Helen R. Robinson


My background is in language learning, teaching and translating. Having studied French at the University of Southampton for my first degree, I moved on to Leeds to do my PGCE in Modern Foreign Languages (French with German subsidiary). I now live in Lincolnshire with my husband, where we met as secondary school teachers - many moons ago. There, I first taught French, German and Spanish before completing a part-time masters in French-English translation via distance learning while our family was growing up. During this time, I developed a deeper passion for what connects people and communities from different linguistic backgrounds, and I majored in the challenges of translating humour for my masters’ dissertation. I then worked as a lecturer of French language, business and translation studies in a university business school language centre for a number of years, diversifying into English for Speakers of Other Languages to support students with their studies to BA level. In 2014, I returned to the same state comprehensive school where my career began, this time as the EAL coordinator, supporting students using English as an additional language with their access to the British school curriculum and Cambridge English examinations. Finally, in October 2020, I was able to commit to my long-term plan to begin a full-time PhD at Leeds School of Education, coming full-circle.

Research interests

I am fascinated, and at times bewildered, by the ways in which we welcome, perceive and react to those who are different from ourselves. I am keenly interested in how host countries welcome refugees, more specifically, the extent to which language learning programmes (ranging from structured, formal classes to informal, local community initiatives) support refugees as they settle into rural  environments. In the light of the Coronavirus pandemic, my original research area has been relocated from France to the UK, but I am confident that this research is more timely than ever in both countries. My research focuses on women’s perspectives in particular, observing how women access and engage with opportunities to learn the host country language, but also hearing how they deploy other communicative resources to make meaningful connections in their communities. I have just started learning Arabic and Dari (Afghan lingua franca) to help me to empathise with key research participants for whom learning English is now a primary immigration status requirement.


  • CELTA (Nottingham New College)
  • MA Translation (UWE Bristol)
  • PGCE MFL (University of Leeds School of Education)
  • BA Hons French (University of Southampton)