Migrant domestic workers and ELF

According to Papastergiadis (2000: 10) 'the modern migrant no longer conforms to the stereotypical image of the male urban peasant. Women in manufacturing, electronic assembly lines and domestic workers are now at the front line of global migration'. Most studies carried out with domestic workers are found within the fields of women studies, cultural studies and sociology (Rollins 1985; Chang 2000) and tend to be one-sided in that they consider domestic workers' views and experiences only (Ruiz 1987; Hondagneu-Sotelo 1990; Parrenas Salazar 2001; Romero 2002). Rollin's (1985) study looked at both domestic workers and employers from a sociological perspective, and more recently, outside of the U.S., Lan (2006) conducted a study of Filipina domestic workers in Taiwan in which both domestic workers and clients were interviewed. Despite the positive effects of mobility and globalization within the 21st century, domestic workers suffer from both economic and social inequalities, and live what Blommaert (2010: 3) has termed 'un-globalized lives' since they do not reap the same benefits as elite society members. Moreover, such individuals' linguistic and communicative resources may lack semiotic mobility within their daily contexts, one of which is the workplace. In other words, the language resources that individuals have access to, or are denied access to, are inevitably tied to notions of inequality and power, that is, access to standard varieties or 'advanced multimodal and multilingual literacy skills' (Blommaert 2010: 5).

All of the studies listed above are concerned with economic inequality, immigration policies, ethnicity, race, and exploitation of domestic workers within the global economy (Anderson 2000), yet none of them explicitly look at language use and communicative practices between domestic workers and their employers[1], nor do they look at the teaching and learning of communicative skills. This chapter will explore these issues from a pedagogical ELF and EIL perspective, by examining data from interviews with domestic migrants.

  • [1] discuss the first two questions below, I present data involving the domesticworkers and their clients. The third question is discussed at length in the finalsection of this chapter, which deals with the pedagogical implications of thedata for teaching domestic migrant workers. Table 8.1 illustrates the multilingual nature of the cleaning company wherethe 18 domestic migrant workers were employed. The table shows that 7 domestic workers are bilingual though their languageproficiency varies considerably. For the most part, domestic workers' claimsof language knowledge and use, such as understanding and comprehendingEnglish and being able to use it with English-speaking clients, did not coincidewith the assessment of the company owner, driver, or clients. Many of the
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