“The School of Life”: Differences in U.S. and Canadian Settlement Policies and Their Effect on Individual Haitian Immigrants’ Language Learning



A growing body of literature suggests that language proficiency in the main language of the destination country is one of the most significant factors in the integration of immigrants. This study examines the overall differences in U.S. and Canadian settlement policy, using the provision of language courses as a specific example of the ways in which adult immigrants are integrated into the host society. Eleven Haitian women in both countries were interviewed to compare the way in which participants accessed key settlement information and services. The findings reveal that Canadian-based participants were much more likely to cite professional institutions (“formal facilitators”) for referrals, whereas U.S.-based participants were more likely to learn from “informal facilitators.” The findings also highlight differences in access and completion rates of language classes. Implications for how national settlement policy affects individual immigrants and their language acquisition are analyzed in the discussion.