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“Whenever I go somewhere I have to take my daughters” - An enquiry into the progress and the strategies used for L2 Literacy Acquisition by former refugee adults in New Zealand.


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There is increasing acknowledgment of the paucity of second language acquisition research involving adults and adolescents with little or no prior education. Practitioner-researchers seem well-placed to bridge the gap between research and practice and to posit evidence-based suggestions about suitable pedagogy. This 2-year study investigated progress in second language learning between two groups of adult learners from refugee backgrounds, those with 0-2 years of prior education and those with 8+ years. A national online assessment tool, recently developed by the New Zealand government, yielded the quantitative data. The study further enquired through interviews and observations about the strategies those without prior formal education were using to learn the new language and to move towards basic L2 literacy.
Results show that those with more prior education in their L1 progressed slightly faster than the group with little or no prior education. However, both groups showed their progress was marked by both advances and some regressions, perhaps due to ill-health or other constraints beyond the classroom. Classroom observations showed that strategies they used by learners were a surprising blend of methods used for hundreds of years in language learning, balanced with their own adaptation to modern information technologies. One of the more significant results is that the use of the first language to support second language learning seems to be essential for these adults to provide a platform of support, or in Vygotsky's terms to extend 'the zone of proximal development.' Interviews revealed that in all cases, learners’ overarching goal is to communicate in their new language to gain independence and dignity in their country of resettlement.
The research concludes with some tentative suggestions for practitioners. An awareness of the socio- cultural and educational backgrounds of learners and a recognition of their self-managing status, may potentially lead to new levels of authentic dialogue and negotiation of a curriculum that becomes a ‘real world’ fit for both learners and teachers.

Item Type: Paper presented at a conference, workshop, or other event which was not published in the proceedings
Uncontrolled Keywords: limited literacy adult learners second language
Subjects: L Education > LC Special aspects of education > LC5201 Education extension. Adult education. Continuing education
Divisions: Schools > Centre for Languages
Depositing User: Jenny Field
Date Deposited: 19 Dec 2019 00:45
Last Modified: 21 Jul 2023 08:31

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