31 SES 03 A, Language Education for Newcomers
The European refugee crisis in 2015 and the developments since then have shown that migratory movements are likely to increase in the coming years. Nevertheless, data proves key instruments as language courses to be mostly insufficient with regard to their target: In most European countries where such courses are offered data show that attendance is scarce, proficiency outcomes are disappointing and dropout rates are high (Montanari, 2015; Schroeder & Zhakarowa, 2015; Tshabangu-Soko & Caron, 2011). These findings apply also to the situation in Germany where integration courses promoted by the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) provide language classes for foreigners wishing to settle in Germany. The courses are completed by a test assessing the language attainment (B1). Since Germany hasn´t had a meaningful colonial past and the country has established itself only more recently as attractive migrant´s and refugee´s destination, the population attending these integration courses represents a throughout international population without the prevalence of specific ethnic groups.
However, published studies analyzing second language acquisition (SLA) among refugees are very rare: Most SLA studies were carried out with students and only in recent years the focus has started shifting towards migrants and refugee learners.
The present longitudinal research is founded on theories, concepts and evidence from educational and social psychology with the objective to explore individual factors influencing second language acquisition among refugees.
For this purpose, established predictors of second language acquisition from educational research along with constructs of social psychology are combined: It is assumed that in the case of refugees learning the language of their host country, specific contextual factors might play a major role beyond traditional SLA-predictors. In this regard R.C. Gardner´s socio-educational model for second language acquisition (2007; 1985) appears to provide an opportune framework. The socio-educational-model analyses motivation within the social context, focusing on emotional and attitudinal aspects of the language learner. To further investigate intercultural aspects of the language learning process, along Lambert´s concept of subtractive bilingualism (1978) recent research has shown that ethnic identity might be of relevance for second language attainment through the direct influence on integrative attitudes and motivation (Dragojevich & Giles, 2013; Gatbonton, Trofimovich & Segalowitz, 2011; Ellinger, 2010).
Regarding the specifics of refugees plenty of research has collected evidence for much higher rates in clinically relevant conditions: Incidence rates for various forms of psychological strain are much higher than in the average population and comprise mostly PTSD, depression and anxiety (Gerritsen at al., 2006, Mann & Fazil 2006). These conditions are likely to affect cognitive and emotional resources required for the language learning process (Söndergaard & Theorell, 2004).
Along these refugee-specific factors, established factors of educational research influence second language acquisition: Most significantly cognitive abilities are considered the strongest predictor for learning performance (Deary et al., 2007), along with previous educational attainment. The latter being a meaningful predictor especially in the field of adult education (Perales et al., 2014; Bélanger, P., 2011).
Finally, second language proficiency in European countries is guided by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) which provides a common guideline to describe and measure achievements of language learners. It´s theoretical foundation relies upon the conceptualization of two dimensions of second language acquisition: The horizontal dimension develops between the poles "communicative language activities" and "communicative language competences" while the vertical dimension defines six reference levels of communicative proficiency in three bands (Little, 2009).
In a longitudinal setting a random sample of refugees and migrants, the latter serving as control group, attending integration courses in Germany are administered a paper & pencil questionnaire in their mother-tongue assessing the variables of interest: Two composite indices from the socio-educational model are assessed with scales form the Attitude-Motivation-Test-Battery (Masogret & Gardner, 2003). Integrativeness is measured by two subscales each with ten items and reflects affective and attitudinal reactions of the language learner towards the language and the language community. Motivational intensity is measured by two subscales with ten and four items and is ment to capture motivational aspects as the effort expended in learning the language and the desire to learn the language. Ethnic identity is assessed with Phinney and Ong´s (2007) revised Multigroup Ethnic Identity Measure, composed of two subscales (Exploration and Commitment) with three items each. The items are preceded with an open-ended self-label of ethnic identity. Psychological strain is assessed with the Refugee-Health-Screener-15 (Hollifield et al., 2013). The screening instrument has been empirically developed and validated on various refugee populations to detect common mental disorders and comprises 15 items. Cognitive abilities are measured with the Wiener-Matrizen-Test (Formann, Waldherr & Piswanger, 2011). This economic, non-verbal instrument assesses the intellectual abilities according to Cattell´s concept of fluid intelligence, independently from previous educational attainments and cross-culturally valid. Since refugees are a very heterogeneous population and education systems in their countries of provenience differ considerably, socioeconomic status - proven to correlate highly with educational attainment in international samples - shall be recorded too. With regard to motivational and attitudinal aspects the asylum perspective is likely to play a major role: Learners assuming to have a future in the SLA-host country would probably be more motivated in their learning efforts than those who do not. Finally, research has proven that extensive stays in shared accommodations or refugee camps impair wellbeing and mental health, affecting cognitive abilities and this in turn might affect second language acquisition. These and other demographic items are taken from the IAB-BAMF-SOEP Refugee Survey (BAMF, 2016). The assessment takes place in the classroom whilst students are in the first two modules of the course. To measure the second language acquisition a few months after the assessment of the individual characteristics learners take a language proficiency test. This is a standardized, intermediate language test defined by the curriculum and corresponds to reference level A2 of the CEFR.
Till date 43 women and 42 men aged 15 to 69 have participated, but not all data sets are complete. Preliminary data analysis shows that scores for psychological strain were significantly higher for refugees (M= 23.53, SD = 13.94) than for migrants (M= 8.37, SD = 8.21), t (70) = 5,69, p < .001, d = 1,32. The differences between the groups were confirmed as well with regard to cognitive abilities: Refugees showed significantly smaller scores (N = 35, M= 3. 60, SD = 2.51) than migrants (N = 41, M= 6.59, SD = 4.06), t (74) = 3.78, p < .001, d = .88). Despite the insufficient sample numbers, to approximate an intermediate stage of the final model a regression was calculated with cognitive abilities as dependent variable and psychological strain as predictor on the whole sample comprising migrants and refugees. The result of the regression indicated psychological strain explained 9% of the variance (R2 = .09, F(1,82)=7.62, p<.01) and significantly predicted scores in cognitive abilities (ß=-.29, p<.01). A regression analysis testing the influence of psychological strain on motivation indicated psychological strain explained 10% of variance (R2= .10, F(1,66)=7.38, p<.01) and predicted motivation significantly (ß=-.32, p<.01). Finally, a regression testing if identity predicts integrativeness indicated the predictor explained 8% of the variance (R2=.08, F(1,58)=4.79, p<05) and predicted integrativeness significantly (ß=-.28, p<.05). A better understanding of the factors involved in second language acquisition processes would allow for customizing language courses to more efficiently fit the specific cognitive and psychological resources and needs of the refugee population. Final results might help increase the efficacy of language courses in European countries struggling with successful integration strategies and targeted societal inclusion.
Bélanger, P. (2011). Theories in adult learning and education. Leverkusen: Barbara Budrich Publishers. Deary, I. J., Strand, S., Smith, P., & Fernandes, C. (2007). Intelligence and educational achievement. Intelligence, 35(1), 13-21. Dörnyei, Z. (2001). New themes and approaches in L2 motivation research. Annual Review of Applied Linguistics, 21, 43-59. Ellinger, B. (2010). The relationship between ethnolinguistic identity and English language achievement for native Russian speakers and native Hebrew speakers in Israel. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural development, 21, 4, 292-307. Gardner, R. C. (2006). The socio-educational model of second language acquisition: A research paradigm. Eurosla yearbook, 6(1), 237-260. Gardner, R. C. (1985). The attitude/motivation test battery: technical report. London, Ontario, Canada: University of Western Ontario, Department of Psychology. Gerritsen, A. A., Bramsen, I., Devillé, W., Van Willigen, L. H., Hovens, J. E., & Van Der Ploeg, H. M. (2006). Physical and mental health of Afghan, Iranian and Somali asylum seekers and refugees living in the Netherlands. Social psychiatry and psychiatric epidemiology, 41(1), 18-26. Hollifield, M. et al. (2013). The Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15): Development and validation of an instrument for anxiety, depression, and PTSD in refugees. General hospital psychiatry, 35(2), 202-209. Lambert, W. E. (1978). Cognitive and Socio-Cultural Consequences of Bilingualism. Canadian Modern Language Review, 34(3), 537-47. Little, D. (2009). Language learner autonomy and the European language portfolio: Two L2 English examples. Language teaching, 42(2), 222-233. Mann, C.M. & Fazil, Q. (2006). Mental illness in asylum seekers and refugees. Primary Care Mental Health, 4, 57-66. Montanari, E. (2015). Sprachliche Handlungsbedarfe von Lernenden in Integrationskursen. Zielsprache Deutsch, 42 (2), 25-42. Phinney, J.S. & Ong, A.D. (2007). Conceptualization and measurement of ethnic identity: current status and future direction. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 54 (3), 271-281. Schroeder, C. & Zakharova, N. (2015). Sind die Integrationskurse ein Erfolgsmodell? Kritische Bilanz und Ausblick. Zeitschrift für Ausländerrecht und Ausländerpolitik, 35 (8), 257-262. Söndergaard, H. P., & Theorell, T. O. R. (2004). Language acquisition in relation to cumulative posttraumatic stress disorder symptom load over time in a sample of resettled refugees. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics, 73(5), 320-323. Tshabangu-Soko, T. S., & Caron, R. M. (2011). English for speakers of other languages (ESOL): Improving English language acquisition for preliterate and nonliterate adult African refugees. Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies, 9(4), 416-433. Zafar, S. & Meenakshi, K. (2012). Individual learner differences and second language acquisition: A Review. Journal of Language Teaching and Research, 3 (4), 639-646.
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