Helen R. Robinson


My background is in language learning, teaching and translating. Having studied French for my first degree in Southampton, I trained as a Modern Foreign Language teacher at Leeds University School of Education before moving to rural Lincolnshire where I first taught French, German and Spanish as a newly-qualified teacher. Here too, I married and had a family before completing a part-time Masters in French-English translation via distance learning while the children were 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 before diversifying into ESOL, completing a CELTA and going on to support students using English as an additional language at FE and secondary school levels. 

Finally, in October 2020, I was able to commit to my long-term plan to begin a full-time PhD  back at Leeds SoE, 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 deeply interested in how host countries welcome those seeking refuge. More specifically, I am keen to learn more about 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 planned research area had to be relocated from France to the UK, but I am confident that this research is more timely than ever in both countries. 

I am in my third year of a full-time PhD focusing on the perspectives of forced migrant women in particular, observing how they access and engage with opportunities to learn the host country language, but also exploring how they deploy other communicative resources to make meaningful connections in their new communities and beyond.

I have been learning Arabic 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)