Sonya Sahradyan

Migrant NGO practitioners in Finland: Discourses on language, integration and employment


I am a doctoral student at the Centre for Applied Language Studies, University of Jyväskylä. The main focus of my doctoral dissertation is on discourses about language, integration and employment in non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and within the wider Finnish context. The key participants of the study are migrant NGO practitioners, who are considered vulnerable in terms of employment. In particular, the participants are multilingual migrant workers, volunteers and trainees from two rather different types of NGOs: mono- and multi-ethnic associations. The target group of the mono-ethnic association is mainly Armenian migrants, who have diverse and heterogeneous language backgrounds due to the struggling history of Armenia. However, the multi-ethnic association’s target group is migrants with different ethnic and language backgrounds as well as Finns.

For the research, I have adopted a multi-sited ethnographic approach and have conducted ethnographic fieldwork in mono- and multi-ethnic NGOs, which are based in Finland. During the multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork, I have investigated the language choice and use of migrant NGO practitioners in different sites, where they usually organize or participate in various activities related to their work. In addition to the offline settings, I have examined migrant NGO practitioners’ language choice and use in online settings, especially in mailing lists, websites and Facebook groups or pages, where they often distribute information and publish advertisements about the activities implemented by NGOs. Furthermore, I am going to study how migrant NGO practitioners and supervisors as well as local and national stakeholders interpret Finnish state policies on language, integration and employment.

In brief, my doctoral research includes participant observation, audio and video recordings, photographs, artefacts, informal talks, group discussions, semi-structured interviews, and analysis of different kinds of texts in both online and offline settings. I have collected research data multilingually, more specifically, by using four different languages: Finnish, Armenian, English and Russian. The analytical framework of the study draws from the traditions of narrative and discourse analysis.


Sahradyan, S. (in preparation). Formal, informal and non-formal learning: Finnish language learning of migrants. Refereed Conference Proceedings of the International Conference on Language Education (KieliPeda). University of Jyväskylä, Finland.

Sahradyan, S. (2012). The role of languages in the integration of working age migrants into the Finnish labour market:  The case of migrants working in NGOs in Turku, Finland. (Unpublished master’s thesis). University of Turku, Finland.