Ambiguous Loss, Boundary Ambiguity, and English Learning: How Immigrants' Functionality is Impacted by Language Proficiency

SHAKIR ALI, Bellarmine University


Due to conflicts in different parts of the world or the prospect of a better life, there are tremendous numbers of immigrants around the world. This study investigated the effect of language learning by immigrants on the level of boundary ambiguity they experience as a result of being separated from extended family. Through the lens of acculturation theory (Schumann, 1976), the study examined if learning a new language helps the immigrant to function within culture of the host country. In addition, the study relied on the Contextual Model of Family Stress to ascertain if individual, family, or community resources help an immigrant tolerate boundary ambiguity (Boss, Bryant, & Mancini, 2017). Two research questions drove the study: 1) How does learning English impact levels of boundary ambiguity among Iraqi and Syrian immigrants residing in the United States? 2) How does gender, age, nationality, number of family members who also immigrated, years residing in the United States, and semesters learning English affect levels of boundary ambiguity? The study found that levels English proficiency, nationality, and number of family members who also immigrated significantly impacted the level of boundary ambiguity.