A newly developed website has been created to help refugees with learning their host country’s language. But equally important, the tools have been designed to support the volunteers who assist refugees.
With the mass influx of asylum seekers into Europe in recent years, EU member states have been struggling with addressing how best to support people with integration and language acquisition. As a response, in November 2017, the Council of Europe (CoE) launched a toolkit, containing 57 tools designed to bridge the gap in support that has been identified in many communities. Developed by a group of experts the toolkit is intended for use by organizations, and especially volunteers, who provide language support for adult refugees.
The CoE and the aim of the toolkit
Not to be confused with the European Union, the CoE is an international organization whose stated aim is "to achieve a greater unity between its members for the purpose of safeguarding and realizing the ideals and principles which are their common heritage and facilitating their economic and social progress." It has taken an active role on migration issues since 1968 and already offered a program called Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants (LIAM)
Ambassador Erdogan Iscan, Permanent Representative of Turkey to the Council of Europe, described the toolkit as "a further initiative to facilitate social cohesion and enhance the dignity of refugees. It offers them a way of becoming autonomous by getting means to learn the language of the host country."
Speaking at the website’s launch, Villano Qiriazi, Head of the Education Policy Division, described this new development as being part of a long tradition of language policies and that it was based on the resources and the outcome of six decades of work.
Director of Democratic Citizenship and Participation, explained that
the toolkit "serves as an example of how needs are first
identified, appropriate responses developed and then offered to
member states and key players/stakeholders" for implementation. He
tweeted a short video about the project by Tomas
Special Representative of the Secretary General to the Council of
Europe on Migration and Refugees.
is in the toolkit?
57 tools are divided into three sections. The first section with tools
1-13, provides background information to people working with refugees
on cultural awareness. For example, it may be important to understand
that men and women can respond differently in group situations, or
that there may be cultural issues even within a group of asylum
seekers wanting to learn a language. For instance, tool 4 provides
the following advice for people running such groups: "A good way of
minimizing the risks of intercultural conflict and misunderstanding
during language support is to encourage the group to create its own
culture, with agreed rules and shared meanings."
2, tools 14-33, is focused on preparation and planning, but also
contains information on, for example, identifying refugees' most
urgent needs (tool 24). The way the tools are pitched is useful in
framing what a volunteer should be expected to do, or more
importantly, what they cannot do. For instance, tool 24 advises
people working with refugees to "be aware that dealing with trauma
victims may itself be traumatic. So never try to handle cases on your
own: refer to professionals such as psychologists and medical staff,
and share your experiences with supervisors or in peer consultation
third section, tools 34-57, deals specifically with language teaching
based on situations that refugees and asylum seekers are likely to
encounter, for example, using health services or buying credit for a
Thalgott, director of the CoE's Language Policy Program, told
InfoMigrants that the response to the toolkit has exceeded all
expectations. In the first two weeks alone there were 4232 downloads.
tools are in the public domain, with no conditions attached. They are
available in PDF and Word format, which means there is the
flexibility to add or tailor the information to suit individual
needs. There are seven languages to choose from: English, German,
Greek, Italian, French, Dutch and Turkish. According to Thalgott,
there are peresently no plans to add any further languages, although "people
are welcome to translate the tools into other languages themselves," she said.
large organizations working with refugees, such as the UN, EU and the
International Organization for Migration (IOM) have said that the tools
compliment practices they are already following. NGOs running
training courses for helping refugees have been able to use the tools
as templates. As well, trained teachers in Italy have found the
toolkit helpful for structuring lessons, despite the fact that the
aim was to help untrained volunteers teach language. This has meant
that there has been a much wider user base than was originally
more information about the toolkit and the CoE's other free
resources, please visit the Council of Europe website.