‘You and me, we’re the same. You struggle with Tigrinya and I struggle with English.’ An exploration of an ecological, multilingual approach to language learning with New Scots.
Increased migration into Europe has placed integration and language learning for refugees at the centre of political and public discourses. Scotlandâ€™s Refugee Integration Strategy recognises the importance of linguistic diversity and academic literature also highlights the benefits of multilingual learning. However, most support for language learning for refugees is delivered monolingually, creating a gap between policy, literature, and practice. Research also indicates that women arriving in the UK through family reunion may face additional challenges with language learning.
This thesis presents findings from a five-month teaching study to explore an ecological and multilingual approach to language learning within the specific context of refugee families who have recently arrived in Glasgow through the British Red Cross Family Reunion Integration Service. Using Critical Participatory Action Research and underpinned by decolonising methodology (Phipps, 2019b; Smith, 1999), the research meets the participants within their first tentative weeks in Glasgow and provides unique insights into the nature of the language learning support needed at the point of arrival and shortly afterwards.
The research repositions the role of the participants and their languages by drawing on academic literature on translanguaging (Blackledge & Creese, 2010; GarcÃa & Wei, 2014b) to explore mutual language learning as linguistic hospitality. This pedagogy, which I term an â€˜ecologisingâ€™ of language learning, builds on three key findings:
â€¢ The significance of decolonising, collaborative learner/ teacher relationships during the liminal phase of refugee arrival
â€¢ The importance of place and orientation
â€¢ An increased understanding of language and â€˜languagingâ€™, drawing on linguistic repertoire, dialogical interaction and the impact of linguistic hospitality
These findings combined to form an approach which participants felt â€˜empoweredâ€™ them to learn and allowed for deeper exploration of how policy, practice and academic literature intersect within language learning for refugees, a topic which is unlikely to become any less significant in the coming years.