In this presentation I examine the practices and policies relating to the language education provided for, and experienced by, adult migrants who are settling in English-dominant countries. Over the past two decades in the UK, the US and elsewhere in the English-dominant west, the English language has become central to debates and policies about migration, citizenship, nationality and belonging. English language education has thus become tightly linked to immigration and citizenship policy. With this in mind, I note two current concerns. First, language education for migrants as currently conceived – in policy circles and in established curricula – is associated with a powerful ideology of ‘one nation one language’. This monolingual stance disregards that people develop competence in English as part of a multilingual repertoire – and that language education practice has a role in in supporting their multilingualism. Second, bracketing language education with social integration betrays an understanding of integration as being primarily the responsibility of the newcomer, instead of recognising settlement and belonging as issues for everyone. Drawing on recent research in urban multilingualism, language education policy formation and studies of practice, I outline principles for an alternative social justice-informed approach to adult migrant language education, appropriate for conditions of mobility and times of change.
James Simpson is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Education, University of Leeds, UK. His research interests lie in the teaching and learning of English for Speakers of Other Languages, in migrant language learning and arts practice, and in the sociolinguistics of mobility. His work involves the critical analysis of linguistic practices relating to identity and belonging, language diversity, language pedagogy, language policy and literacy. His books include Translanguaging as Transformation (Multilingual Matters, 2020, edited with Emilee Moore and Jessica Bradley), Voices and Practices in Applied Linguistics (White Rose Press, 2019, edited with Clare Wright and Lou Harvey), Adult Language Education and Migration: Challenging Agendas in Policy and Practice (Routledge, 2015, edited with Anne Whiteside), The Routledge Handbook of Applied Linguistics (Routledge, 2011), and ESOL: A Critical Guide (OUP, 2008, with Melanie Cooke). He manages the discussion forum ESOL-Research, and is Chair of MESH, a charity supporting adult migrant language education.