Towards a well-being focussed language pedagogy: enabling arts-based, multilingual learning spaces for young people with refugee backgrounds

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The following article explores the conceptual background and pedagogical realities of establishing a well-being focussed language pedagogy in the context of an informal educational event called ‘Language Fest’. The event was organised as part of the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded large grant project ‘Researching Multilingually at the Borders of Language, the Body, Law and the State’ – for the UK’s ‘Being Human Festival’ 2014. This public engagement event aimed to celebrate the multiple languages present in the city of Glasgow in Scotland. Participants consisted of 40 teenage ESOL learners with asylum and refugee backgrounds. Based on auto-ethnographic reflections and short interview excerpts, the article focuses on one particular situation of ‘shared singing’ which took place as part of one of the event’s music and drama-based workshops. The author reflects on her act of learning how to sing the Chinese children’s song ‘Two Tigers’, from Chung, a Mandarin speaker and ESOL college student in Glasgow. The article explores the valence of the author’s linguistic incompetence in this learning situation and argues that arts-based language learning is a situated practice that prioritises ethical, relationship-based objectives over static notions of language competence.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-299
Number of pages15
JournalPedagogy, Culture and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2016


  • multilingual learning
  • arts-based education
  • transgressive validity
  • language deficit
  • language plenty
  • well-being focussed pedagogy
  • language competence
  • ethics
  • education for humanity

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