In the Greek context of economic crisis and of emerging xenophobic ideas and discourse, this article presents some findings from a research project which had the ambition to give voice to immigrants in Greece about their own language and communication needs. The target group of the project were immigrant parents, whose children attend public schools in the area of Volos. Communication between schools and immigrant families is fragmentary or non-existent, causing frustration for parents and teachers. The ELMEGO project used focus groups in order to construct social meaning related to migrant discourse, and shed light on it from an interdisciplinary perspective, combining insights from social anthropology, applied linguistics and the sociology of education. After the first stage of needs analysis, the practical outcomes of the project were the design of teaching material and educational activities, the implementation of pilot courses and their evaluation, and the creation of a resource pack. The results of the project question the validity of specific-purposes-approaches to language needs, stress the importance of conditions for learning the migrants’ second language, and associate social, cultural and institutional settings with identity and emotional choices.