Linguistic Assimilation of First-Generation Jewish South African Immigrants in Israel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We contribute to scholarship on the linguistic assimilation of migrants by focusing on the special case of Jewish South African migrants in Israel. English as an international language is widely used in the Israeli society, so immigrants whose mother tongue is English are a very interesting case because they might experience much less social pressure to improve their Hebrew skills than other immigrant groups who speak other languages. The study reveals that, although most first-generation immigrants participated in state-sponsored Hebrew classes and reported relatively moderate levels of language proficiency, it has not become their primary language. Hebrew proficiency proved conditional on age at arrival and rise sharply with tenure in the country and exposure to Hebrew (at origin or at destination). Hebrew proficiency is higher for migrants with more extensive contacts with Israelis and with higher education. Positive synergism emerged between language acquisition and reasons for migrating and attachment to the country.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)615-636
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of International Migration and Integration
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2013

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments This research was funded by the J. Kaplan Centre for Jewish Studies and Research at Cape Town University in South Africa. I am very grateful to all interviewed partners who shared their time and life histories with us. I thank Research Success Technologies, which under the direction of Dr. Ezra Kopelowitz oversaw the fieldwork required for the interviews. I wish to thank Miri Schwartzvald, Orit Avital, and Ariane Ophir for their help with data preparation and analysis.


  • Assimilation
  • Israel
  • Language proficiency
  • South Africans

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Demography
  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology


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