian Language Benchmarks Assessment. The tool needs to be expanded to more broadly address the higher proficiencies associated with successful transition into professions, skilled occupations and post secondary educational institutions. The assessment instrument is in need of expansion.
  3. The data collected by this study for the higher levels of proficiency could well be expanded to create a more detailed picture of the acquisition of proficiency for entering professions and colleges. Since the start of the study, this area has grown remarkably and while still in its early stages, the assessment of language for professional transition and certification is a growing area.
  4. Many participants noted that classroom learning is only part of the picture. They were convinced that from benchmarks 5-8, language instruction programs that dovetailed with employment situations was a means of accelerating meaningful language development. Finding new ways to enhance the effect of language instruction is an essential part of process.
This report is available for download in Adobe Acrobat PDF format (1.9 MB, 80 pages).