Bridging Communication Gaps With New Canadians

Cape Breton University is a living laboratory for Dr. Peter MacIntyre. As a professor of psychology in the School of Science and Technology, he is a leading researcher in the science of communication when it comes to learning a new language. With the majority of CBU students coming from other countries to study, he says the student population is a key stakeholder group that can offer insights into language apprehension and willingness to communicate.

“CBU is at the heart of an influx of international students and in turn, new Canadians,” says Dr. MacIntyre. “Language is the lynchpin of the process by which these new Canadians will make their home here. This research looks at the combined issues of psychological wellbeing and willingness to communicate in the community.”

This important research will continue over the next five years, with an award of more than $185,000 through an Insight Grant from the federal Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). Dr. MacIntyre says research findings will allow CBU to more fully respond to the experiences of new Canadians by understanding different facets of communicating in a second language.

“Meaningful communication between members of different language groups depends on people understanding themselves and each other. Our research program is building our knowledge about the psychology of communication and its impact on everyday lives,” explains Dr. MacIntyre.

The research will feature several collaborative studies, including a study of immigrants to Canada and their language choices at moments when opportunities for authentic communication arise.

“The willingness to communicate can affect a person’s career choice, relationships, health care, the desire to stay in Canada and other important parts of life as a newcomer to Canada,” says Dr. MacIntyre. He adds that this research will provide insights to better understand how their willingness to communicate, or voluntary language use, affects wellbeing as they adapt to new social situations. As with all of Dr. McIntyre’s work, CBU students will be hired and trained in the latest research methods as part of the project.

Dr. Tanya Brann-Barrett, Associate Vice President, Academic and Research, says CBU is proud to see Dr. MacIntyre continue this globally relevant work, while making huge contributions to local community development. “CBU is excited to have Dr. MacIntyre’s work recognized with this funding award,” says Dr. Brann-Barrett. “This research supports national priorities by recognizing the importance of identifying and bridging communication gaps as we welcome new Canadians to our country and to our institution.”

Congratulations, Dr. MacIntyre. We look forward to the positive impacts of this important research!