Edited By Magda Stroinska, Vikki Cecchetto and Kate Szymanski
The Trauma of Culture Shock
Refugee language experience includes the issues of how to talk about the trauma they suffered in their country, the constraints on this process, and other problems, which may compound the trauma, related to language, such as language loss and the difficulties of language learning. Not every refugee wishes or is able to talk about his/her trauma history. Although culture shock itself is not a type of trauma, it may intensify the trauma associated with becoming refugees and with immigration because it involves separating a person from the known community. Talking about trauma can be therapeutic. Not speaking the language of the new country creates a barrier to healing as much as it creates a barrier to employment and isolates immigrants. Language learning can be very difficult for refugees, especially for women with young children. Evidence from the participants in the study described below indicates that at least some of them were able to work through stages of culture shock and so adjust in some degree to their new country. One of the reasons for this was being part of a supportive community where the mother tongue is spoken and some other elements of the original culture are retained. This freed the immigrants from linguistic and social isolation and allowed them to retain some of their original identity.
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