How to Create Linguistic Scaffolding for Foreign Labor Migrants? Learner Differences and Learning and Teaching Strategies

The aim of this presentation is to share ideas on how to build linguistic scaffolding for foreign labor migrants while implementing discipline-specific language in the very initial stages of learning the language. It attempts to exemplify strategies for specific groups of learners who often lack any previous foreign language learning experience and are already employed in the country. The examples are taken from my teaching experience at a pioneering Norwegian language course project, so called Hybrid Language Courses, conducted for Polish semi-skilled and skilled construction workers in Oslo from 2005 to 2009. The purpose is to show the possibilities of integrating communicative initial language learning together with specific discipline-oriented vocabulary. In such courses it is important to facilitate the workers’ language learning, taking into consideration their background and challenges related to no previous foreign language experience. Since good communication has an impact on improving understanding and safety on the job, the focus is on comprehension of speech, oral production, pronunciation and writing of short work-related messages. It is crucial for teachers to guide and expose learners to similar specific situational and authentic language input they are likely to meet at work in order for them to successfully engage in their work environment, in spite of a lack of formal education.
Scaffolding such a goal-oriented approach through tailored work-and-function related vocabulary and dialogues from the very beginning of the course, parallel with practical conversations and dynamic strategies, will empower learners to apply the acquired “tools” from the classroom for communicative needs and purposes at work.