Case Analysis of the Language for Young Adults Program: An Investigation into the Language, Social and Emotional Learning Needs of Refugee Youth

Researchers: Christine Doe1, Krista Ritchie1, Erin McDonald2, Carol Derby3, Olga Lyubenko3, Alicia Couto
Affiliation: Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU)1, Learn English Nova Scotia (LENS)2, Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS)3
Research Partner: LENS and ISANS
Keywords: young adults, newcomer youth, language learning, language needs, English, social and emotional learning, Halifax Nova Scotia, qualitative methodology, case study


Overview: This study adopted a positive psychology perspective to investigate how newcomer youth and young adults navigated two educational systems in Canada: adult language learning and/ or the K-12 system.

Objective: to understand how social and emotional factors shape language learning experiences from the student perspective.

Research Justification: Refugee youth must learn English quickly to integrate and participate in academic programs. At the same time, they have learning needs related to limited or lack of literacy skills, effects of trauma, interrupted schooling, and racism and discrimination.

Infographic Excerpt

Executive Summary

Full Infographic


A total of 21 newcomer youth participated in individual and focus group interviews after they had completed at least half of the summer portion of the Language for Young Adults Program, developed by ISANS and LENS. Participants were aged 16 to 29 years old and had been in Canada for 1 to 48 months; 15 had arrived as refugees, 4 as immigrants, 1 as an international student, and 1 participant was a Canadian citizen. Their home languages included Afan Oromo, Arabic, Dari, Korean, Mandarin, Persian, Serbian, Spanish, Somali, and Tigrinya.

The research team used a deductive approach to data analysis. Each theme identified in the data was further clarified by participants’ direct quotations to prioritize the voices of the study participants.



There were differences in language learning experiences between young adult (20-29) and youth (16-19) participants:

The learning environment of the program was essential for students to establish a safe and comfortable place to learn a new language.

Youth participants reported times when they felt isolated, lost, or that attending school was a waste of time.



Explore more projects

Go to Top