This article explores the linguistic strategies of young refugees (ages 12-23) in the Netherlands. The study takes place within a societal context in which new migrants and refugees are increasingly pressured to learn Dutch as key to their integration, but English is becoming more and more dominant, and in which learning Dutch is not considered necessary for other newcomer groups such as exchange students and expats. It starts from a puzzling finding in participants’ use of languages within their personal networks (collected 2016-18): their decreasing use of Dutch and increasing use of English while integrating into Dutch society. Participants’ ‘network stories’ reveal that they shifted from Dutch to English to distance themselves from the identities ascribed to them by the Dutch dominant negative discourse and to imagine their futures and belonging in more inclusive environments.

DOI: 10.1093/jrs/feab091
ISSN: 0951-6328