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Researcher: Jess Morrin H9675637
Title: Can virtual learning environments offer intercultural learning opportunities for English as an Additional Language learners?Focus: Using multimedia tools within virtual learning environments to teach intercultural communication to (a target group of) EAL learners from Arabic language backgrounds in the Netherlands.
Currently, an estimated 1.7 million refugees reside in Europe, predominantly from the Asian countries of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (UNHCR, 2019). Using the Netherlands as a case study, approximately 250,000 individuals have arrived since 2011 and over half are working age, largely higher educated professionals engaged in industries such as medicine, law and communications (CBS, 2019). The Dutch government provides a package of support for refugees arriving in the Netherlands, including a grant of up to 10,000 euros for inburgeringcursussen (civic integration courses). With this grant, individuals must take Dutch language classes to CEFR Level B1, civic integration and employability classes and pay for all examinations (VluchtelingenWerk, 2018). Needless to say, this seemingly large amount of money depreciates quickly and usually just covers the costs of the integration process.
Whilst it is of course essential that migrants integrate into their host country, in a society where English is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of academia and business, these individuals must also develop near native English skills to fully integrate into Western society (VluchtelingenWerk, 2018). Once the integration grant is used up, there is no financial support to develop English language skills, meaning that many individuals often engage open access materials to bridge this gap. However, the nuances of idiomatic expression, body language, gesture and non-verbal communication are things that cannot be taught by book alone yet are crucial when considering the significance of the linguistic and cultural differences between Arabic, Persian and English.
English Academy for Newcomers is a charitable organisation which provides face to face English classes for refugees in the Netherlands (English Academy for Newcomers, 2019). Research with this group has indicated that students require an accessible platform which evaluates and collates open access materials combined with some element of native interaction in order to provide context and meaning to language learning (Appendix I). Moreover, it has led to the identification of a target group of pre-intermediate students aged between 18 and 35, all native of Syrian or Afghanistan, learning English in order to further their academic or professional careers.
This project will create a virtual learning environment where students will be presented with means to develop intercultural communication competency alongside their expressive and receptive skills, through a series of interactive learning scenarios. The students will navigate their characters through day to day interactions that involve a level of cultural awareness and competence, as well as a technical knowledge of the English language.
CBS, 2019. CBS.nl. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2019/07/more-asylum-seekers-in-2018
[Geopend 01 November 2019].
Naturalisatiedienst: Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid, 2019. Nederlandschap. [Online]
Available at: https://ind.nl/Nederlanderschap
[Geopend 02 January 2020].
Miao, F, 2018. A Lifeline to Learning: Leveraging technology to support education for refugees, France: UNESCO.
2018. VluchtelingenWerk. [Online]
Available at: https://www.vluchtelingenwerk.nl/forrefugees/inburgeren?language=en
[Geopend 01 November 2019].