Creative English: balancing creative and functional language needs for adult refugees, asylum seekers and migrants


  • Anne Smith



This article argues that play and creativity are cornerstones of a person-centred approach to adult second language education. However, when learners are refugees, asylum seekers or migrants already living in the country where the language is spoken, it is important that language learning also addresses their functional needs. Creative English is an applied theatre programme for adults in the UK that balances these functional and creative needs while developing confidence in English language communication skills. Drawing on participant-led, practice-based research which resulted in the development of Creative English, this article purports the benefits of an approach that combines playful emotional engagement with pragmatic subject matter. Creative English is based on improvisation. It reduces inhibitions and creates a state highly conducive to learning and taking the risk to communicate in a second language. It also offers the opportunity to rehearse language in everyday life situations. When learners’ perceived needs are met, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can then be inverted, as creativity allows opportunity to address needs in terms of self-esteem and belonging.


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