Racializing immigrant professionals in an employment preparation ESL program

Yan Guo


This article summarizes a case study of the ways in which a specific English as a Second Language (ESL) program prepares immigrant professionals for employment in an urban Canadian labour market. Data for the study were collected from interviews with immigrant professionals, administrators, ESL teachers, a career workshop facilitator, and from classroom observations of the ESL program in an immigrant-serving organization in western Canada. Using the perspectives of critical multiculturalism, critical ultilingualism, and Foucault’s “governmentality,” the study reveals that the ESL program focuses on presentability and employability of immigrants through processes such as acquiring accentless proficiency in English, changing one’s names, and adapting to Canadian linguistic and cultural norms. The ESL program puts the pressure on immigrants to assimilate, without promoting changes in the larger Canadian society. The roots of the dominance of English language and sociocultural norms are not questioned in the program. Finally, major educational implications of these findings are discussed.

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.18733/C3CC7X