Working in a second language

Literacy practices and educational models designed for professional contexts


FORTE: Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare

Project type



How do second language speakers cope with literacy and communicative practices in the workplace? How do we best design educational programs in Swedish as a second language with a focus on an upcoming professional life?

The Swedish labour market is facing new challenges, with a higher number of second language speakers than ever. There is a strong need for more effective, tailormade language educations, aiming at preparing for a working life in Swedish. At the same time, research on second language acquisition does not focus on this transition from classroom to workplace, nor does it offer sufficient knowledge on how adults acquire a second language most effectively - through participating in a workplace setting, through classroom studies or in other ways?

Empirical data from participant observations, semi-structured interviews and a collection of texts from two workplace settings will answer questions on what literacy demands the full participanthave to master to participate. Similar data from two educational settings will answer questions how the educations meet actual literacy demands from the work setting and how they are customized to meet the participants on an individual level. The target groups are two newly arrived professionals, medical doctors and maintenance personnel, participating in programs combining language training and workplace practice.

Results will be used to create more well designed educational programs and increase workplace satisfaction. Also, results will in the future support other sectors as well, through more knowledge about both professional literacies and second language acquisition for adult speakers. This will benefit the individual newcomer as well as society as a whole.

The project has a strong feasability regarding access to data and already established partnerships within the health care sector, the municipal project for maintenance personnel and the language schools. Some empirical data is already collected.

Maria Eklund Heinonen, Senior Lecturer, Södertörn University
Hedda Söderlundh, Senior Lecturer, Södertörn University

Research area / geographic area

Culture and Education Swedish Languages Sweden

Contract ID


Project time

2020 — 2023


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