Noting that ‘We live in turbulent times’, in his editorial in ELT Journal 77/1, Graham Hall stressed that ‘Languages … are central to migrants’ and refugees’ resilience in times of crisis or in difficult circumstances’ (Hall 2017: 1). By providing access to information, employment, and education, English language skills—alongside the other languages in migrants’ repertoires—can increase the access of individual learners and their families to social and economic resources, while, as Coleman (2010) has emphasized, English can also act as a ‘link’ language to help communities work together and understand each other better. However, the circumstances of migrants and refugees need to be well understood. These might include war, conflict, and environmental change, as well as the adversity that individuals face when families migrate to new cultural contexts. In school settings as well as in broader humanitarian, refugee, and development contexts, the concept of ‘resilience’ has emerged as a central one for understanding the ability of individuals and communities to withstand adversity and crisis and for devising appropriate interventions. A commonly used definition of resilience is that in the ‘3RP Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan’ (the regional-response document to the refugee crisis in Syria and its neighbouring countries). According to this, resilience is ‘the ability of individuals, households, communities, and societies to withstand shocks and stresses, recover from such stresses, and work with national and local government institutions to achieve transformational change for sustainability’ (3RP : 6). This can be understood in different ways, according to the focus of the research that has been undertaken or the goals of an intervention. Thus, the main objective of early psychological research into resilience was to identify the individual personality traits and wider protective factors that might modify the negative effects of adverse life circumstances, and then to identify the processes that could underlie positive adaptation (Luthar and Cicchetti 2000). Later research has uncovered three major levels of influence: the community, family, and the individual (UNICEF 2016). Although many current strategies in humanitarian responses to conflict, natural disasters, and massive population shifts are focused on infrastructure, resilience needs to be primarily understood in relation to these three levels of community, family, and the individual. In ELT there has been a particular focus on building individual resilience, mirroring increasing concerns in mainstream general education about learners’ mental health. In response, there has been increasing use of terms such as ‘emotional resilience’ and ‘academic resilience’. The former relates to learners’ capacity, including coping strategies, to cope with the changing state of their own and others’ emotions. Academic resilience is much more related to learners achieving good educational outcomes despite adversity. Both benefit from a ‘whole-school approach’ and therefore represent a link between individual resilience and efforts connected to the wider community of teachers, parents, and school leaders. However, providing learners with the skills to take responsibility for their own mental health forms the foundation of resilience building approaches in ELT. Personal development planning provides one source of insight into this area, for example work on successful self-management, and similar approaches linking study skills to developing self-awareness, decision-making, and risk management (e.g. Cottrell 2015). Work on positive psychology is another important resource for teachers looking to understand and develop well-being in their students (e.g. Seligman 2011). There has also been recent work specifically about language use and language learning interventions in humanitarian response as well as in wider development initiatives (Capstick and Delaney 2016). The Language for Resilience report (Capstick and Delaney ibid.) provides principles for and case studies of practical resilience-building, ranging from teaching professionals English for Specific Purposes to providing out-of-school teenagers with life skills courses that embed psychosocial support within a language-learning programme linked to employability. Masten and Powell (2003) also provide a broad-based framework for understanding resilience in a way that is useful for practitioners as well as researchers and policymakers. In the language classroom, resilience can, then, be developed through activities such as those described above in combination with enhancement of related employment outcomes. With regard specifically to school situations, Capstick and Delaney (ibid.) argue that what is essential for students to remain in school, to acquire age-appropriate levels of literacy, and to master a new national or official language, is to ensure that both the spoken and written forms of the mother tongue are also affirmed. The benefits of this bilingual resilience-building model are likely to be higher standards of academic performance in general, better literacy rates in national and international testing, and better acquisition of both national and foreign languages, all of which enhance children’s likely success in schooling and post-school education or employment. Thus, resilience is related to mother tongue development, not only learning additional languages such as English, which may provide access to further education, training, and/or employment. Opportunities to use home languages when learning new languages create inclusive learning environments that are less likely to further marginalize children based on their social, ethnic, or gender groups (Benson 2005). In addition to benefiting learners’ academic performance and language development, well-designed and well-implemented language programmes also foster intergenerational ethnic connections, increase family cohesion, and support cultural identities (May 2012). This is achieved by helping English language learners bring home languages and cultures into the classroom. Having a positive attitude towards language diversity can become a feature of interactive displays, the stories that are read and studied, and the choices that are made for curriculum design and assessment (Conteh 2015). In addition to resilience-based approaches in mainstream education systems, there is an emerging body of research exploring the role of resilience in supporting general self-determination in the face of conflict and post-conflict settings (UNICEF 2016). Language learning interventions such as English courses can help address the effects of trauma on learning. The language classroom becomes a safe space for learners to work through the effects of trauma through the provision of creative activities, play, and stories. Using story-telling and art in language learning can allow learners to express feelings in the indirect third person (Sutherland 1997), although the challenge for English language teachers is developing the confidence to use this kind of approach in the language classroom, particularly if the teachers are themselves dealing with the effects of trauma in their own experience. Supporting those fleeing conflict to develop competence in additional languages can enable them to find a voice so that their stories can be told and understood, as well as providing access to a wider range of employment and training opportunities. Tony Capstick is Lecturer in TESOL and Applied Linguistics at the University of Reading, UK. Tony’s research interests include teacher development, particularly in multilingual contexts and resource-low environments, and literacy. He uses classroom ethnography and discourse analysis to understand classroom interaction and is particularly interested in the relationship between home language use and World Englishes. His book Multilingual Literacy, Identity and Ideology: Exploring Chain Migration from Pakistan to the UK was published in 2016. References Benson , C . 2005 . The Importance of Mother Tongue-Based Schooling for Educational Quality . Study commissioned for EFA Global Monitoring Report, 2005 . Capstick , T. and M. Delaney . 2016 . Language for Resilience: The Role of Language in Enhancing the Resilience of Syrian Refugees and Host Communities . London : British Council . Available at https://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/default/files/language-for-resilience-report-en.pdf (accessed 12 October 2017 ) Coleman , H . 2010 . The English Language in Development . London : British Council . Available at https://www.teachingenglish.org.uk/sites/teacheng/files/UK011-English-Language-Development.pdf (accessed 1 June 2017 ) Conteh , J . 2015 . The EAL Teaching Handbook: Promoting Success for Multilingual Learners . London : Sage . Hall , G . 2017 . Editorial . ELT Journal , 71 / 1 : 1 – 2 . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Cottrell , S . 2015 . Skills for Success: Personal Development and Employability . Basingstoke : Palgrave Macmillan . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS Luthar , S.S. and D. Cicchetti . 2000 . ‘ The construct of resilience: implications for interventions and social policies ’. Development and Psychopathology 12 : 857 – 885 Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS PubMed Masten , A.S. and J.L. Powell . 2003 . ‘ A resilience framework for research, policy, and practice ’ in S.S. Luthar (ed.). Resilience and Vulnerability: Adaptation in the Context of Childhood Adversities (pp. 1 – 25 ). New York : Cambridge University Press . Google Scholar CrossRef Search ADS May , S . 2012 . Language and Minority Rights: Ethnicity, Nationalism and the Politics of Language . New York : Routledge . Seligman , M . 2011 . Flourish. A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Wellbeing . New York : Free Press . Sutherland, M. 1997. Using Storytelling as a Therapeutic Tool With Children. London: Routledge . 3RP . [ 2017 ]. 3RP Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan 2016–2017 in Response to the Syria Crisis . Online: http://www.3rpsyriacrisis.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/3RP-2016-Annual-Report.pdf (accessed November 2017 ) UNICEF . 2016 . Language Education and Social Cohesion (LESC) Initiative . Malaysia : UNICEF East Asia and Pacific Regional Office . © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press; all rights reserved. This article is published and distributed under the terms of the Oxford University Press, Standard Journals Publication Model (https://academic.oup.com/journals/pages/about_us/legal/notices)
ELT Journal – Oxford University Press
Published: Jun 11, 2018
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