Work-related language learning trajectories of migrant cleaners in Finland

Maiju Strömmer

Language in the workplace, Investment, Nexus analysis, Small stories, Language learning


Cleaning is often the survival employment that migrants can get in their new home country. Ideally, the workplace can be a site for integration and language learning. This article explores how two migrants working as cleaners in Finland narrate their work-related Finnish language learning trajectories. The research is designed by applying nexus analysis (Scollon & Scollon, 2004), which focuses on social action in the intersection of interaction order, participants’ life experiences, and discourses in place. The social action in focus here is investment (Darvin & Norton, 2015), which means a commitment to developing language skills to achieve one’s aspirations. The article also analyses how language learners position themselves and are positioned by others, because positioning affects access to meaningful learning opportunities. Positioning analysis by Bamberg and Georgakopoulou (2008) in a small stories approach is applied to analyse the key participants’ oral narratives told in the context of ethnographic research interviews. Follow-up interviews conducted a year later are analysed to show how positioning changes over time. The study illustrates that investment in work-related language learning is meaningful when occupational development and language learning can be purposefully combined. However, migrants are positioned as a potential workforce in low-level jobs and their expertise is often ignored, which means that investments in language learning might not pay off in career development. Supporting educated migrants in finding appropriate employment would facilitate goal-oriented language learning.

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Apples - Journal of Applied Language Studies