Religion, identity and investment in adult migrants’ English language learning in the UK

Amina Al Dhaif, Graham Hall, Rola Naeb

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter reports the experiences of learning English and identity (re)construction of fourteen Syrian adult Muslim refugees of both genders and a variety of ages, recently arrived in the UK and enrolled at an ESOL College. Drawing on a range of data sources, the chapter explores how its Syrian informants’ religious identities acted both as a motivational and/or subverting factor for their investment and take-up of learning opportunities, both within and beyond the ESOL classroom. It also takes in the implications of the 2017 Manchester and London terrorist attacks for the Syrians’ sense of self and its restrictive implications for their English language learning. The chapter argues that language teachers and practitioners who are critically informed about religion and religious identity can utilise the classroom as a space for language learning itself but also as a site for learners to take up more powerful and desirable identities, to feel more accepted by host communities, and, consequently, to develop their investment in language learning. As similar processes of differentiation and exclusion, and of positioning and/or being positioned by others, operate for migrants to Europe from other religious, cultural and ethnic groups, the findings and implications of the chapter are of relevance across the continent.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLanguage Learning of Migrants in Europe
Subtitle of host publicationTheoretical, Empirical, Policy, and Pedagogical Issues
EditorsDavid Mallows, Glenn S. Levine
Place of PublicationBerlin
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2020


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