NALL Working Paper 03-1999
Immigrant and Aboriginal First Languages
as Prior Learning Qualifications for Formal Employment
in the Business Govenrment and Education Sectors
Michelle P. Goldberg
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning;
Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning and Department
and Policy Studies in Education, at the Ontario Institute for
Education/University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.
The Immigrant and Aboriginal First Languages as Prior Learning Qualifications
study is part of a five year long project called the New Approaches to
Life Long Learning (NALL), in the Department of Sociology and Equity Studies
and is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
The results of this study were presented at the NALL '99 Conference in
Toronto, February 20, 1999.
Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to David
Corson, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Ontario Institute
for Studies in Education, 252 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario M5S 1V6.
Electronic mail may be sent via Internet to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This research examines the degree of recognition
among Canadian employers for informally acquired first languages that are
not official languages of the country. It summarizes the results
of a survey sent to 79 organizations across Ontario and reveals that while
nearly all organizations (88.6%) stated they would benefit from employing
multilingual employees, only 30.4% actually actively recruit these multilingual
employees. The secondary aim of the project was to determine if organizations
distinguish between language skills that were acquired formally and those
acquired informally. The data reveal that educational institutions
recognize formal qualifications more. In sum, this paper attempts
to promote awareness among employers and higher education agencies of the
need to see informally acquired first languages as qualifications in their
own right that deserve recognition in some way where they are relevant.
Immigrant and Aboriginal First Languages
as Prior Learning Qualifications for Formal Employment
in the Business, Government and Education Sectors
Many immigrants, refugees, and aboriginal Canadians
learn their own languages in the normal, informal way. This corpus
of language fluency is a huge but largely untapped resource in a highly
multilingual country like Canada. But after learning one of Canada's
official languages, immigrants, refugees, and aboriginal Canadians receive
little or no formal recognition for their bilingual proficiency, even when
that proficiency is highly relevant to the occupations they perform.
This recognition could come in the form of greater remuneration and employment
benefits in occupations where fluency in the first language is a useful
qualification for doing formal work (for example, in nursing homes for
ethnic communities, or in bank branches and government offices targeting
specific cultural fractions); or it could be in some form of formal credit
towards a qualification, where fluency in the minority first language is
an academically relevant competency (for example, in teaching aboriginal
studies at compulsory or higher education levels). It is clear that
certain organizations do value this form of bilingualism for use in dealing
with their linguistically different clients, ad actively recruit bilingual
staff as a result.
This research tries to identify the extent of this
practice and the incentives that employers offer to attract and reward
fluent bilingual appointees. As a basic research study, using only
questionnaires in this opening phase, it examines the degree of recognition
among Canadian employers and higher education agencies of the informally
acquired first languages used by people whse bilingualism includes fluency
in a language that is not an official language of the country. A
major motive behind the research is the social justice goal of reducing
the marginalization of languages other than English or French in Canada
(Corson & Lemay, 1996), by extending greater formal recognition to
the users of immigrant and aboriginal languages learned as first languages
in an informal way.
Each year Canada receives more than 200,000 immigrants
from more than 200 countries (Citizenship & Immigration Canada [CIC],
1998). Of these immigrants, over 50% enter Ontario, while another
20% enter British Columbia and another 10% enter Quebec. Within Ontario,
over 60% settle in the Toronto Metropolitan Municipality, with another
10% in the adjacent Peel Regional Municipality, and another 5% in the Ottawa-Carleton
Regional Municipality (CIC, 1998). According to the 1996 Statistics
Canada Census, 25.6% of Ontario's population is foreign born and 80% of
these immigrants arrived between 1991 and 1996. Toronto's population
contains 47.1% foreign born individuals of whom 72% arrived between 1991
and 1996 (Statistics Canada, 1996). In addition, at the time of the
1996 Census, 12.75% of Ontario's population (1,323,850) reported a non-official
language as the language spoken most often at home. An additional
86,675 individuals reported using an official and non-official language
as the home language (Statistics Canada, 1996). While the majority
of working age immigrants (18-64 years) arrive in Ontario speaking one
of Canada=s official languages, 30% arrive with neither English nor French
language ability (CIC, 1998). The top ten first languages spoken
by the immigrant population of working age include, in descending order:
Cantonese, Tagalog, Punjabi, Tamil, Arabic, Mandarin, Urdu, Chinese, Russian,
and Spanish. During 1994-1997, 186,420 people arrived in Ontario
with one of these 10 languages as their native language (CIC, 1998).
According to the 1996 Census, the largest percentage
of the Aboriginal population of Canada lived in Ontario. Although
they represent only 1% of Ontario's total population, 17.7% of individuals
who reported identifying with at least one Aboriginal group (North American
Indian, Métis or Inuit) lived in Ontario (Statistics Canada, 1996).
British Columbia was a close second at 17.5%. One quarter of the
Canadian Aboriginal population (207,000) reported that they had an Aboriginal
language as their mother tongue. Cree was the largest Aboriginal
mother tongue, reported by 10% of the Aboriginal population (76,475) followed
by Inuktitut and Ojibway (Statistics Canada, 1998). On the other hand,
29% of the Aboriginal population, or 234,000 individuals reported an ability
to converse in an Aboriginal language. In Ontario, 17% reported an
Aboriginal mother tongue. Of these, half reported Ojibway.
The majority of Canada's North American Indians live in Ontario accounting
for 83% of Ontario's Aboriginal population. Métis comprised
16% and Inuit less than 1%. These numbers may be under-representative
due to the fact that enumeration was not permitted, or was interrupted
before it could be completed on 77 Indian reserves and settlements.
In 1996, an estimated 44,000 people were living on reserves and settlements
that were incompletely enumerated. These people were mostly Registered
Indians (Statistics Canada, 1998).
Because of this concentration of immigrants and Aboriginal
Canadians, the focus of this article is on Ontario. This paper looks
at the extent to which institutions in Ontario, as the most multicultural
province in Canada, recognizes non-official language multilingualism and
whether businesses, educational institutions and governments are already
responding with policies, either implicit or explicit, in their drive to
hire a diverse work-force.
Three Orientations to Language Policy Research
The way researchers and policy-makers approach the
issue of language policy and planning depends on their "orientation to
language and its role in society" (Ruiz, 1984, p. 3). Here Richard
Ruiz proposes three orientations: language-as-problem; language-as-right;
and language-as-resource. He claims that the bulk of the work of
language planners has focused on the language-as-problem orientation (Neustupny,
1970; Rubin & Shuy, 1973; Fishman, 1975, as cited in Ruiz, 1984) which
is Athe organized pursuit of solutions to language problems, typically
at the national level@ (Fishman, 1975, as cited in Ruiz, 1984, p. 6).
The emphasis here sees language as a social problem that needs to be removed.
On this approach, non-English speakers, for example, have a language problem
that needs to be overcome, and one policy response is to provide them with
ESL classes. In general, this 'language-as-problem' orientation supports
the idea that minority language speakers are in a deficit position in relation
to the dominant language. It also supports the idea that motivation
to maintain their first languages is of little concern as a matter of language
The second orientation, language-as-right, views
language as a basic human entitlement that needs policy support.
Here the claims advanced are that individuals should enjoy "the right to
freedom from discrimination on the basis of language" and "the right to
use [their] language(s) in [all] the activities of communal life" (Macias,
1979, as cited in Ruiz, 1984, p. 11). Pursuing this orientation,
language planners argue, for example, that individuals are entitled to
publicly-supported formal education in their first language and that they
are entitled to participate in all aspects of social life using that language.
A practical problem here is that the public use of one language often seems
to threaten the users of other languages, who feel that their own communicative
freedom is interfered with. As a result, linguistic groups begin
to take up positions against one another. And those who criticize
language reforms based only on claims to rights are able to argue that
the "rights of the few are affirmed over those of the many" (Ruiz, 1984,
p. 13). Eventually, the response to language policies supported only
by claims of 'language as a right' can be non-compliance.
While these two orientations have been the focus
of much discussion and debate, the third orientation has seen little research
as yet, although following Ruiz's clarification of the three orientations,
many voices have been raised supporting the language-as-resource view (Lo
Bianco, 1995; Norton & Ridge, 1997; McKay & Hornberger, 1996).
One important reason for this is that by creating this public perception
of non-dominant languages, the policy case for seeing language as a right
is also strengthened. In other words, it provides a policy means
for convincing recalcitrant constituents of the practicality, if not the
justice, of that position.
And there are several other benefits that come from
adopting this third orientation to language policy. Society in general
is advantaged when language-minority communities are seen as important
sources of linguistic expertise. Also their voluntary integration
into their chosen society is eased at the same time as their distinct linguistic
identities are recognized and valued. Moreover, the unique resource
value of different languages is a real and growing one in a world where
cultural pluralism across and within borders has become the norm.
Indeed Canada is far from alone in its immense cultural diversity, as the
example of the multilingual nation state of Australia shows. In recent
decades, a new discourse about diversity has arisen in that country, using
the language-as-resource orientation. It has led to the development
of an influential National Policy on Languages.
An Applied Policy Example of Language-as-Resource: Australia
Australia is a very multilingual country. In
addition to several varieties of English, there are approximately 150 Aboriginal
languages (50 of which have more than 100 speakers) and between 75-100
immigrant languages, 11 of which are used in the home by more than 50,000
speakers (Tollefson, 1991). The 1991 Census recorded 14.8% of Australians
using a language other than English in the home, with this proportion higher
in some parts of Australia: for example, Melbourne, 26%; Sydney,
24.9%; and Northern Territory 25.3%, where most of the Aboriginal languages
are spoken (Clyne, 1997). Across the country, numerous government
announcements are published multilingually and the federal government conducts
telephone interpreter services in over 90 languages. One of the two
national government television channels transmits films, series, and documentaries
in a wide range of community languages using English sub-titles.
It also presents daily half-hour news broadcasts in eight languages and
weekly news in three other languages. Australia also has more than
120 community newspapers, publishing in nearly the full range of languages
spoken there. A wide range of languages are taught in Australian
schools, and this range varies by region. As well, there is a high
degree of public support for both full-time ethnic private schools and
part-time ethnic schools. Currently, 38 languages are recognized
as accredited subjects in examinations for university entrance, and four
more are being accredited (Clyne, 1997).
The route to Australia's current, multicultural
language policy started with the 1978 Galbally Report which ended Australia's
earlier policies of assimilation and promoted policies of multiculturalism
and cultural pluralism (Tollefson, 1991). The Report claimed "the
government should foster 'the retention of the cultural heritage of different
ethnic groups and [promote] intercultural understanding'" (section 1.38,
as cited in Tollefson, 1991, p. 174). But this document was written
from the language-as-right orientation, claiming that "every individual
has the right to access to government programs and services and to 'maintain
his or her culture without prejudice or disadvantage'" (Tollefson, 1991,
p. 174). Education was seen as the solution to migrants' economic
difficulties, with increased funding proposed for maintaining so-called
'community languages'. This was the new title of respect that the
Report attached to 'ethnic' or 'migrant' languages, a shift in discourse
that confirmed "the greater immediacy of these languages and their learners,
in an age when immediacy and relevance were all important in educational
rhetoric" (Lo Bianco, 1995, p. 36). While the Report also claimed
that all Australians would benefit from multiculturalism, it also defined
cultural diversity as something of a problem for the country and it clearly
favoured English. As such, it failed to make the language argument
strongly enough and did not succeed (Tollefson, 1991).
In 1984, The Senate Committee on Education and the
Arts released a report on a National Language Policy. This report
continued to reinforce the dominant role of English, but its secondary
goal was maintenance and development of 'languages other than English'
(LOTES) by providing increased opportunities for learning second languages.
This report was based on many 'common sense' explanations for policies:
everyone should learn English because it is necessary for jobs; it is not
feasible to provide translation and interpretation services for all of
the languages in Australia; dominance by English is more practical than
organizing the use of other languages in Australian society; and people
who do not speak English must inevitably suffer in many ways throughout
their lives. By accepting these claims as unchallengeable 'truths',
the Committee tried not to significantly alter the language status quo
in Australia (Tollefson, 1991).
In 1986, the Minister of Education commissioned Joseph
Lo Bianco to prepare a National Policy on Languages. This report
met with greater success because "it emphasized language pluralism as a
national resource rather than a problem to be overcome" (Tollefson, 1991,
p. 178). The principal objective of the report was "to ensure that
Australia derives maximum benefit from its rich linguistic resources" (Department
of Employment, Education and Training; 1987, as cited in Crawford, 1992,
p. 460). The report outlined the following benefits for Australians:
Economic: there would be a competitive advantage in using the host
country's language for foreign trade.
External: as Australia is situated in the Asian-Pacific region, the
fastest growing economic zone in the world, Australians would be able to
participate more fully in the region's affairs by learning other languages.
Cultural and Intellectual Enrichment: learning other languages provides
insights into cultural understandings and it brings established benefits
to intellectual and academic functioning.
Equality or Social Justice: all Australians must have full access
to English but with opportunities to maintain their first languages.
The Policy offered four strategies for reaping the benefits
and for recognizing Australia's linguistic diversity: "(a) conservation
of Australia's linguistic resources; (b) development and expansion of these
resources; (c) integration of Australian language teaching and language
use efforts with national economic, social and cultural policies; and (d)
provision of information and services in languages understood by clients"
(Department of Employment, Education and Training, 1987, as cited in Crawford,
1992, p. 463).
Because much of the economic focus on multiculturalism
in Australia stems from its location in the Asian-Pacific region, and
the rise in these countries' economies, many of the arguments influencing
government are based on Australia's need to trade with these countries
and to become an integral part of its world region. This situation
has led to a dramatic increase in Asian language learning. As well,
the many Australians of Asian background, with all their language and cultural
proficiency, are starting to be seen as a positive community resource (Lo
In general, the success of the Policy in shifting
the discourse in Australia stems from its definition of linguistic diversity
as a positive resource, rather than a problem or a set of rights somehow
owed to linguistic minorities. Evidence for this is that the Office
of Multicultural Affairs now uses the term 'productive diversity' in preference
to the term multiculturalism (Lo Bianco, 1995). In addition, the
Australian Centenary Committee in its planning for the year 2001 describes
the country's community languages as important national resources (Centenary
of Federation Advisory Committee: 2001, as cited in Smolicz, Hudson &
The Language-as-Resource Discourse in Canada
To what extent is Canada like Australia in valuing
its multilingual diversity as a resource deserving to be conserved and
developed? Most of the research in the economics of language in this
country focuses on bilingualism as opposed to multilingualism (Grin &
Vaillancourt, 1997). Much of that research was done in Quebec, looking
for instance at the influence of French and English on people's earnings.
Among other things, these studies show that English monolingual speakers
earn the most, followed by bilingual English speakers, bilingual French
and finally by monolingual French speakers (Vaillancourt, 1978; Lieberson,
1970, as cited in Carlinger, 1981).
Nevertheless, more relevant rhetoric is beginning
to appear in the business literature in Canada. For example, the
Conference Board of Canada has recently released a report entitled "Dimensions
of Diversity in Canadian Business: Building a Business Case for Valuing
Ethnocultural Diversity" (Taylor, 1995). A newsletter is also produced
entitled "Valuing Diversity: Employment Equity in Canada's Changing Work-force".
Even the Government of Ontario, which has moved against legislated forms
of employment equity, has commissioned a guide-book "Diversity at Work:
The Business Case for Equity" (Government of Ontario, 1997). The
Ontario Government also hosted two internet discussion groups on the issues
in 1997: "Leading the Leaders to make Diversity Work" and "Linking Diversity
Training to Other Corporate Objectives". On its Web site, the Ministry
of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation also posted case studies outlining
business contexts where diversity is valued.
Greater recognition of the Asian-Pacific region
and its language is also entering the Canadian discourse. There is
great growth in immigration from these regions, and also great ethnolinguistic
vitality in the speakers' languages. They are becoming "economic
languages which a growing proportion of Canadians see as essential for
trade in the Pacific century if Canada is to grow economically" (Carey,
1997, p. 208). Carey goes on to state that Canadians are beginning
to question official bilingualism because of its irrelevance in this new
situation; he says that many Canadians believe Asian-Pacific languages
have greater economic and cultural value for their children than French.
This situation is more prevalent in British Columbia where a new Language
Education Policy enacted in 1996 requires each student to study a second
language between grades 5-8. This language can be French, Mandarin,
Spanish, Japanese or Punjabi, but other languages will be considered if
the demand grows. As Carey claims, this policy "puts Asian-Pacific
languages on an equal footing with French as a mandatory second language"
(1997, p. 213).
These developments are predicated on the view that
diversity is good for business: it is a source of competitive economic
advantage, it assists the growth of market share, and it eases foreign
business dealings in international markets. A quote from an IBM operative
is typical here:
Our customers are very diverse - not only in the Canadian but the global
environment. When our work-force reflects the marketplace, we're
much better prepared to understand customer issues, and offer them the
right solutions.... Diverse groups increasingly have significant purchasing
power and we want to be the IT vendor of choice for them (Harley, On-line
discussion, Nov. 13, 1997).
The Conference Board of Canada report (Taylor, 1995)
also offers the business case for being able to compete in the new global
marketplace and in the increasing ethnocultural diversity of Canadian markets:
"Competing to win in the global economy will require an ability to attract,
retain, motivate and develop high-potential employees from a variety of
ethnocultural backgrounds" (p. iv). The value these individuals bring
is their "language skills and knowledge of foreign cultures and business
practices, as well as natural trade links [they have] with overseas markets"
(Taylor, 1995, p. 1). To assess the extent of relevant developments,
Taylor sent a survey to 466 organizations across Canada. Results
revealed that over half (58%) the respondents reported taking advantage
of Canada's ethnocultural diversity in developing international markets.
Three quarters use the country's ethnocultural expertise informally or
on an ad hoc basis. On the other hand, only 11 organizations systematically
tapped the cultural skills resident in their work-force and fewer than
6% explicitly value diversity in their mission statements. At the
same time, almost 50% said they needed to tailor their customer service
practices to meet the needs of their diverse base by providing multilingual
customer service and by offering multilingual customer support. Indeed
63 companies had already undertaken outreach programs to attract a more
diverse pool of job applicants.
While Taylor (1995) noted the many barriers organizations
have in managing diversity, she said that "a few Canadian organizations
have recognized the competitive advantage to be gained by embracing diversity
within their business strategy.... These firms may well display a significant
competitive advantage in the future" (p. 51). At the same time, while
many of the executives contacted view diversity of their work-force as
a competitive opportunity (25%), at this stage very few seem to be following
through with concrete practices and policies.
Accordingly, it seems that in Canada "multilingualism
and multiculturalism are often touted as forms of wealth or as 'resources',
but such claims usually fail to move beyond the metaphor, which is of limited
help in dealing with the policy issues raised by multilingualism" (Grin
& Vaillancourt, 1997, p. 48). In this paper, we ask if multilingualism
is viewed as an institutional resource in the province Ontario. We
ask if organizations are deliberately hiring and valuing multilingual employees,
and if they are offering incentives to attract and reward these bilingual
Data for this study were gathered using mail-out
questionnaires, which were personalized to the type of institution.
Three questionnaires were developed: one for private and public organizations,
the second for academic institutions, and the third for school boards.
The questionnaires were pilot tested and revised prior to use. Before
the questionnaires were mailed, each organization was contacted about the
project. A contact person was identified to ensure the questionnaire
would go to an appropriate individual within the organization. All
those identified, or their immediate assistants, were personally contacted
and told that a questionnaire was coming. Follow-up phone calls were
also made to increase the response rate.
A total of 140 personalized questionnaires were mailed
between March 1998 - June 1998. All colleges, universities, school
boards and provincial psychiatric hospitals across Ontario were included
in the sample. The government and private organizations were selected
by two means: half were selected randomly from the telephone book; and
half were purposively selected based on their experience with diversity
issues. The latter were chosen from two sources: the list of respondents
named in the Conference Board of Canada's Report (Taylor, 1995); and the
Government of Ontario's Equal Opportunity Web site, which includes business
case studies that reveal each organization's experiences with diversity.
Seventy-nine questionnaires were returned,
giving a response rate of 56.4%. Table 1 outlines the breakdown of
organizations and their response rates by category. The highest response
rate was received from government organizations, although the lowest was
from school boards. This low rate can be explained by the fact that
the school board questionnaires were mailed out in May and June which is
a busy time for school board administrators finalizing one school year
and preparing for the next. It was difficult to contact key people,
so the questionnaires usually went through their assistants. At that
time too, there was unusual pressure on Ontario boards, brought about by
massive mandated changes in the governance of provincial education.
The data were analyzed using both qualitative and quantitative methods
(Hughes, 1990; Jick, 1979).
Findings: Sample Characteristics
Types of Organizations. Academic institutions
make up the largest portion of the sample, (49%) with 18 colleges, 13 universities,
and 8 school boards. Most colleges and universities identified themselves
as offering general studies programs (10 colleges and 11 universities).
The second most common function was business (10 colleges and 4 universities)
and the third was professional (5 colleges and 6 universities). The
majority of private organizations identified themselves as service providers
(42.3%). Most organizations are located in Toronto (42.5%). The remainder
are divided between Northern Ontario (18.8%), Central Ontario (12.5%) and
Southwestern Ontario (8.8%). Figure 1 displays the geographic distribution
of the organizations.
Size. Most academic institutions
had 100-500 administrators and 100-500 teachers. The rest of the
institutions were almost equally split among the other size categories.
Most institutions had a large student body, 19 with more than 10,000 students.
Most of the school boards had 26-100 schools (50%). The student distribution
in all of the academic institutions appears in Table 2. The
size of the public and private organizations was almost equally distributed,
although the majority had 1001-5000 employees. Table 3 provides employee
distribution by type of organization. Using the number of employees,
staff and students the organizations were reclassified as large, medium
and small. Table 4 outlines that distribution.
Clients Served. The majority of organizations
serve clients in Ontario (27.2%). Some organizations also indicated
that they serve the Greater Toronto Area specifically (16.5%) or Northern
Ontario (17%). While many organizations saw their role as serving
the Canadian community as a whole (16.5%), less than 5% served regional
communities outside Canada, with South East Asia being indicated the most
often (4.2%). Seven organizations stated they serve many geographic
regions: the Greater Toronto Area, Northern Ontario, Ontario, Canada, United
States, Europe, Middle East, South East Asia, East Asia, and South America,
Central America, Australasia, the Pacific, and Africa.
Very few organizations serve only the English or
only the French language communities (3 and 1 respectively). A few
more serve only English and French communities (15 or 20%). The majority
(22 or 27.8%) serve more than 6 language communities (other than English
or French), but the second largest group serves a single other language
community (20.3%). These language communities include the users of
Aboriginal languages, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, Polish, German, Italian,
Portuguese, and Arabic. The largest of the language communities served
(besides English or French) was the Aboriginal language community (15%),
followed by Chinese (14.3%) and then Spanish (11%). See Table 5,
for an outline of language communities served by organizations in the study.
Fifty-nine percent of the academic institutions
indicated that they offer courses in other languages (see Table 6 for a
breakdown of courses offered in languages other than English or French
by educational institution). Of all the academic institutions, the
universities were most likely to offer these courses (43.5%), followed
by the colleges (34.8%) and the school boards (21.7%). As well, comparisons
within organizations reveals that 76.9% of all the universities indicated
that they do offer courses in other languages compared to 62.5% of the
school boards and 44.4% of the colleges.
Of the academic institutions teaching courses in
languages other than English or French, the majority offer three other
languages (7 or 30.4%). Twenty-one percent teach courses in 4-6 other
languages; 17.4% teach courses in more than 6 other languages and two other
languages; and 13% teach courses in one other language. While the
numbers are small, the majority of the institutions do teach courses in
more than four other languages (39%). Sixty percent of school boards
teach courses in more than four other languages, followed by the universities
at 50%, and by one college. Most colleges teach only in English or
French (53%) and those that do teach courses in other languages (62.5%)
offer only one or two other languages.
Spanish was indicated most often as the language
in which institutions teach courses (indicated 17 times, or 20.7%), Aboriginal
languages were next (15 times, or 18.3%), German was third (9 times or
14.6%) followed by Italian (11 times or 13.4%). Arabic was indicated
only four times (4.9%). Spanish was indicated most often by universities
(24.4%), but only 21% of the time by colleges, and 13.6% by school boards.
Aboriginal languages were indicated most often by colleges (26.3%) and
German was indicated most often by school boards (18.2%).
Most organizations surveyed do have some kind
of a unit dedicated to managing diversity issues or employment equity (61%).
Of these, just over half have this unit as a separate unit and just under
half have the unit as part of their human resources department (56.5% and
43.5% respectively). While organizations who have an employment equity
unit are more likely to report that they feel their organization benefits
from employing multilingual staff (57.1% of all organizations), it is not
a significant effect x2(1, N = 77) = .655, p =.415. Having an employment
equity unit also does not have an significant effect on whether the organizations
recruit staff who are bilingual in languages other than English or French
x2(1, N = 77) = .582 p = .446.
Analysis of Employees and Students. Most organizations
have not done a study to determine whether employees who are bilingual
in a language other than English or French are needed in their work-forces
(84.8%). For example, none of the 13 universities have conducted
such a study. The Federal government organizations were evenly split
between conducting a study and not. Most organizations had not analyzed
current staff to profile the language skills they hold (60.8%). The
Federal government is the only category where all the organizations surveyed
indicated that they did analyze the language skills held by their work-force.
Within the selected private organizations, the majority do analyze their
employees' language skills (70%). In all the other groups, most organizations
do not do such analyses. The school boards were asked one additional
question: "Has your board conducted an analysis of current students to
profile their language skills?" Of the 7 that answered that question, the
majority do not (71.4%).
Recruitment and Employment of Staff
Benefits. Most organizations indicated
they felt they would benefit from employing staff fluent in languages in
addition to English or French. In fact, 88.6% of the organizations
indicated they would benefit, and only eight said they would not benefit.
The private organizations were the most likely to say that they would benefit
from employing bilingual employees; all but one organization said they
would benefit. All the universities, selected private organizations
and municipal governments also said that they would benefit from employing
these types of bilingual employees.
For the private and public organizations, the
overwhelming benefit suggested was to communicate with clients or customers
(58.6%). The second most frequent benefits named were to expand into
new markets and to do international business (both indicated 15.5% of the
time). For the academic institutions, the top three reasons were
to attract new students (26.7%), to communicate with students (24%), and
to work/research internationally (19.8%). One bank mentioned in their
response that the benefit would only be for transferring business to another
country. Organizations could indicate more than one response.
Active Recruitment. Even though nearly
every organization said their organizations would benefit from employing
staff fluent in languages other than English or French, only 24 or 34.8%
of the organizations indicated that they actively recruit these bilingual
employees. The private organizations were most likely to recruit
(52.9%). The educational institutions were least likely to recruit
(25.7%). Within the educational institutions, the school boards were
most likely to recruit (65.5% or 5/8). The colleges and universities
were not likely to recruit (88.9% and 84.6% respectively). Of all
the organizations, the randomly chosen private organizations were most
likely to recruit (75%). The federal government organizations were
least likely, all four indicating that they do not recruit these employees.
Surprisingly, 70% of the private organizations selected on the basis of
their positive experience with diversity issues indicated that they did
not recruit (7/10). Table 7 displays the breakdown of recruitment
by type of organization.
The comments on the questionnaires reveal that
those who believe their organization benefits from employing multilingual
employees, but do not actively recruit, state that recruitment happens
naturally. For example, one respondent commented:
Twenty percent of our employees are fluent in at least one other language
beside English or French. Our experience is that we recruit from
such a diverse work-force from the talent pool available, they bring with
them the multilinguistic skills that can be used in marketing situations.
However, they are not recruited specifically for their language skills.
. The methods
organizations do use to recruit their bilingual employees are indicated
in the following list. Organizations could indicate as many methods
as they chose. The private organizations were the most varied in
the means used to recruit bilingual employees.
Formal or Informal Policies
indicate language requirement on job advertisement (20 times or 31.2%)
place ads in community papers (13 or 20.3%)
informal networking (11 or 17.2%)
place advertisements in alternative media (9 or 14.1%).
. Six organizations
indicated that they have a formal policy in place about employing staff
that are bilingual in a language other than English or French (out of the
52 organizations that answered the question). Note, the formal policy
might not mention language diversity specifically, but hiring a diverse
work-force in general. At the same time, all organizations were heavily
weighted towards having informal policies, especially the academic institutions
and the private and public organizations. Only 6.1% of the academic
institutions had formal policies (2/33) and 8.3% of the public and private
organizations (1/12). The government organizations were more likely
to have formal policies (42.9%).
Incentives and Rewards. Only two
organizations indicated that they offer incentives to potential employees
who are bilingual in languages other than English or French, in order to
hire them (out of 40 who answered this question). Both these organizations
were universities. Only 11 organizations (15.2%) reward the language
skills of these bilingual employees in any way (84.8% do not reward these
bilingual employees). Table 8 shows the breakdown of organizations
that reward bilingual employees for their bilingual proficiency.
The academic institutions were the most likely to offer rewards (20.5%,
or 8/39). Within these institutions, the colleges were the most likely
(27.8%, or 5/18 indicated they offer rewards) followed by the universities
(23.1%, or 3/13), while none of the school boards indicated that they did.
Private organizations were the second most likely to offer rewards (16.7%
or 3/18). None of the government organizations indicated that they
offer rewards to employees bilingual in languages other than English or
French. Travel was the reward indicated most often (45.4%); higher
pay was indicated 36.4% of the time; and promotion as a reward was indicated
once (9%). One other reward indicated was professional development
and career opportunities. In the colleges, the reward mentioned most
often was travel (80%) and in the universities higher pay was indicated
most often (66.7%). The single randomly chosen private organization
responding positively to this question indicated promotion, and both the
selected private organizations indicated higher pay.
Language Training. Most organizations
do not offer language training or subsidize language training in languages
other than English or French for current staff to fill skill shortages.
Sixty-nine percent said they did not. The academic institutions were
least likely to offer/subsidize language training; 77.8% of the colleges,
75% of the school boards and 69.2% of the universities said they did not
offer/subsidize language training. The selected private organizations
and the municipal government organizations were most likely to offer/subsidize
language training (60% and 66.7% respectively). The random private organizations
were equally likely to offer/subsidize language training as not to offer
language training. To determine if language training was offered
instead of recruiting bilingual employees, as a way of employing bilingual
employees, a cross tabulation was done. The results revealed that
this was not the case. Organizations that did recruit were just as
likely to offer/subsidize language training as not, and the organizations
that did not recruit were more likely not to offer language training.
Seventy six percent of the organizations that did not recruit do not offer
Future Value of Hiring Bilingual Employees.
Organizations that do not believe their organization benefits from employing
employees bilingual in languages other than English or French, were asked
if they saw future value in doing so. Of the eight organizations
that stated that they do not believe their organization currently benefits,
only two stated that they saw value in doing so in future. One of
these was a college and the other was a provincial government organization.
The college stated the benefits they foresaw were communicating with students
and attracting new students. Thus, organizations that stated they
did not value hiring bilingual employees currently, see little value in
doing so in the future.
Evaluating Language Proficiency
The methods these organizations use to evaluate
the language proficiency of these bilingual employees are: interviews (25.8%);
employer references (18.6%); formal qualifications and personal references
(13.4%). Organizations could indicate more than one response.
While the interview method was most preferred, using formal qualifications
to assess fluency was a close second in the educational institutions, along
with employer references (10 indicated interview and 9 indicated formal
qualifications and employer references). Using formal qualifications
to assess fluency was the method used much more often in the educational
institutions than in the other types of organizations. Only one public
organization and three private organizations indicated that they used formal
qualifications to evaluate language fluency. Thus in the academic
institutions, using formal qualifications was used more than twice as often
as a means to assess fluency. It was indicated 20% of the time in
the academic institutions, while it was only indicated 10% of the time
in the private organizations and 7.6% of the time in the public organizations.
Five organizations actually stated that
they evaluate language proficiency differently if it was acquired formally
in an academic institution, or informally as a first language at home.
Twenty organizations said they did not evaluate language differently, and
four did not know if their organization did or did not. The percentages
are 17.2% said they did, 69% said they did not and 13.8% did not know.
The academic institutions were most likely to indicate they evaluated language
differently if it was acquired formally or informally. Four of the
five organizations that said they did evaluate language proficiency differently
were academic institutions, three of these universities and one college.
All the school boards indicated they did not evaluate language proficiency
differently. For the organizations that explained their responses
further, two educational institutions responded that it mattered for teachers
but not for other staff. Another educational institution said "given
the educational focus of the University, it is essential that the employee
have proper grammar, fluency, etc."
Most organizations feel they would benefit
from employing staff who are bilingual in languages other than English
or French. They see the benefit mostly as enhancing communication
with clients or students. The academic institutions especially see
benefits in recruiting overseas students and teaching courses in other
languages. Attracting new students was the top reason they thought
their organizations would benefit. These purposes are tied to economic
reasons for colleges and universities. The overseas recruitment of
students brings international students who pay larger fees than Ontario
students; and the courses taught in other languages appear most often to
be continuing education courses, which also cost more than mainstream courses.
Further evidence lies in the recruitment section of the questionnaire.
If organizations stand to make money, they are more likely to recruit,
and again teaching continuing education courses is a way to make money.
While the number of academic institutions that recruit is small, all the
colleges and universities that teach courses in other languages recruit
In the school boards, there are some
that do recruit bilingual employees even if they do not offer courses in
other languages. The school boards mentioned that the benefits of
hiring bilingual employees lie equally in communicating with English-as-a-second
language (ESL) students and their families, and in teaching courses in
other languages. The private organizations also mentioned the benefits
of employing bilingual employees as facilitating communication with clients
or customers. This benefit is also a way of attracting and keeping
business, especially in the service-oriented organizations that make up
the majority of the sample. Thus, the benefits these organizations
see in employing staff bilingual in languages other than English or French
are largely economic, except for certain school boards and the government
The government organizations rarely hire or
see benefits in hiring staff who are bilingual in languages other than
English or French. One exception is the Ministry of Northern Development
and Mines. This provincial ministry, serving remote communities,
sees a benefit in employing multilingual staff to "promote economic development
in Aboriginal sectors". This ministry has a need for aboriginal languages
in at least two positions and actively recruits for these positions, asking
for knowledge of Aboriginal languages or culture. At the same time,
all the government organizations that do not target these prospective employees
outweigh those that do. Even the need they have to serve language
communities other than in English or French, does not impact on their recruitment
policies. It appears that meeting mandatory policies about hiring
for French fluency, outweighs the need to hire outside this language.
One federal government respondent was categorical on this point: "Our obligations
to provide services within the federal government are limited to the two
official languages". And a provincial government respondent similarly
outlined where the limit of his organization's responsibility lay:
"The ministry has provided literature in other languages but formally only
requires that French service be available".
Many organizations cite the practice
of hiring multilingual employees on contract, or on an ad hoc basis.
Even Citizenship and Immigration Canada said that "we contract with interpreters
to provide the necessary services in languages other than English or French.
Contracting has proved to be cost effective on an as-needed basis".
This practice is also popular in the school boards. While the boards
were the most likely to actively recruit these employees, they are not
hired as permanent teachers within organizations. They are mainly
part-time or contractual heritage language teachers or ESL teachers.
In addition, the Toronto school board mentioned they hire multicultural
consultants on contract, or on an ad hoc basis to deal with ESL students
or parents. And it is interesting to note that these employees are
not paid full salary or given the usual benefits for sickness, health,
vacation, or other leaves. The board's minority language teachers
are also paid less than permanent staff. For example, ESL teachers
are only able to work part-time hours and their salaries reach a ceiling
quickly with no room for increases or advancement. This finding is
consistent with the findings of the Conference Board of Canada report (Taylor,
1995). Taylor, also found that many organizations do not tap cultural
skills in their work-forces systematically.
Very few organizations provide incentives
to bilingual employees in the hiring process, or benefits to them once
they are hired. Only two organizations provided incentives and only
13 organizations offer rewards, and none of these were school boards or
government organizations. This finding suggests that only those organizations
that profit in some way from hiring bilingual employees return some of
that profit to their employees and offer rewards. However, whenever
organizations do reward these bilingual employees, the benefit offered
most often is travel. And even this benefit provides further economic
returns to the organization, depending on the purpose of the travel, which
can be to attract new clients from other geographic locations, or to expand
into different markets.
Moreover, only a few organizations have a formal
policy in place about hiring for diversity. This finding confirms
that the practice is not a priority, nor is it much valued within organizations.
Organizations feel staffing their offices with multilingual employees happens
naturally; or the need is filled by current employees. This finding
is also consistent with Taylor's (1985) evidence where fewer than 6% of
organizations surveyed mention valuing diversity explicitly in their mission
statement. So, while multilingual staff may be seen as a benefit
to organizations and are even actively recruited for their multilingual
skills, they are rarely 'valued' overtly within the organization.
Minority languages, even if they are relevant or essential to a given occupation,
do not yield higher returns, either financial or otherwise.
Furthermore, there is evidence about
the importance of organizational discourse in the present study.
The language organizations use to talk about the issue definitely affects
the direction of the solution they offer. On the one hand, most organizations
omit the discourse of valuing diversity from their formal policies and
mission statements; and on the other hand, the majority do not recruit
bilingual staff, offer incentives to hire them, or give them any rewards
once they are hired. Indeed, the evidence from private organizations
reveals that they are very good at using the jargon. One organization
mentioned that the value they saw in hiring bilingual employees is in being
"proactive and a best practice for a national employer". This same
organization, however, has no diversity/employment equity unit, has not
studied whether or not bilingual staff are needed in their organization,
does not actively recruit or offer language training, and does not reward
language skills. Yet another respondent advocated that "a work-force
with diverse cultural backgrounds is almost by definition multilingual.
Such a work-force can contribute significantly to organizational effectiveness,
creativity and decision making". This organization also does not
recruit or reward multilingual employees, but might "possibly" see benefit
in doing so in the future if it were doing business outside Canada.
Evaluation of Language Skills
A secondary aim of this study was to see if
organizations value language skills differently, if the languages were
acquired formally or informally. Only one question concentrated on
this point and only the responses from academic institutions allowed a
conclusive response. Most academic institutions use formal qualifications
as the method of evaluating language fluency. They also said that
they evaluated language proficiency differently if it was acquired formally
or informally. Four of the five organizations who said that they
evaluated language proficiency differently were academic institutions.
And the comments provided on the surveys were quite revealing. One
university stated that they evaluate language proficiency differently if
it was acquired formally or informally but it depends on the type of job:
"At the faculty level, formal proficiency must be demonstrated; [for] support
staff, a language test as part of the recruitment/hiring process [is used]'.
Another university stated they evaluate language fluency differently because
"given the educational focus of the university, it is essential that the
employee have proper grammar, fluency, etc.". The bias towards some
standard version of languages is plain here. The perception seems
to be that if a language is learned informally, the "standard" grammar
and structures are less likely to be mastered. This is an issue that
could be further explored (see Corson and Lemay, 1996 for non-standard
varieties and their treatments in education). As well, the responses
reveal that it is more important for professors to have a formal qualification
but support staff and others who speak their languages as native speakers,
do not need the formal qualifications.
The majority of respondents say their
organizations would benefit from employing individuals who are fluent in
languages other than English or French. The benefits to the organizations
were mainly seen in communicating with their clients/customers, to expand
into new markets and to do international business. For academic institutions
the benefits lie in attracting new students, communicating with students,
and doing work internationally. Nevertheless, many fewer organizations
actually recruit, offer incentives in hiring, or reward these bilingual
employees. Thus, while 88.6% of the organizations said they felt
their organizations would benefit, only 34.8% (24) of the organizations
actively recruit bilingual employees, with the private businesses most
likely to say they recruit. Only 15.2% reward bilingual employees
by providing travel or higher pay to these bilingual employees and only
two organizations said they offer incentives in the hiring process.
It appears that the majority of these organizations advocate multilingualism
as a resource for their organizations, but are reluctant to move beyond
the metaphor. Those that do actively recruit bilingual employees,
do so because of the economic benefits for their organization. So
to that extent at least, these non-dominant languages are viewed as resources
worth maintaining and putting to use. At the same time, there is
a low level of interest generally in rewarding the users of these minority
languages as owners of worthwhile resources for organizations, and indirectly
for Canada as a whole. So on the evidence of this preliminary study,
the 'language-as-resource' position in Canada would still seem to have
a long way to go. But while these minority languages are not viewed
as a form of human capital that yields higher returns in the same way the
official languages do, there is some hope in the data returned that if
we continue to articulate the view that minority languages are valuable
resources to be conserved, maintained and enhanced for the general good,
then we might continue to improve the current inequitable situation that
affects the users of these languages.
Further research might determine how these
bilingual individuals are valued in workplaces. It might ask where
these multilingual employees actually work in organizations. Research
might also gauge the extent to which bilingual contract or temporary employees
are exploited in organizations by being paid less, being ineligible for
benefits, or for job security. And cross-comparisons might be drawn with
the incidence of women, immigrants, and aboriginals that fill these spaces
of employee disadvantage. This study only uses questionnaires to
gather information on whether individuals bilingual in languages other
than English or French are valued within organizations. The responses
are self-reported and from this study we cannot determine the real extent
of the practice, even in Ontario. Further research might explore
the situation in a more finely tuned way, using case studies or other "real"
examples to show how these employees are valued within organizations.
Table 1 - Summary of Organizations and Response Rates
Table 2 - Student Distribution in Academic Institutions
|Number of Students
Table 3 - Number of Employees by Type of Organization.
Table 4 - Size Distribution of Organizations
Table 5 - Language Communities Served
Percentc (Not Including
French and English)
Note. Organizations could indicate as many language communities as
a = number of times the language community was indicated as being served
by an organization in the sample. bn = 76. cn = 57.
Table 6 - Breakdown of the Educational Institutions' Course Offerings
in Languages Other than English or French
Course Offerings in Other Languages
Table 7 Organizations that Actively Recruit Bilingual Employees
Table 8 - Organizations that Reward Bilingual Employees for their
Carey, S. (1997). Language management, official bilingualism, and multiculturalism
in Canada. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 17, 204-223.
Carlinger, G. (1981). Wage differences by language group and the
market for language skills in Canada. Journal of Human Resources,
16, (3) 384-399.
Citizenship & Immigration Canada. Landed Immigrant Data
Base [Electronic Data Base]. (1998). Ottawa: Government
of Canada [Producer and Distributor].
Clyne, M. (1997). Multilingualism in Australia. Annual Review
of Applied Linguistics, 17, 191-203.
Corson, D., & Lemay, S. (1996). Social justice and language policy
in education: The Canadian research. Toronto: OISE Press/University
of Toronto Press.
Crawford, J. (1992). Language loyalties: A source book on the
official English controversy. Chicago: University of Chicago
Emond, D. P. (1997, August). Valuing diversity: Employment
equity in Canada= changing workforce. Toronto: Emond Montgomery
Government of Ontario, (1997). Business results through diversity:
A guidebook. Ontario: Queen's Printer for Ontario.
Grin, F. & Vaillancourt, F. (1997). The economics of multilingualism:
Overview and analytical framework. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics,
Hughes, J. (1990). The philosophy of social research. UK.:
Longman Group Limited.
Jick, T. D. (1979). Mixing qualitative and quantitative methods:
Triangulation in action. Administrative Science Quarterly, 24,
Lo Bianco, J. (1995). Australian experiences: Multiculturalism, language
policy and national ethos. European Journal of Intercultural Studies,
McKay, S.L. & Hornberger, N.H. (1996). Sociolinguistics
and language teaching. USA: Cambridge University Press.
Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. (May 14, 1997). Leading
the leaders to make diversity work. [On-line discussion].
Available: http://www.equalopportunity.on.ca/enggraf /forum/trans3.html.
Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation. (November 13, 1997).
Linking diversity training to other corporate objectives. [On-line
discussion]. Available: http://www.equalopportunity.on.ca/enggraf
Norton, B.N., & Ridge, S.G.M. (1997). Multilingualism in southern
Africa. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 17, 170-190.
Ruiz, R. (1984). Orientations in language planning. NABE
Journal, 8 (2), 15-34.
Smolicz, J.J., Hudson, D.M., & Secombe, M.J. (1998). Border
crossing in 'multicultural Australia': A study of cultural valence. Journal
of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 19(4), 318-336.
Statistics Canada (1996). Census Data. Ottawa: Government
of Canada [Producer and Distributor].
Statistics Canada (1998). 1996 Census: Aboriginal Data.
The Daily, January 13, 1998.
Taylor, C. L. (1995). Dimensions of diversity in Canadian business.
Ottawa: Conference Board of Canada.
Tollefson, J.W. (1991). Planning language, planning inequality.
USA: Longman Group UK Ltd.