The language barrier in migrant aging

Pot, A., Keijzer, M. & de Bot, K., 8-Feb-2018, In : International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Studies on aging and migration often note a ‘language barrier’ for older migrants when communicating in a (medical) second language (L2) context. Yet how a limited L2 proficiency impacts the aging process of migrant adults has, so far, not been systematically investigated. This question is important given that having a limited L2 proficiency may pose immediate drawbacks on one's ability to maintain independence. Through a combination of qualitative interviews and quantitative language and cognitive measures, this study investigates if and under which circumstances a ‘language barrier’ may be detrimental for the aging process of a group of older female Turkish migrants in the Netherlands. Findings suggest that a limited L2 proficiency reciprocally fuels feelings of L2 insecurity, which impacts the formation of social relationships in the L2, feelings of belonging and lower wellbeing levels. A firm embedding in an L1 network positively impacts wellbeing levels, yet results in a heavy dependence on others in L2 situations. We conclude that limited L2 skills may steer the aging process in a detrimental direction for those older migrants who lack a social support network in the L1 and cannot communicate effectively in the L2.

Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8-Feb-2018

ID: 54071981