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12. Reluctant migrants

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Abstract

Seven major Hispanic communities have contributed to the multicultural shape of Australia, Salvadorians being one of the prominent groups. As in the United States and Canada, immigration to Australia from El Salvador peaked in the mid 1980s during its civil war. This chapter describes the schooling experiences in Australia of 19 newly arrived Salvadorian children to Australia. It explores their initial schooling experiences, language use, and socialization patterns. This group represents an unusual subset of the total immigrant population insofar as these were the children obliged to accompany their migrant parents, who themselves were reluctant migrants, driven to immigrate by war and its consequences. This study is based on the analysis and interpretation of adult retrospective accounts of students who migrated to Australia between 1985 and 2002 as 8 to 17-year-olds. It discusses the factors that impacted on the socialization process of these young migrants in Australian schools. Overall, it was found that English language competence played an important role in the socialization process of these young Spanish-speaking migrants. Many of the participants experienced great difficulty during their initial school integration in Australia due to their lack of English competence. Bilingual (Spanish-English­) teachers and peer students played a major role in easing the transition of these young Spanish speaking migrants into English-speaking schools in Australia. The strategies proposed by the participants to support Spanish-speaking migrants in their integration into Australian society are reported.

References

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