Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2803

Article | Open Access

No(r)way? Language Learning, Stereotypes, and Social Inclusion Among Poles in Norway

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Abstract:  This study recognizes the diversity and heterogeneous nature of a migrant group that long has been portrayed and perceived in a limited way, for instance in Norwegian media, without considering the multifaceted nature of the group in question. Drawing on data from focus group interviews, we apply narrative analysis to shed light on the impact stereotypes surrounding Poles have on Polish adult migrants’ striving for social inclusion and professional success in Norway. Being the largest migrant group in Norway, speaking a first language (L1) structurally different from Norwegian, and representing a former Eastern Bloc country, Poles constitute an important case to gain better knowledge of the interplay between language, labour, and social inclusion. Through our study, we aim to gain emic insights into parts of the process of settling in Norway. Our analysis centres on a case study of two focus group participants’ reactions to stereotypical portrayals of Polish (professionals) in Norwegian media, experiences with language learning, and the advice they would give to newcomers, as well as the importance of a sense of community for gaining the “small talk” competence necessary to ease social inclusion. The analysis draws on the key concepts of agency, investment, and well‐being. We show how the tension that occurs when second language (L2) participants are confronted with stereotypes may create a discursive space for empowerment and agency through the opportunity to contest and re‐create (professional) expectancies. The study also demonstrates that there most likely are ways forward to more inclusive practices for Polish migrants in Norway.

Keywords:  agency; investment; narratives; Norway; Polish work migrants; social inclusion; stereotypes; well‐being



© Anne Golden, Toril Opsahl. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.