By Konstantina Olioumtsevits
The Linguistic Issues Surrounding Refugees and Asylum Seekers was a one-day forum organized by the Centre for Literacy and Multilingualism and the University of Reading. In essence, the event was a prompt for a genuine dialogue revolving around the current global immigration crisis. A great number of presenters and attendees participated in the event, with all of them sharing the wish and original interest in developing ways to address the crisis; an interest which made everyone thoroughly engaged in the discussions.
A variety of topics were discussed (e.g., media coverage, identity, language teaching) from people with different background (applied linguistics, sociolinguistics and psychotherapy, among others). All the talks were intriguing and of high-quality, indicating how much work is being done driven by love and, most importantly, hope. The fact that the presenters came from different backgrounds also highlighted the need for collaborations across disciplines so as to fully comprehend the current situation and thereafter employ effective strategies to address it.
Regarding only some of the themes covered: Talks on the use of Language Analysis for Determination of Origin (LADO) revealed some of the practical applications of the given process along with the necessity for expert and well-trained linguists who will appropriately and efficiently write the final report. Talks on media coverage pointed out the power of media to construct and propagate myths about migrants, noting also that negatively and positively oriented stories published on the media create binary representations of the migrants and raise confusion amongst the general public. Talks on psychological therapy indicated the need to talk about any kind of trauma, to access memories, and express emotions; strategies that can help bring an end to the former. Talks on language teaching introduced how teaching practices can be carried out in practice in order to address the trauma many migrants of all ages are facing, to promote the advantage of using the L1(s) as the medium of instruction, to constantly provide opportunities for language practice and connections creation among learners of varying ages and at varying stages of their life, and to encourage the learners to be the center of the teaching procedure.
The event offered many opportunities for constructive discussion and networking. For me personally, since my research work lies in the same field, it was considerably useful to communicate my work and receive valuable feedback. Moreover, given my work is based in Greece, it was particularly advantageous to hear more about other projects running in / from other countries.
I was left amazed by everyone’s work. On every occasion, I am left more and more inspired by the motivation, love and passion for life refugees and asylum seekers show. Lastly, I was left with the impression that amazing work still remains to be done as well as with the hope that similar events will be held in the future.
Konstantina Olioumtsevits is a PhD student based in the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, in the School of Philology (Department of Linguistics).