Handling linguistic diversity in reception classes for refugee and migrant youth – policy and practice

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This paper focuses on teachers and students’ strategies for handling linguistic diversity in so-called reception classes targeted at newly arrived refugee children and youth. The paper draws on a multi-sited linguistic ethnography investigating language practices in and around reception classes in three different primary and lower secondary schools in a large city in Denmark. The empirical material includes fieldnotes, photos, audio and video recordings and interviews based on language portraits.
The empirical point of departure of this paper is one year of linguistic ethnographic fieldwork conducted in two reception classes targeted at 16-20 year old youth, many of them refugees from Syria, Ethiopia and Afghanistan. The young people come to the reception classes with complex linguistic repertoires influenced by their life trajectories, current life situation and personal preferences and interests, and the analytical focus of the paper is on exploring how this this linguistic diversity is handled in the reception classroom.
While teachers and students collaboratively prescribe a strict ‘Danish only’ language policy in the reception classroom, both teachers and students simultaneously engage in much more flexible language practices in everyday classroom life. The analysis thus points to the interaction between the two conflicting contentions which are addressed in this colloquium. On the one hand, teachers and students on a language policy level orient towards an ideology privileging the standard language (‘minority students need more rather than less standard language competence as a precondition to their social mobility and integration’). But at the same time, both teachers and students in practice allow for, support and enact a high degree of linguistic flexibility and thus simultaneously orient towards an ideology encouraging flexible language use (‘minority students are disadvantaged by the school curriculum’s standard language and would do better if the curriculum allowed linguistic and cultural flexibility’).
Publikationsdato21 sep. 2018
StatusUdgivet - 21 sep. 2018
BegivenhedEELC 2018: Explorations in Ethnography, Language and Communication - University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, Storbritannien
Varighed: 20 sep. 201821 sep. 2018


KonferenceEELC 2018
LokationUniversity of Edinburgh