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AMEP Research Centre

Tracey Derwing

About Professor Tracey Derwing

Professor Tracey Derwing is a Professor at Department of Educational Psychology, University of Alberta, Canada. She also serves as Co-director of Prairie Centre of Excellence for Research on Immigration and Integration.

Prof. Derwing prepares teachers who plan to teach English as a second or foreign language. She is currently conducting a longitudinal SSHRC-funded study on the phonological and fluency development in ESL learners. 

Some of her research deals with the ways in which people accommodate to their listeners in exchanges between native speakers and non-native speakers of English. She has examined the efficacy of conversational adjustments made by native speakers when addressing low proficiency learners and she has undertaken extensive research on the effects of second language accents on intelligibility with her colleague at Simon Fraser University, Dr. Murray Munro.  This work has implications not only for the classroom but for the workplace as well. 


In this presentation, the challenges faced by highly educated immigrants in the workplace will be discussed.  The individuals described here are professionals (engineers, accountants, computer technologists, etc.) who have been able to re-enter their occupations in Canada after studying English, but who find that they are unhappy with the limited communication they have with their native-speaking co-workers.  Some of the difficulties they encounter are directly tied to the language of their occupation, but more often than not, their problems are related to ‘water cooler talk’: the social aspects of communication in the workplace.  L2 workers often blame their accents, but there are many underlying causes for the fact that some immigrant workers end up eating alone in the lunchroom.  The complex issues that contribute to these communication problems include pronunciation, pragmatics, cultural differences, and in some cases, an unwillingness on the part of co-workers to include the newcomers.   Interview data from L2 immigrants will be shared, as will a description of some innovative Communication in the Workplace programs that have been designed not only for immigrant staff, but for Canadian-born workers as well.