Supporting Adult Learners with Refugee Experiences through English Language Instruction

Raj Khatri


Canada welcomes around 24,000 refugees annually (Citizenship and Immigration Canada 2015; 2016). Many adult learners with refugee experiences join English as an Additional Language (EAL) classes every year, whether these classes be federally or provincially funded. These adult learners with refugee experiences bring to EAL classes varied educational and life experiences. Some of these learners have little or interrupted schooling (Finn, 2010). Learners with this profile may have also encountered forced displacement, loss of identity, torture, and trauma. These experiences, along with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which some people with this background may suffer from, can lead to concentration difficulties and memory loss (Hauksson, 2003). This, in turn, can negatively impact additional language acquisition (Finn, 2010). When EAL instructors are unaware of refugee experiences, they may find it difficult to deal with these circumstances appropriately, which may create uncomfortable situations both for learners with refugee experiences and their instructors in class. To work with such learners, it is important that EAL instructors be very skilled, experienced, and patient. The present article provides readers with an opportunity to understand various refugee experiences, the acculturation process these learners may go through, and lesson planning strategies that can be incorporated when supporting adult learners with refugee experiences.


Refugees; Refugee experiences; Acculturation; Adult ELLs, English as an Additional Language, English as a Second Language

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Copyright (c) 2016 Raj Khatri

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