ARCHIVED – An Examination of the Canadian Language Benchmark Data from the Citizenship Language Survey

Executive summary

At the request of Citizenship and Immigration Canada, we undertook an examination of an existing data set based on a pilot survey of immigrants in six cities. The data covered a range of variables, including demographic information, questions about language training, citizenship test scores, and Canadian Language Benchmark Assessment (CLBA) scores for listening and speaking combined. We undertook a descriptive analysis of 3,827 cases in the dataset, focusing on age, age at immigration, gender, length of residence in Canada, immigration class, country of origin, mother tongue, language training received in Canada, formal education received in Canada, most recent and longest held occupation in Canada, language used most frequently at work, and citizenship test scores.

In accordance with the terms of the contract, we evaluated the relationships between many of the factors listed above and Canadian Language Benchmark Assessment listening and speaking scores. One of the noteworthy findings was a large range of average CLBA scores across mother tongues, such that speakers of several East Asian and Southeast Asian languages tended to score significantly lower than the rest of the language groups. Scores also varied according to type of language training in Canada. Those who reported studying in LINC programs scored significantly lower than those who studied in fee-based programs, who in turn scored lower than those in high school/college/university programs. Other influences included formal education in Canada, immigration class, and occupation.

Responses to the question about language used most frequently at work indicated that 85% of immigrants use either English or French, whereas the most common non-official languages reported were Cantonese and Mandarin, but these made up only a small percentage of the total.

We conducted a multiple regression analysis aimed at identifying the best combination of predictors of CLBA scores. A final model covering variables relating to language training, mother tongue, level of education in Canada, age at immigration, immigration class and city of residence accounted for over 41% of the variance in CLBA scores. Conclusions about causal factors in language proficiency cannot be drawn from this analysis, but the outcome is suggestive of directions for further research.

Included in this report is a list of problems associated with the data, and a set of recommendations for future studies of the language development of adult immigrants in Canada.

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