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New Canadians in 2010 Lessons about the Transition to English From a Previous Generation of Immigrants to Canada.

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Presentation on theme: "New Canadians in 2010 Lessons about the Transition to English From a Previous Generation of Immigrants to Canada."— Presentation transcript:

1 New Canadians in 2010 Lessons about the Transition to English From a Previous Generation of Immigrants to Canada

2 The principles communicated in this presentation are drawn from “Crossing The Divide, Language Transition Among Canadian Mennonite Brethren ” By Gerald C. Ediger Summarized & Adapted by Gord Martin and John Riley of Vision Ministries Canada

3 The Mennonite Brethren The Mennonite Brethren (sometimes called Russian Mennonites) had a long practice of protecting their congregations from the influences of Canadian society Inward focused At the same time the core of Mennonite Brethren spiritual life centred on a commitment to mission and active obedience Outward focused

4 The very nature of Mennonite identity was grounded in its faith and its culture In Canada the tension between faith and culture was dominated by “the language question.”

5 In 1914, there were 1,500 Canadian Mennonite Brethren members in Canada In 2000, the Canadian Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches –had 34,000 members –220 + congregations In 2010, Churches

6 Three periods of their Canadian history 1.Before World War One 2.World War One to From 1970 till 2000

7 Before World War One MBs were reaching out to their surrounding culture from the security of their rural faith communities. From World War One to 1970 The pressure from the surrounding culture prompted them to become increasingly self protective, to the point of establishing a separationist way of life to protect their culture, language and faith After 1970 Some MB’s began to embrace Canadian culture to the point of rejecting any linkage with their past Mennonite culture

8 The mid-1920s witnessed a large Mennonite migration to Canada. Fleeing the Bolshevik revolution and its aftermath, some 20,000 Mennonites found their way to Ontario and the prairie provinces. –In 1921 the Northern district Conference of the MB Church had 1,790 members in nineteen congregations. –By 1930 there were 3,870 members scattered in forty three congregations, an increase in membership over ten years of 116 per cent. In the 1930s the limited English language ability among the young was making the cross-over to English society a more or less passive option

9 The second World War in 1939 sharpened the clash between Mennonite and Canadian culture and hi-lighted the issue of pacifism among the Mennonites Because of this along with other cultural pressures, there were even stronger efforts by the MB leaders to do everything possible to ensure that German would remain a permanent and dominant feature of MB faith and congregational life.

10 The “war related confrontation of German and English” in the context of the MB religious experience, was a trauma touching every member of the MB community during the 1940s, 50s and 60s MBs had two primary settings, outside of their homes, in which to cultivate the German language—their Sunday schools and their private elementary and high schools.

11 The German language focus gradually diminished in influence from: –the private day schools, to the Bible school, –to the local congregation » to the family The church leaders and older generation pushed the burden of their language concerns on to the shoulders of younger parents and youth—those facing the strongest needs and pressures to assimilate to the English mainstream

12 1.The intensity of the pro-German lobbying of the early 1950s show the extent to which some identified their MB faith with their heritage of German language and ethnicity 2.Parents who failed to speak High German at home were “neglecting their duty” 3.Children and youth who did not make every effort to learn German were one step away from apostasy 4.MB leaders who neglected the urgent struggle to retain German heritage & language for the church were failing in their God-appointed mandate.

13 Factors that contributed to the language transition 1.The immigrant experience creates a dynamic for change 2.The faith of the MB’s had an emphasis on outreach and missions 3.The MBs could not control their own education in North America as they had in Russia 4.The role of leadership 1.Efforts to retain German language through education were not sustainable 2.The integration into English of the youth ministries, gradually convinced many front-ranking leaders that bilingualism (German & English) was just a “stress relieving step” on the way to full language transition.

14 Transition to English language and Culture is inevitable 1.In spite of efforts to the contrary MB’s moved from German to Bilingualism to English 2.MB’s experienced at least three waves of immigrant influxes and while these appear to have slowed down integration to English, it did not stop it 3.MB’s have a faith that promotes outreach and missions among youth. This forced the transition to the language and culture of the majority 4.Older MBs identified the German language and culture as an integral part of their religious faith. Yet these convictions could not prevent the ultimate assimilation to the English language and Canadian culture.

15 Transition is Difficult 1.The process for the MBs lasted over fifty years 2.There was a great deal of anxiety and frustration as the ebb and flow of the transition moved along 3.There were a lot of people who felt unwanted and many left the MB denomination from both sides of the debate – never to return

16 Delay in Implementing an Orderly Transition is Dangerous 1.The cost in growth and outreach to the MBs is difficult to measure but it was significant 2.Several congregations split and many people left the church altogether 3.Leadership Development was delayed and many gifted leaders left because of the problems associated with this issue 4.The MB’s had particular difficulties in retaining their youth 5.Many older MBs felt that they were losing primary values that were part of their religious beliefs

17 Positive Lessons from the MB history 1.The MB denomination is a strong and vibrant group in the Canadian landscape and their testimony of faith, integrity and social generosity is an inspiration. This is being achieved today using English as the primary language in religious services. They have churches for new Canadians who use their home languages 2.If a transition is inevitable, then it is better to plan and manage it rather than allowing it to “happen” on its own 3.Such a transition may be best accomplished by moving from: the language of origin to bilingualism and then to English


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