Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

The Impact of Utilising Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) on Vocabulary Acquisition among Migrant Women English Learners

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

The Impact of Utilising Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) on Vocabulary Acquisition among Migrant Women English Learners

Article excerpt

Introduction

This paper presents an approach for utilizing Mobile Assisted Language Learning (MALL) to assist migrant women in Australia to acquire English vocabulary in a non-formal community learning setting. MALL has been demonstrated to be feasible for language learning (Burston, 2014; Stockwell & Hubbard, 2013; Viberg & Gronlund, 2012); however, this is based on learning that takes place within academic contexts where participants are either school children or university students who are literate in their native language, familiar with English, and are in a formal and structured environment. Little research has been undertaken on using MALL for participants who have unique backgrounds, such as migrant women English learners (K. S. Ahmad, Sudweeks, & Armarego, 2015). The research reported in this paper is part of a larger study investigating the learning experiences of migrant women who used an app downloaded on tablets for learning vocabulary in a non-academic community learning context.

The women in this research could be characterised as (i) entering Australia via either the "voluntary/ economic" stream (e.g., following their husband's new employment or looking to build a new life) or "forced/humanitarian" stream (e.g., due to war, thus seeking refuge and resettlement); (ii) having varied native language (L1) backgrounds from pre-literate to highly literate; (iii) having levels of English proficiency from pre-beginner to beginner; (iv) voluntarily attending the community conversational English sessions due to its flexible, non-formal and free program; and v) the majority of participants are fulltime stay-at-home mothers due to sociocultural and personal reasons, some isolated from the wider Australian society.

Background

The causes of migration into Australia are either 'voluntary' or 'forced' (Kunz, 1973; UN, 2013; UNHCR, 2011; Ward, Bochner, & Furnham, 2001). While both have a similar purpose, which is for a better life and future for families, the latter is due to unsafe conditions in their own homeland as a result of political turmoil, war, religious persecution, or some other form of oppression. Upon arrival, families have to adjust into a new life and culture in modern Australian society whilst dealing with emotional and psychological issues, sociocultural and socioeconomic challenges, and learning English as a new language for communication (OMI, 2012).

Coates and Carr (2005), Colic-Peisker and Tilbury (2007), Fozdar and Hartley (2012), and Miralles-Lombardo, Miralles, and Golding (2008) identified one of the common barriers for migrants' ease of settlement as the lack of English language proficiency. For men, the responsibility of seeking financial stability for the family forces them to go out into the workforce and into society, therefore overcoming the barriers and challenges more quickly than women. Typically, women assume the responsibility of undertaking household duties and engaging in full-time care of families, leading to isolation from the broader community, usually over several years. These women's lives are strongly influenced by personal and sociocultural factors both pre- and post-migration (AMES, 2011; ECCV, 2009; McMichael & Manderson, 2004). As such they are ready for further education or to find work only when their children are old enough (RCOA, 2010). Meanwhile, an avenue that is available for them to participate in some form of learning and socialising, with the flexibility of bringing their children along, is by going to local and non-profit community-based centres that offer programs on life-skills and also some form of English learning (K. S. Ahmad, Armarego, & Sudweeks, 2013). Even though these programs are non-accredited and short term in nature, they provide the kind of learning opportunity and space that suits the women's need for a friendly and non-rigid learning environment.

Support for English Learning

In Australia, funded support for migrant and refugee English learning is provided through the Adult Migrant English Program (AMEP) that aims to help develop the English language skills needed to access services in the community, provide a pathway to employment, training or further study, and participate in other government programs offered (DIAC, 2008). …

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