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Language Barriers Experienced by Family Immigrants in the USA

Communication plays a significant role in all setups of society, from families to society, at workplaces, and nationally. Communication helps disseminate information to facilitate proper coordination of activities between individuals or between individuals and groups and between groups. Nonetheless, various factors act as barriers that hinder effective communication, including health factors and language indifferences where people speak different languages. Immigrants are among the most affected groups of people in the United States because their inability to speak English could negatively affect how they relate with each other during the transition process since everyone transitions almost simultaneously.

Problem Statement

This research seeks to investigate the language barriers experienced by family immigrants who are transitioning immediately after moving to the united states of America. English is the national language of the country; therefore, immigrants who are not native English speakers or have little knowledge of the English language experience communication difficulties during their transition process. Families are the most affected groups because the transition occurs simultaneously among all the family members.

In the US, the number of immigrant families accounted for 13%; most family types are nuclear families. Most family members who migrate to the united states are nuclear family members because they can easily acquire visas through marital status or parents for spouses and children, respectively. Communication research is the most appropriate solution for this problem because the prevalence of communication problems during the transitioning process is significantly high, as discussed in the literature review section, whereby family relationships are broken. Family members become rebellious, among other issues. Secondly, all family members face these language barriers, from older family members to adolescents and parents.

Research Questions

The language barrier, as the problem faced by most immigrant families, is a communication problem because the language barrier hinders communication. Using the appropriate communication skills could minimize the effect of the language barrier in family setups and help ease tensions at home. This research seeks to answer three questions; the first is about the challenges immigrant families face during the transition period, which includes language barriers that lead to loneliness among older family members and the inability to seek medical attention. The second question is about what both parents and children do to help during the transition period, and the answer is that while at home, family members should use a langue most suitable to all family members. The third question is about the effective communication technique. The answer is that oral communication is the most effective communication technique, whereby most family members communicate verbally through oral communication.

Literature Review

The transition process involves accepting and integrating individuals into a new culture by adapting to the new ways of life in the new country of residence. While this process is smooth for some immigrant families who are native English speakers, that may not be the case for other families from non-native English-speaking countries. Language barrier plays a vital role in communication between individuals; thus, families of non-native English speakers in the United States experience difficulties in their transition processes. In recent years, several studies have focused on the effects of language barriers on family immigrants during the transition process across the different states in the US. These studies have provided possible solutions for addressing these communication problems to help smoothen the transition process. This literature review seeks to evaluate the transitioning process of immigrant families and the effects of the language barriers in the family.

Role of communication

Communication plays an essential role in family lives since it helps family members share important dates in their lives, their needs, basic and secondary, and express their feelings with each other (Cox et al., 2021). Communication enables parents to share their words of wisdom with their children. Communication occurs in different forms, most commonly verbally and non-verbally, and it helps strengthen familial bonds within family setups.

Transitioning process

Language barriers considerably affect familial relationships among families, causing frustrations among parents who may feel their children are drifting away from them when they start adopting new cultural values, including learning new languages (Cox et al .,2021). The most challenging aspect of the language barrier during the transitioning process is the acquisition of depression due to loneliness in the family. The older adults aged 65-99, particularly females, who account for 52% of the population, are affected (Jang & Tang, 2021).

Problems or mistakes reported by family members

The inability to seek medical assistance on time for autism spectrum disorder is prevalent among immigrant parents who prefer getting teacher assistance to doctors (Zeleke et al., 2019) out of fear of the language barrier. According to Gerchow et al. (2021), there are increasingly more poorly recorded medical documents among immigrant patients due to language barriers, thus reporting poor customer services in healthcare facilities. This incorrect information could affect how patients take their medications.

Navigation through this challenge

According to Linton & Green (2019), the language families use in communication, whether as immigrants or not, serves a critical role in maintaining familial bonds; thereby, during the transitioning process, when families are immigrants, they must choose which language to use while communicating at home. Effective communication strategies that can help families navigate through the challenges of the language barrier involve family members can choosing whichever language is preferable for all family members, the native language or the English language spoken in the United States, to minimize the effects of the language barrier since language barriers cause rifts within the family when communication is no longer effective (Cox et al., 2021).


My advice to immigrant families in avoiding language barriers is to refrain from having the following communication behaviors among them not using vocabulary and not forcing a conversation with family members who are not interested in communicating in the English language. Cox et al. (2021) argue that children from immigrant families within the United States have increasingly enrolled in English classes. Thus, they are continuously abandoning their native languages leading to language erosion. While communicating with their parents, these children should avoid using complicated vocabulary to prevent adding to the effects of language barriers in the family, where parents may feel alienated. Instead, they aim to teach their parents the English language and promote better communication.

As children of immigrants continue learning English, they slowly become bilinguals; speaking both languages at home may not go well with all family members, particularly the older generation, who may need clarification on both languages. Thus it would be important for children to use the most suitable language for all family members (Cox et al., 2021).

Regarding the communication behaviors immigrant families should adopt to manage language barriers successfully, is that the parents should make attempts to learn Basic English language so that they may continue communicating with their children but in the new language instead of parents being frustrated with their children’s desire to learn the language (Cox et al., 2021).

Future Directions

The question that still needs to be answered by my topic is how immigrants prepare for the transition before moving to the United States. Among the few shortcomings of the literature review is that it needs to discuss the preparations immigrant families engage in to smoothen their transition process in the United States. The additional advice I would like to give but could not find evidence to support is that family members should use effective communication techniques while communicating with their family members at home. The evidence I would need to collect to test if my additional advice might be effective would be testimonials from immigrant family members who have effectively applied one particular communication technology to control the effects of language barriers at home.


In conclusion, this research was purposeful since it gave crucial insights into the role of communication in families, among the expression of feelings and sharing essential information among family members. The research also outlines the positive effects of effective communication in family setups, such as solidifying familial bonds and maintaining good relationships among family members, and how lack of effective communication in the family could cause loneliness and depression among older members of the family whenever they feel alienated from the rest of the family members. The research established that language barriers are major causes of poor communication among family members. The research was important in providing me with background information which was of great significance in assisting me in advising immigrant families.


Cox, R. B., et al., (2021). Shared Language Erosion: Rethinking Immigrant Family Communication and Impacts on Youth Development. Children (Basel), 8(4), 256.

Gerchow, L., Burka, L. R., Miner, S., & Squires, A. (2021). Language barriers between nurses and patients: A scoping review. Patient Education and Counseling, 104(3), 534–553.

Jang, H., & Tang, F. (2021). Loneliness, age at immigration, family relationships, and depression among older immigrants: A moderated relationship. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 39(6), 1602–1622.

Linton, J. M., & Green, A. M. (2019). Providing Care for Children in Immigrant Families. Pediatrics, 144(3).

Zeleke, W.A., Hughes, T.L. & Drozda, N. Disparities in Diagnosis and Service Access for Minority Children with ASD in the United States. J Autism Dev Disord 49, 4320–4331 (2019).


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