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ESOL learners’ views and experiences of language learning, integration and identity


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Presentation by Jill Court at the Education and Migration: Language Foregrounded conference at Durham University 21-23 October 2016, part of the AHRC funded Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State project.

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ESOL learners’ views and experiences of language learning, integration and identity

  1. 1. ESOL Learners’ Views and Experiences of Integration, Language Learning and Identity Jill Court PhD Student (ESRC) University of Bristol
  2. 2. ESOL: ENGLISH FOR SPEAKERS OF OTHER LANGUAGES  English courses for adults living in the UK; Government funded and voluntary sector provision  Learners include asylum seekers, refugees, EU nationals, spouses of British or EU nationals, migrant workers…  From newcomers to long term residents  Diverse nationalities, cultures, educational backgrounds ages, employment and family circumstances.
  3. 3. UK POLITICAL CONTEXT: DISCOURSE ON LANGUAGE, IDENTITY AND INTEGRATION • Promotes espousal of British values and identity and speaking English; measure of willingness to integrate. • Multicultural and multilingual nature of Britain - “threat” to Britain and British identity “…those wishing to become citizens should demonstrate their commitment by learning the English language, as well as having an understanding of British history, culture and traditions” Mark Harper, Immigration Minister 2013. Due to the “doctrine of state multiculturalism” Britain has a “weakened collective identity” David Cameron 2011
  4. 4. POLICY •Increasingly stringent language requirements for entry and settlement in the UK e.g.  2013: raised level of English required in language tests  2015: language test to be taken at small number of approved providers •Life in the UK citizenship test revised in 2013 to put “British history and culture at the heart of it.” (Cameron 2011). Continued reduction in funding for ESOL courses: 50 per cent (£160 million) reduction between 2008 and 2015 (Martin, TES 2016). BUT…
  5. 5. English is not the only barrier to integration e.g. inequality, discrimination… Can aspects of integration, such as social inclusion and access to jobs, affect language proficiency? What is British identity? What is integration? What are the views of migrant language learners? Many barriers to learning English and accessing ESOL provision •ESOL teacher for 15 years, variety of contexts, diverse learners, multiplicity of experiences and aspirations. RATIONALE
  6. 6. RESEARCH QUESTIONS o 1) What do the experiences of ESOL learners reveal about the relationship between learning English and integration? o 2) How relevant are the concepts of ‘British’ identity and values to ESOL learners’ experiences? o 3) What are ESOL learners’ perceptions of what it means to be integrated?
  7. 7. INFLUENCED BY…. Second Language Learning and Identity Theories (e.g. Block 2006; 2007 and Norton 2000; 2013): Language learning is shaped by the social context and power relations within which it takes place. Applied to the UK context:  British identity and English language privileged over others  Political and media discourse - migrants positioned negatively and of lower status,  non proficient English speakers portrayed as ‘deficient’, multilingual skills not valued.  Combines with potential social marginalisation  May result in fewer opportunities to practise English; and potential unequal interactions where responsibility for communication is not shared  Impact on language learning (also: Auerbach 1993; Bremer et al 1996, Cooke and Simpson 2009)
  8. 8. THE RESEARCH  MEd dissertation in 2015.  Large adult education provider in Bristol  Participants: my Entry 3 (intermediate) ESOL class, 2 men and 13 women, 10 nationalities, aged between 20- 50  Qualitative methods  2 group sessions with class using participatory methods  Interviews with individual learners  Data: students’ work produced in participatory sessions, audio recordings of participatory sessions and interviews ,and transcripts
  9. 9. PARTICIPATORY GROUP SESSIONS What?  Group work, tools drawn from participatory pedagogy and participatory ESOL (e.g. Reflect for ESOL; English for Action; Bryers, Winstanley and Cooke 2013). Draws on Paulo Freire’s “critical pedagogy”.  Participatory tools aim to break down the boundaries between teacher (facilitator) and learners (participants); knowledge is shared, mutual learning and reflection.
  10. 10. PARTICIPATORY GROUP SESSIONS oAssist learners to discuss complex concepts and issues in English, visuals and group activities scaffold and support language (Winstanley and Cooke 2016) oFacilitate the interviews; opportunity for participants to engage with the issues and activate language before being interviewed. Why ? oEncourage participants construct together own meanings and reflect on their experiences, place them as the experts, (rather than myself as teacher, researcher and ‘native English speaker’)
  11. 11. POSITIONED AS ‘DEFICIT’ OR ‘NOT INTEGRATED’ AS NON-PROFICIENT ENGLISH SPEAKERS  Affects confidence in interactions Isabela:“I think some English people don’t care understand you... I think the people think if you stay here in this country you must speak English, and sometimes [they] don’t listen you or ignore you…you’re mind is blank, because you nervous, you try to speak and listen and understand everything and sometimes it doesn’t work”.  Avoid contexts where they fear they may be positioned negatively Mira: “Sometimes when I listen to people speak very good English, and I can’t not too good, then I feel not integrated” “All the parents they are coming in the school in the evening time. I got a leaflet but I never joined because- the one problem is my English. My English is not too good….Normally I am a very friendly person”.
  12. 12. RESISTING NEGATIVE IDENTITY POSITIONS  Identity positions depend on context Isabela: In the supermarket “I speak [and] if that person don’t understand I try speak again or use another word to explain and if they don’t care it’s not my problem…I’m a client”. Mira: Very confident speaker in ESOL class o Strong identity positions can be achieved Hani: “I speak English a lot of places because I’m coming college 3 times a week and I’m speaking all that day... And then when I finish class I have to go job. My job there is a lot friends; manager, supervisor … I’m talking, maybe half day I speak English. Or in the city centre, when I shopping, I’m speaking all myself I don’t have another person help with language. On the bus, I talk English, even some person ask me a question I can answer quick; I can help them what they need – I understand” Forged an “identity of competence” (Cummins 2009)
  13. 13. “INTEGRATION IS…..”  “Integration is 50:50” “[It is] more easy for us …if we understand British culture, and think ‘we are here and we need to talk British, we need to do some things in British’. [But] British people [should] try to understand more, open more mind and try to really understand it is difficult for us… [to]stay in another country” (Isabela)  Security, freedom and respect for difference “It’s a very good thing that we are allowed to do our customs” (Mandip). “In the UK is freedom [of]religion, and respect each other... you have to respect your neighbour, what they are, and they respect you…it is safe and you can do whatever you like to do and is freedom” (Hani).  Improved opportunities for social interaction e.g. work, neighbourhoods, everyday situations and interactions “to do something with people from this country” (Ginaway) Enhance feelings of integration and opportunities to practise English
  14. 14. LANGUAGE AND INTEGRATION  English valued as a global language, and as part of multilingual repertoire alongside ‘first languages’ “I think English is an international language. If you go everywhere you can communicate with people” (Zenia). “[my children] learn English and they know Bangla very good. I think it’s a good quality to know more languages. In school they learn also French and German” (Mira)  English skills essential for integration, for everyday purposes, goals and aspirations “I feel integrated when I can I understand English well” (Anonymous written response)  Feelings integrated impacts on language ability If you feel integrated “you feel more confident to speak and you know other person understands you, you have communication.”(Isabela)
  15. 15. POSITIVE IDENTITIES, CONFIDENCE, LANGUAGE AND INTEGRATION self confidence enables ESOL learners to communicate without anxiety about making mistakes More social interaction, and language practice Increased independence and feelings of being integrated Further increases self- confidence Sahra: “When I started ESOL class I get confidence… I came to the UK I can speak [English] but I was very shy I was silent, even if I know I can’t answer. ..after I start ESOL class my teacher say ‘if you shy you never learn’, and I remember that. I try to speak I try to answer questions..after that I feel better for my English, I go to GP and I speak. I get self confidence… and I can talk and I feel better and I forget to [be] shy. If you shy you can’t learn, if you want to learn don’t [be] shy.” “I feel integrated when I help myself” (Zenia)
  16. 16. REFERENCES  Auerbach, E. (1993) Re-examining English Only in the ESL Classroom. TESOL Quarterly, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring, 1993), pp. 9-32  BBC News 2014. Sajid Javid: Immigrants must learn English. 18 May. Available from  Block, D. 2006. Multilingual Identities in a Global city. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan  Block, D. (2007). Second Language Identities. London: Continuum  Bremer, K., Roberts C., Vasseur, M., Simonot, M., and Broeder, P. 1996. Achieving Understanding: Discourse in Intercultural Encounters. Harlow:Longman.  Bryers, Winstanley and Cooke 2013. Whose Integration? Working Papers in Urban Language and literacies,Paper 106. Available from: se_integration  Cameron, D 2011a. PM's speech at Munich Security Conference 05/02/2011 . Available from: conference  Cameron, D. 2011b. Prime Minister's speech on immigration 10 October 2011 . Available from:  Cooke, M. and Simpson, J 2009. Challenging agendas in ESOL: Skills, employability and social cohesion. Language Issues 20 (1):19-30
  17. 17. REFERENCES  Cummins, J. (2009). ‘Multilingualism in the English-language classroom: Pedagogical considerations’. TESOL Quarterly, 43(2), pp317-321.  English for Action, London  Freire, P. 1972. Pedagogy o f the Oppressed. London: Penguin Books  Harper,M. 2013b. Tougher language requirements announced for British citizenship.  Hope, C. 2014. Mass immigration has left Britain 'unrecognisable', says Nigel Farage. The Telegraph .28 February. Available from: unrecognisable-says-Nigel-Farage.html.  Guardian 2016 8th January english-in-20m-plan-to-beat-backward-attitudes  Martin, M 2016. Cameron's new English courses for women 'don't make up for £160m Esol cuts', colleges warn. TES 18/1/16 courses-women-dont-make-ps160m-esol-cuts  Moon, P. and Sunderland, H. (2008). Reflect for ESOL Evaluation: final report. London: LLU. Available from:  Norton, B. 2000. Identity and language learning: gender, ethnicity and educational change. Harlow, England: Pearson  Reflect 2003. Communication and Power. London Action Aid. Available from: http://www.reflect-  Reflect Action 2009  Winstanley, B. and Cooke, M. 2016a. Emerging Worlds: The Participatory ESOL Planning Project.
  18. 18. SPEAKING ENGLISH IS INCREASINGLY ASSOCIATED WITH BRITISH VALUES AND IDENTITY AND WILLINGNESS TO INTEGRATE: E.G. CONSERVATIVE MANIFESTO 2015: “We will protect British values and our way of life. We will promote integration and British values. Being able to speak English is a fundamental part of integrating into our society. We have introduced tough new language tests for migrants and ensured councils reduce spending on translation services. Next, we will legislate to ensure that every public sector worker operating in a customer-facing role must speak fluent English. And to encourage better integration into our society, we will also require those coming to Britain on a family visa with only basic English to become more fluent over time, with new language tests for those seeking a visa Extension”.
  19. 19. • What are “British values”? The government's Prevent duty guidance on tackling extremism defines British values as “democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance for those with different faiths and beliefs” (HM Government 2015: 19).