Migrants and English Language ability

A report from the Department of Internal Affairs discusses issues of migrants and their ability in English. To read the report, click here.
In the latest census, 87,000 adults said they could not speak enough English to hold a conversation. The report showed that having a good level of English is very important for jobs, income, having wider personal relationships and for a feeling of belonging to New Zealand.

More people from China (15%) gained permanent residence (PR) last year than any other country. Next were India and UK with 13% each, then the Philippines with 8%. However, people from North Asia which includes China, do not speak English well. There are many reasons for that, including the fact that English and Chinese are such different languages.

The report said that good ways to improve English are interacting with English speakers at work and in the community, using English media and taking lessons.

One worrying figure is that 27% of North Asian skilled migrants said that their English level had declined in a two and a half year period.


1. What can English speakers in the community do to help migrants improve their English?
2. What about employers? How can they help?
3. What are some of the reasons that migrants do not have a good level of English?
4. What are some of the reasons for skilled migrants losing their English ability?
5. Can you give some good advice for new migrants from North Asian countries?

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