Older Migrants: Negotiating Language and Communication

Judith McKeon

Many people are now moving around the world, often migrating for political or economic reasons to countries where another language is spoken. There is a perception that migration is for young people but research has also shown that about 7% of all migrants are aged 45 or over when they move countries. With estimates of Polish migration to the UK since 2004 ranging from 500,000 to 1 million, this could mean between 35,000 and 70,000 older Polish migrants arriving in an English speaking country where they may have language issues and yet are expected to find work immediately in order to support themselves. Polish migrants over the age of 45 have been interviewed to find out how migration fits into their life history. Initial findings are that older migrants have less confidence in using English, that they may have tried several times to learn the language without success, and that they use strategies to overcome their communication problems. There may be implications for the future as these strategies do not address other social issues.

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