Language and Identity Development Among Syrian Adult Refugees in Canada: A Bourdieusian Analysis

  • Needal Ghadi University of Regina
  • Christine Massing University of Regina
  • Daniel Kikulwe University of Regina
  • Crystal Giesbrecht University of Regina


Framed by Bourdieu’s work, this article focuses on the intersections between language learning experiences, capital, and identities of Syrian refugees now living in Regina, Saskatchewan. In this qualitative study, data were collected during a series of focus groups with Syrian women and men. Based on the study findings, we contend that the participants’ multiple identities as hard-working, employed, independent, Muslim mothers or fathers, and wives or husbands developed in Syria were gradually eroded or altered by the realities they experienced in Canada, yet they had a strong desire to re-establish their identity constructions from back home in the new context. We assert that the loss of their linguistic capital from back home limited their employment prospects, impacted their abilities to form social relationships with native English speakers, and led to a shift in traditional gender roles. It is imperative to adapt language training programs in order to support refugees in re-establishing themselves in their professional fields and daily living activities.

Author Biographies

Needal Ghadi, University of Regina
Doctoral Candidate in Curriculum and Instruction
Christine Massing, University of Regina
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education
Daniel Kikulwe, University of Regina
Assistant Professor, Faculty of Social Work
Crystal Giesbrecht, University of Regina
Adjunct Professor, Faculty of Social Work