Open guest lecture with Sari Pöyhönen, University of Jyväskylä. The lecture will be in English.

The story of Tailor F: Contesting official language policy for asylum seekers in the Northern periphery

This paper presents the story of Tailor F, an Iraqi refugee seeking asylum in Finland, where he arrived in 2015, one of a large number of migrants from war-torn countries who travelled across Europe in that year. Finland is an officially bilingual country, with Finnish being predominantly the language taught to newly-arrived refugees, regardless of the region where they are first placed. Upon arrival, Tailor F was housed in a refugee reception centre located in a Swedish-dominant rural area of the country. Through linguistic ethnography I focus on how he navigates multilingually in his early settlement and in his current work and home life. His story is related to discourses of official bilingualism in Finland, his lived experiences in relation to wider political contexts and social structures such as asylum politics, employment and education policy. Tailor F’s story shows how he has contested official language policy for asylum seekers in order to gain membership of his community, achieve a sense of belonging, and potentially realise his aspirations for the future.

Sari Pöyhönen is professor of applied linguistics at the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. Her research and writing focus on language, identity and belonging, minorities and language rights, migration and asylum policies, and adult migrant language education.


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