Translation Challenges for Immigrants II


translation issues for immigrants: push/pull factors

What are Push Factors and Pull Factors in Immigration?

In our ongoing series about immigration, we are looking at the reasons someone leaves their home for another one in a foreign country. For some people, reuniting with family members is the goal. They may have relatives who left home and now wish to join them. Some people seek economic improvements and better ways to earn a living.

When the political climate of a country or region changes, some people may decide to move to another place more consistent with their values and beliefs. Civil unrest causes some people to seek a calmer, safer locale for their families. Natural disasters sometimes force people to leave home to avoid hurricanes, tsunamis, floods or fires.

National Geographic1 describes the reasons for immigration by using the terms, “push factors” and “pull factors”. As you might guess, a push factor drives people away from their current location, and may be considered a negative result of the environment or situation. Pull factors draw people toward another place and may be considered a positive result for health or social well-being. Often the term, “quality of life” is used to describe someone’s desire to move. It can be useful to understand why people leave home to assess how to help them.

Language Obstacles

Last month, we shared how vulnerable immigrants are when they do not understand the language – or the culture – of the new country. Sometimes, government officials look at the immigrant’s home pages on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, TikTok and other social media sites to see if they might be involved in any undesirable activities. It’s common to use a machine translation app to determine if the immigrant is telling the truth. If you have been reading our blogs, you know that machine translation is inadequate for obtaining accurate or incomplete information. The reader is charged with making an assumption about the immigrant’s ideas and intentions. According to ProPublica, the phrase “Whose child lives in America?” was translated “When will you taste America?” by a popular app.

The deputy director of Translators Without Borders said that language is at the center of the volumes of misinformation immigrants receive. Misunderstanding can lead to fear, distrust and anxiety. The complexity and nuances of immigration – especially from a legal standpoint – cannot be underestimated. In most cases, government officials are not allowed to counsel the immigrant or to provide advice on how they should proceed when a problem arises.

Challenges and Gratitude

Whether by choice or force, the immigrant faces challenges in their new home. This month we are sharing a story of inspiration and resilience, courage and bravery that first aired on ABC NEWS2 on December 24, 2021. We encourage you to look at the whole story, as only a small snippet of it is recounted here.

She escaped from Afghanistan shortly before the Taliban took over the country and came to America to start a new life. Muzhgan Azizy is adjusting to nearly every aspect of life, from furnishing her apartment and paying rent to grocery shopping and adjusting to a new culture. She worked for the U. S. State Department in Afghanistan and her husband was a civil engineer.

Her family is grateful in spite of the challenges and feel safe and secure here. She works with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) helping immigrants and refugees settle in the United States and making sure they have the resources necessary to feel comfortable. Helping immigrants establish a new home shortens the stressful transition period and reduces the impact of the challenges they face.

Next month we will welcome World Refugee Day on June 20th. We will share alarming statistics about immigration from a refugee perspective and provide an update on the situation in Ukraine as well as other regions.

To learn more, please contact Juan Lara directly at: or +1 844-7CYPHER (+1 844-729-7437).

Photo by Antonino Belfiore, My Shot, National Geographic Society
1 National Geographic Society – retrieved 4/29/2022 from:
2 ABC NEWS – retrieved 4/29/2022 from: