Highly educated adult refugees’ second language proficiency in Dutch: An explorative analysis of written ‘’frog-story’’ narratives

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It is generally assumed that all refugees form one and the same group of low(er) educated people, without taking their previous experiences and certificates into consideration, which might cause problems in the integration and language learning process. Second language learning experiences of highly educated adult refugees in particular are largely absent from recent academic literature. For that reason, this explorative study investigates the second language proficiency in Dutch of highly educated adult refugees’ in the Netherlands by examining their written narrative production in Dutch. It is supposed that highly educated adult refugees are more proficient in Dutch as a second language than lower educated adult refugees, but less proficient compared to natives, measured in terms of written narrative production. Analyses examine written ’’frog-story’’ narratives produced by two highly educated adult refugee groups on a different second language level, compared with the written narratives of one group of lower educated adult refugees and one group of native speakers. Categories of interest are narrative length, narrative structure and the inclusion of different evaluative devices. The results show that the written narratives of highly educated refugees are considerably shorter than the written narratives of native speakers of Dutch, whereas they are considerably longer compared to the written narratives of lower educated refugees. Moreover, highly educated refugees’ inclusion of structural elements and evaluative devices seems to be more constrained compared to native speakers, but not compared to lower educated refugees. This suggests that second language learners, and highly educated adult refugees in particular, possess a smaller repertoire of discourse and emotional functions than native speakers of Dutch, but when proficiency increases, this repertoire also appears to increase and people might be more likely to use a variety of linguistic resources to provide context to the story.
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