Space for linguistic and civic hybridity?

The case of social sciences in the language introduction programme in Sweden




Social sciences, language introduction programme, hybridity, third space


  • In Social Sciences, subject content needs to be related to students’ experiences and knowledge.
  • In secondary school, the language used to construct knowledge is abstract, dense, and complex.
  • The concept of Third space (Bhabha,1994) revealed problems with teaching and teachers’ perceptions of L2 students’ needs.
  • Education here appears as a space for a restricted curriculum with Swedish as the gatekeeper.
  • This shows that subject teachers need to learn linguistic aspects of their own subject.

Purpose: The aim is to analyse linguistic aspects of education in Social Sciences for L2 students.

Method: Lingustic ethnography is used for studying the hybridity of Social Sciences with material from nine lesson observations and interviews with three teachers.

Findings: Findings showed that students’ earlier experiences, knowledge, and perspectives on life were not acknowledged. The Third space appears as a transitional space where students are perceived as deficient, not yet reaching the goal of the introduction programme: to enter mainstream education. Students’ agency was related to this space where the transformation was expected to take place, while teachers positioned themselves as outside, and the knowledge presented was simplified and fragmentized. While teachers expressed dissatisfaction with students’ (lacking) Swedish proficiency, they did not seem to understand their own role to teach Swedish through Social Sciences.

Implications: This shows that subject teachers need to learn linguistic aspects of their own subject and conditions for L2 students’ learning.

Author Biographies

Åsa Wedin, Dalarna University

Åsa Wedin holds a PhD in linguistics and is a professor in educational work at Dalarna University, Sweden. Her main research interests are in multilingualism and literacy in education. She has carried out research in East Africa and in Sweden on literacy and interactional patterns in classrooms. Her research is ethnographically inspired, particularly using linguistic ethnography and theoretical perspectives where opportunities for learning are related to issues of power.

Erika Aho, Dalarna University

Erika Bomström Aho is a PhD student in Educational work at Dalarna University, Sweden. Her research interests are in multilingualism in education, mainly the education and educational matters of multilingual students in secondary school.


  • Abstract
  • PDF
Further information