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Intercultural communication and language learning for professional reintegration – ‘success stories’ from refugees in Europe

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



This is the final published version of a conference proceedings (inc. abstract) that has been published in its final definitive form by University Paul Valery, 2023.

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There are currently over seven million refugees and asylum seekers in Europe, of whom at least 150 thousand have had some professional experience prior to displacement. The experiences and needs of these people have been the subject of little prior research. 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 plurilingualism, language learning and the relevance of intercultural communicative competence (ICC) to their needs. 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 to 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 confirmed the central role of multilingual development and of ICC 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 in developing understandings of communities of practice in professional contexts. They also revealed interrelationships between ideas of ICC 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. We discuss findings in relation to linguacultural pedagogical theories of ICC (e.g. Byram, 1997, Byram et al, 2009, Barrett et al, 2013) and their relationship to these various ‘capitals’. We argue that these are generally underrepresented in conceptualisations of ICC in cases where power inequalities and constraints make them especially relevant. We will also critically reflect on wider issues arising from the research project. These include the complexities of inclusive co-production in intercultural spaces and researchers’ positionality, power relations, and ethical choices and constraints in plurilingual contexts where displacement has occurred. (CSLW, 2019; Ladegaard & Phipps, 2020; Young et al, 2022). Refugees (Re)integration Intercultural Communication Multilingual competences Human Capitals

Publication metadata

Author(s): Young TJ, Ganassin S, Schneider S

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Multilingualism/plurilingualism, teaching, learning, complexity and integrity: epistemological, pedagogical and political perspectives

Year of Conference: 2023

Online publication date: 06/06/2023

Acceptance date: 30/01/2023

Date deposited: 01/08/2023

Publisher: University Paul Valery


ePrints DOI: 10.57711/3zw3-ag61