Communication and Language

How do you communicate?

Moving to a new country and having to communicate in a foreign language is not easy. While some migrants may have the opportunity to study the language of their host country, many arrive with minimal or no preparation. The work of language acquisition often happens on the job.

“I really like learning Chinese. When I first came, I also didn’t understand it.  But I would converse with my coworkers, ask them questions, and every night I would go on YouTube.”


How do you keep in touch?

For migrants years away from being able to see their loved ones, the separation can feel insurmountable. In the past, families might only communicate once a month due to challenges like spotty reception and scheduling difficulties. Today, apps like WhatsApp and Line give migrants constant access to loved ones overseas, while Facebook and Instagram are popular for sharing pictures.

Migrants also stay in touch by sending physical items to loved ones overseas. Some are packages containing essential goods others are gifts and just another way to say “I love you”. Filipino culture has a word for this pervasive practice: balikbayan box – meaning “return to country”.

“People in the Philippines, if they receive a box – if it came from another country – they’re very happy. Just opening the box makes them happy.  I did that before. Every five months I sent one or two boxes. I put everything, like clothes and shoes, because I want my kids to have them. I want them to experience everything I didn’t.”


“I buy a lot of dried goods here… sometimes shampoo… it’s very cheap here compared to the Philippines, that’s why it’s good to buy here to send [home].”