Refugees, Autonomy Ethnography Second Language Learning
Carson, L. (2008), Refugee Agency and Autonomy in English Language Acquisition, Translocations: The Irish Migration, Race and Social Transformation Review, 3, 1, 2008
Translocations: The Irish Migration, Race and Social Transformation Review 3 1
This article looks at an ethnographic study conducted at Integrate Ireland Language and
Training1, an organization which provides English language courses for adult refugees.
The research project was a qualitative, longitudinal investigation which explored the
motivational role of goal-setting in adult language learners. During a twelve-month
period (2003-2004), multiple data-gathering techniques were employed including
participant observation, group interviews with learners, teacher interviews, attitudinal
questionnaires, and archival research. The research aimed to record and to analyze the
motivational impact of a curriculum designed to encourage learner autonomy. In this
paper, I give a brief overview of the context of refugees in Ireland and the provision of
English language training. I explore the concept of autonomy in language learning, argue
that it is particularly relevant in the context of language provision for refugees, and
present the work of Integrate Ireland Language and Training. I then review the main
characteristics of ethnographic research and data collection methods, before providing a
narrative account of the experience of learning English as a refugee in Ireland, and the
relevance of encouraging autonomy in the language classroom.
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