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What is Acculturation?

There are two definitions for acculturation:

•    “a process of adaptation to new conditions of life” (Nelson, Teske Jr., 1974).
•    “changes that occur in members of a minority group in contact with another dominant culture” (Shute, Kovacev, 2004).

The first definition is acculturation in the broad sense while the second is more relevant to the immigrant experience. Immigrants must go through acculturation, but they cannot do so alone. Volunteers provide help and guidance through the process. Acculturation is more than simply learning the English language, but also understanding the history of a new country, navigating its idioms and understanding the concepts behind its holidays. Acculturation is the integration of a country's cultural aspects into the lives and practices of  immigrants. Acculturation is a means  to reform the old bonds, broken by immigration. The volunteers that immigrants come in contact with provide much needed assistance in reaching these goals.

Why is acculturation an important concept for the survival and prosperity of immigrants?

While it is important that the cultural practices of the immigrant community are kept intact, it is imperative that immigrants learn the culture and traditions of their new home. In learning about American traditions, they have a means by which to reach out to those around them and form new friendships. The volunteers that immigrants interact with play a large role in the acculturation process. Volunteers are the ones that immigrants will most likely gain an understanding of the new culture from.

          A volunteer and her student from the International Rescue Commitee.                             Alex and his student celebrate their achievements.