Predictors of immigrants’ second-language proficiency: A Dutch study of immigrants with a low level of societal participation and second-language proficiency

van Niejenhuis, C., van der Werf, M. P. C. & Otten, S., 12-Oct-2015, In : International Journal of the Sociology of Language. 2015, 236, p. 75-100 25 p.

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This article examines the predictors of second-language proficiency for a group that until now has hardly been investigated: immigrants who rarely participate in the host society and who have a low level of second language proficiency (sample characteristics are for example: no paid job, low educational and literacy level, high mean age and number of years since migration). In contrast with earlier research, not only self-assessments were used as indicator for second-language proficiency, but also language test scores. Results from a sample of 624 immigrants partly replicate findings from earlier studies: self-assessed second-language proficiency is higher among immigrants who have followed a language course, do voluntary work, have a high educational level, high mother-tongue proficiency, a low migration age, and a large number of years since migration. No links, however, were found between having psychological problems, gender, and migration motive and self-assessed second-language proficiency. Furthermore, some new predictors of self-assessed second-language proficiency were identified,namely similarity in alphabet between mother tongue and second language, daily interactions with natives in the public domain, and speaking the second language at home. For a subsample (N¼98) second-language proficiency was also assessed via (objective) lexicon tests. When using scores on this test as dependent variables, only years since migration turned out to be a significant predictor. Though certainly tentative, this finding indicates that different predictors of second-language proficiency may apply depending on how it has been measured.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-100
Number of pages25
JournalInternational Journal of the Sociology of Language
Issue number236
Publication statusPublished - 12-Oct-2015


  • Second language proficiency, destination language proficiency, Predictors, DETERMINANTS, The Netherlands

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