August 2002

IZA DP No. 555: How Much Language is Enough? Some Immigrant Language Lessons from Canada and Germany

Don J. DeVoretz, Holger Hinte, Christiane Werner

Germany and Canada stand at polar ends of the scientific debate over language integration and ascension to citizenship. German naturalization, as of January 2000, contains an explicit language criterion for naturalization. The first German immigration act that will presumably come into effect on January 1, 2003, does not only concentrate on control aspects but also aims at language as a criterion for legal immigration. Canada, in effect, does not base entry or citizenship on knowledge of either of its official languages. Acquisition of a second language in Canada is voluntary and largely dependent on labour market incentives. Which system of second language acquisition – the statist German system or the laissez faire Canadian model – provides the best milieu for immigrant second language acquisition? This paper undertakes a comparative review of Canadian and German legal and educational programs in order to answer this question.