Welcoming Languages: Including a Refugee Language in Scottish Education

Lead Research Organisation: University of Glasgow
Department Name: School of Education


The project 'Welcoming Languages: Refugee Languages in Scottish Education' (henceforth: Welcoming Languages) explores the potential for inclusion of a refugee language in Scottish education, as a concrete way to enact the promise of "integration as a two-way process" that is at the core of the New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy (Scottish Government, 2018). The Welcoming Languages project explores unforeseen pathways to impact that emerged as the result of the AHRC-GCRF funded research project: 'The Impact of language. Collaborating across borders to the design, development and promotion of an Online Palestinian Arabic Course' (henceforth: OPAC) which was completed in 2018. The main output of the OPAC project was the Online Arabic from Palestine (OAfP) language course for beginners, co-designed and co-developed through a collaboration between the University of Glasgow (School of Education) and the Islamic University of Gaza (Arabic Center). According to the latest available figures, the course has attracted over 30 learners taking the OAfP course and has led to an increase in the number of learners also for other courses available at the Arabic Center.

The Welcoming Languages project builds on the activities and will engage new user communities in Scotland though free online Arabic lessons to Scottish primary educators (teachers, head-teachers, secretarial staff, classroom assistants) tailored to the specific needs of this context. By teaching educators Arabic - the language spoken by the largest number of refugees in Scotland - the Welcoming Languages projects widens the benefits of the original OPAC project and works to achieve significant social, cultural and policy impact. It will lead to policy recommendations on ways in which the languages spoken in Scottish education can be expanded to include languages spoken by refugees, using Arabic as 'proof of concept'.

The problem the Welcoming Languages project addresses is that of a disconnect between the emphasis on integration as a two-way process in Scottish policy and the one-way linguistic work that is still asked of refugees and migrants, who are expected to learn English with no equivalent adjustments on the part of the receiving society. The languages refugees bring with them, such as Arabic, do not have a place in Scottish language education and, lacking official recognition, refugees' 'linguistic capital' remains undervalued and largely disregarded.

The Welcoming Languages project enhances the impact of the OPAC project by focussing on the following aim: to include Arabic as a refugee language in Scottish education as a way to enact integration as a two-way process. It seeks to achieve this aim starting from education as a crucial context of integration and by pursuing the following objectives: (i) adapt the OAfP to the needs of Scottish educators; (ii) Teach Arabic online to 12 educators in Scotland; (iii) Introduce Arabic in the Scottish educational context; and (iv) draft policy guidelines on the potential of, and approaches to, the introduction of a refugee language in Scottish education.


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