Esther Cores-Bilbao & Mariló Camacho-Díaz

As part of the MultiLits team’s endeavours, our work focuses on analysing the labour dimension of migrants’ integration in their host societies. Learning is a situated social practice that encompasses the social and personal, but also the occupational sphere of learners. This principle is at the basis of the New London Group’s (1996) multiliteracies pedagogy, which is why we consider it an ideal didactic approach to support a wide range of training opportunities for migrants. However, despite the relevance of working life and citizenship as two of the three domains of individuals’ lives that may bring about social change, equity and justice, language courses designed for labour migrants tend to generally overlook civic and democratic contents, as well as omit any materials for the development or upgrading of the professional competences of students. In fact, recent studies have drawn a clear link between the level of integration achieved by migrants, interpersonal relations in the work environment and their level of language proficiency. These have an impact on migrants’ well-being (e.g. their self-identity and aspirations for the future), as well as on their commitment to exercise their civic rights in the host community. For these reasons, we strive to determine the extent to which a multiliteracies pedagogy is applied in specific language courses for migrants for professional purposes.

Having conducted a systematic review of the methodologies and literacies applied in the training of adult migrant foreign language learners, it became apparent that not a single study under analysis referred to the pedagogy of multiliteracies. Nevertheless, a thematic analysis of the corpus led to the identification of 7 clusters of literacies which are usually integrated in workplace language education for migrants, two key areas are noted: a) socio-emotional literacy, that is,  the importance of migrant domestic workers developing empowering strategies to cope with work-related stresses and strains or adopting proactive attitudes to challenge labour exploitation; and b) civic literacy, in terms of equipping learners with enough competences to access certain public welfare services, such as health care, social care, access to community resources and community participation.

Unfortunately, in the studies analysed the didactic implementations are described very vaguely, the multimodal approach is rarely mentioned, and the integration of visual literacy principles and non-text-based images in lesson plans is seldomly identified. In light of this, it is essential to determine whether the multiliteracies approach has the potential for dealing with the changing service sector jobs, where migrants are most likely to be recruited, as well as to chart the clusters of literacies required for entry-level jobs, or for the career advancement of migrant workers. Based on our findings, the key literacies of relevance to the migrant labour force fall into the following 7 thematic clusters:

Thematic clusters

On the basis of these conclusions, our next line of research connects with the implementation of an integrative, multiliteracies-based approach with a group of Chinese residents who are Spanish language learners.  Our working hypothesis is that occupational literacy may become a fundamental vector of their integration in Spanish society, due to the establishment of professional relationships with colleagues and customers through the common language that is Spanish.  

The different ethnographic methods that we intend to use in this ongoing research are a series of in-depth individual interviews within the participants´ cultural background (online interviews from their home) to collect data on their different competencies (educational, civic, cultural, social, and digital) and personal issues, which will shed light on the learning outcomes achieved involving different literacy clusters. The tentative results obtained so far, in the context of a Chinese private educational organization, show that its curriculum mainly covers linguistic literacy, that is, the communicative use of Spanish as a second or foreign language; on a second level, the online elements of the course help to further develop digital literacy; yet, the occupational integration achievement is only an indirect training outcome. However, occupational literacy is the main goal and aspiration of this group of learners, who seek a more satisfactory and pro-active professional relationship with customers that will increase their business revenue. In addition, civic literacy in public bodies is another personal aspiration of these learners, who wish to manage, for instance, their own legal procedures at the immigration office.

Thus, a preliminary conclusion drawn from the initial phase of our ethnographic study seems to confirm the application of traditional methodologies in Spanish language courses for Chinese migrants whose teaching programme does not include any integrative literacy other than linguistic literacy.

Further reading:

Bilbao, Esther Cores. “Multiliteracidades laborales inclusivas para los migrantes: una revisión sistemática.” Revista Nebrija de Lingüística Aplicada a la Enseñanza de Lenguas 16.33 (2022): 39-52.