Toggle Main Menu Toggle Search

Open Access padlockePrints

Intercultural communication and language learning for professional reintegration: 'success stories' from the European refugee crisis

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Tony Young, Dr Sara GanassinORCiD, Dr Alina SchartnerORCiD, Stefanie Schneider, Professor Steve WalshORCiD


Full text for this publication is not currently held within this repository. Alternative links are provided below where available.


There are currently well over a million refugees and asylum seekers in Europe, of whom it is estimated at least 15 thousand had professional experience prior to displacement. However, the experiences and needs of these people have been the subject of little prior research. In this presentation we report on a transnational study whose aims were, firstly, to understand the contextualised trajectories of highly-skilled former refugees who have successfully reconnected with professions in Europe after displacement: and, secondly, to explore these people’s perspectives on what factors facilitated or inhibited their professional reintegration, particularly in terms of language learning and intercultural communication (IC). This study was funded by the European Commission and conducted in Austria, the Netherlands and the UK; settings chosen for their diversity of responses and approaches to displaced people and their societal integration. We present qualitative findings from case studies and semi-structured interview data involving fifteen participants (Austria 8, UK 5, Netherlands 2). Findings from thematic content analysis of transcripts across the locations emphasised the central role of language and IC in ‘success’; the importance of a retaining a sense of self in an unfamiliar social habitus; of intrinsic motivation; and of socialization skills in building and maintaining social networks and to developing understandings of communities of practice in professional contexts. They also revealed inter-relationships between ideas of IC and psychological resilience after displacement. Here the importance of promoting and supporting the accrual and development of various ‘capitals’ - human, social, psychological and physical – emerged strongly from the data across the sample (Mercer & Babic, 2019). We discuss findings in relation to theories of IC (e.g. Byram, 1997) and their relationship to these various types of personal and social capital. We argue that these are generally underrepresented in IC where power differentials make them potentially especially relevant.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young TJ, Mercer S, Ganassin S, Babic S, Schartner A, Schneider S, Walsh S

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: American Association for Applied Linguistics Annual Meeting 2021

Year of Conference: 2021

Acceptance date: 01/03/2021