This article investigates the roles of language teachers in a language and integration programme in Denmark. The results show that the teachers’ work goes beyond the role of language teacher per se. The teachers are shown to take on the role of integration workers, who, as part of the integration system, contri-bute to socializing the students into a marginalized position. At the same time, the teachers also use their agency to bend the rules and help their students. While the teachers fulfil the role of mediators who set aside time to help students find their way in the Danish bureaucracy, they also struggle to set boundaries for their students. Finally, the teachers balance the role of cheerleaders who keep the students’ hopes up, with the role of realists who bring a sobering outlook on refugees’ prospects in the labour market. This study contributes to the field of applied linguistics by highlighting the daily positioning work done by teachers in language and integration programmes in a delicate balancing act between marginalizing and empowering students. © 2022 The Author(s) (2022). Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

DOI: 10.1093/applin/amac053
ISSN: 01426001