The acculturation of adult African refugee language learners in Israel: an ethnographic study

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The number of refugees from Africa seeking asylum in Israel has recently skyrocketed, raising issues as to how to integrate them into Israeli society. Education is one of the mediums being used to encourage the cultural integration and inclusion of the refugees into Israeli society; very little is known, however, about how Africans are acculturating or whether language education is helping with this process. In particular, I use Berry's model of acculturation and Ogbu's cultural model as lenses through which the acculturation of refugees can be understood. In order to provide an answer to these questions, I conducted an ethnographic study examining the acculturation of adult African refugees participating in a language program in Tel Aviv. I utilized criterion-based sampling to select 8 student participants for this study. Data collection consisted of interviews with student-participants, interviews with teacher participants and document review. Data analysis entailed the coding and categorization of data elicited from data collection. Results suggest that participants exhibited the characteristics of immigrants employing a separation/segregation acculturation strategy according to Berry's model. Most participants also have the characteristics of what Ogbu calls involuntary migrants. Instead of facilitating host country cultural understanding or participation, higher language proficiency was associated with more negative perceptions of Israelis and Israeli society.