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The communicative needs of Bangladeshi economic migrants: The functional values of host country languages versus English as a lingua franca

Seargeant, Philip; Erling, Elizabeth J.; Solly, Mike and Chowdhury, Qumrul Hasan (2017). The communicative needs of Bangladeshi economic migrants: The functional values of host country languages versus English as a lingua franca. Journal of English as a Lingua Franca, 6(1) (In Press).

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This article investigates the language skills and the nature of language provision required by economic migrants from Bangladesh working in the Middle East. It focuses in particular on the perceived values of the host country language (Arabic) versus English as a language franca (ELF). While there have been a number of explorations of the value of learning the host country language for migrants in terms of both labour market outcomes and wellbeing, there is a paucity of, and pressing need for, studies investigating the value of ELF for economic migrants, particularly those from developing country contexts. This article presents the findings from an ethnographic study which explores the experiences, perceptions and specific language-related issues of a diverse cohort of returnee migrants from rural Bangladesh where, despite significant migration from the area, little is known about this population’s language use and communicative needs. Our findings suggest that both the host country language (Arabic) and ELF have important functional values, but that these vary depending on interlocutors, domains of work and contexts of situation, as well as on the relative statuses (within an ecology of global linguistic value) of the two languages in different contexts. The analysis thus provides fresh and significant evidence regarding the role of language in economic migration and development for low-skilled migrants, both to and from contexts in which English has no official status. The article concludes by considering the implications for the types of language education which might be most suitable for these and other economic migrants in comparable contexts.

Item Type: Journal Item
Copyright Holders: 2017 Unknown
ISSN: 2191-933X
Project Funding Details:
Funded Project NameProject IDFunding Body
Learning English for economic development: A case study of migrant workers from rural BangladeshNot SetBritish Council English Language Teaching Research Partnership Award scheme
Keywords: Economic migration; Bangladesh; Arabic; host country languages
Academic Unit/School: Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Languages and Applied Linguistics
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS)
Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies (WELS) > Education, Childhood, Youth and Sport
Interdisciplinary Research Centre: Centre for Research in Education and Educational Technology (CREET)
Language & Literacies
Education Futures
International Development & Inclusive Innovation
Innovation, Knowledge & Development research centre (IKD)
Item ID: 48254
Depositing User: Philip Seargeant
Date Deposited: 23 Jan 2017 16:23
Last Modified: 26 May 2017 12:14
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