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English as a central component of success in the professional and social integration of scientists from the former Soviet Union in Israel

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  09 January 2002

NINA G. KHEIMETS
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology and Department of English, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Mt. Scopus, Jerusalem 91901 Israel
ALEK D. EPSTEIN
Affiliation:
Department of Sociology, Political Science, & Communication, Open University of Israel, Klauzner St. 16, Ramat-Aviv, Tel-Aviv 61392 Israel, alekdep@pob.huji.ac.il

Abstract

More than 13,000 scientists from the former Soviet Union have arrived in Israel since 1988. The purpose of this study is to analyze certain factors that influence immigrant scientists' integration into the society and academic community of Israel, with special attention to multilingual identity. Previous studies in this field emphasize the significance of Hebrew and juxtaposed Russian with Hebrew; however, in Israel, especially in the educated classes, English is an important status symbol and boundary marker. The data demonstrate that English is crucial in shaping the patterns of immigrants\' social integration. Results of statistical tests demonstrate significant differences between those who studied English and those who studied either German or French regarding feelings of personal self-actualization and job satisfaction. Moreover, command of English proved to be the determining factor for risk of losing a job. The implication is that Israeli language policy, which has traditionally taken the acquisition of Hebrew by immigrants as its major goal, should be reformulated to include access to English instruction, since without it they are unlikely to become equal members of the Israeli middle class.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
© 2001 Cambridge University Press

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