Communication classes bring refugees and local population together

Tue 29 Aug 2017 09:57:00 AM EEST

EAEA GRUNDTVIG AWARD 2017. The ability to communicate is one of the key factors of successful integration. The Ma'an, Ensemble, Zesummen project brings together refugees and local population in Luxembourg.

The article series shares good practices on engaging new learners by introducing the nominees of the EAEA Grundtvig Award 2017.

Learners from the Ma'an, Ensemble, Zesummen project.

As the integration of refugees in the Luxembourg society is still ongoing, the “Ma'an, Ensemble, Zesummen” project developed a model to equip adults with communication skills to enable them to interact with the Luxembourgish population. The overall aim is to prevent the new arrivals from falling into isolation and dependence.

“The project targets refugees mainly from Syria, Iraq, Iran and Afganistan as they form a large number of the arrivals,” Sara Scheer from the project consortium explains.

As the linguistic situation of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg is very complex (3 official languages ​​of Luxembourgish, French, and German), Arabic, Persian and Tigrigna speakers often feel helpless. In order not to discourage them, the ASTI offers them an apprenticeship adapted to the French language, the language most used in the professional environment.

The courses mainly provided by volunteers range from literacy for illiterate people (especially women) in their own language to conversation tables in various languages and language coaches.

To help the refugees integrate more easily into the host country, the language courses include elements of knowledge about Luxembourg and its population, as well as practical information. To engage the local population, ASTI produced a press information campaign to make the public aware of the work done to integrate refugees.

Empathy goes a long way

The impact of the project has been significant, not only for the refugees, but also for the teachers and the citizens of Luxembourg. Refugees have had the opportunity to start communicating in French, which is often required to enter the labour market.

Like in many countries, the heterogeneity of the refugees that have arrived, posed some challenges. The arrivals profiles range from academics with foreign – mainly English – language skills to illiterate people.

“Some of the learners have reached the objectives of the language courses and are now in the second program which prepares them for access to the labor market, looking for accommodation and so on,” Sara Scheer says.

One challenge has also been to find the motivation of the learners who, after so much suffering, are required to do a lot of work to learn new languages.

“An approach like this can only work if activities are carried out with empathy: understanding that the learners have gone through many hardships, intellectual curiosity about people who come from cultural horizons that are different from ours and the desire to build bridges between the two,” Sara Scheer concludes.

The project: Ma'an, Ensemble, Zesummen
  • Award category: National projects (Luxembourg)
  • Learner target group: Refugees and local population
  • Innovative practice: Empathy as a teaching method

Project coordinator

  • Organisation: ASTI (Association de soutien aux travailleurs immigrés)
  • Contact: Laura Zuccoli

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