Language Learning and Literacy: The Multilingual Subject in Narratives of Older Immigrant Refugee Women
The turn towards viewing literacy as social practice combines the notions of literacy and language learning. The situation of adult language learners with little or no schooling in countries with a highly literate self-image (such as in Scandinavia) necessitates reflection on the notions of language learning and literacy, especially in the case of refugees, who have been subjected to harrowing experiences in their flight to freedom. The recent emphasis on the multilingual subject in language learning has called for the importance of bringing the subject into focus when studying different aspects of multilingualism such as the learning of language and literacy in a new language. The present study meets this call through the analysis of interactions involving two medical doctors, former refugees, in conversation with a researcher in Norway. The doctors narrate their own experiences, and evaluate and comment on stories told by others, including their work with patients, who are also refugees. The analysis reveals a merging of language and literacy learning in the doctors’ conceptualization of activities necessary for the patients’ treatment. Central to the analysis are the notions of participation, agency, empowerment and embodiment.