“We try to learn the language, although we don’t know if we are going to stay here”: Language learning as part of acculturation process for asylum seekers in Greece.

Charalampos Konstantinidis | University of Cyprus

This presentation draws on the findings of discourse analysis of different asylum seekers’ narratives when narrating their effort to create a new life in Greece. The focus is on the acculturation phenomenon (Berry J.W., 2005), intrinsic part of integration process with specification on the knowledge and fluency in the majority language as central to this process of integration (Ager & Strang 2008; Spencer & Charsley, 2016). The methodology involves interviews organized by the author of this paper, with the help of a translator, to refugees being from Afghanistan. The participants were asked in the context of such a personalized interview, which included open- ended and closed questions, to narrate their story and describe the difficulties that they experience in the process of integration, with a strong focus on language skills acquisition.

Moreover, we will provide potential differences between men and women when narrating their experience of acquiring language skills in the host country, differences related to their experience of how they are perceived because of their native language and/ or lack of proficiency of Greek. Finally, we will examine the necessity of language skills acquisition for asylum seekers in Greece at the different stages of asylum case examination. Interviewees perceived language acquisition differently depending on their residence status in the host country i.e. differences are important between those that have already a legal status and those that their case is still pending. We anchor our discourse analysis within the frame theory (Fillmore 1982) and Fairclough’s proposal (2003) for critical discourse analysis, with an emphasis on lexical choices.


Berry, J.W. (2005). Acculturation: Living successfully in two cultures. International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 29, 697- 712, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ijintrel.2005.07.013

Fairclough, Norman. 2003. Analyzing Discourse: Textual Analysis for Social Research.

Fillmore, Charles J. 1982. Frame Semantics. Linguistics in the Morning Calm. Seoul: Hanshin Publishing Co.