‘Are we on the same page?’ Parents versus children in shaping FLP

Thematic Section: Language and communication in transcultural families

family language policy, transcultural bi/multilingual families, translanguaging, migrant families, language ideology

Emilia Wąsikiewicz-Firlej, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań
The present paper assumes the child’s agency role in shaping FLP and takes a look at children’s perspectives and their bi/multilingual experiences vis-à-vis their parents’ language planning decisions. The study centres on three transnational families with two heritage languages and aims to investigate childrens’ and parents’ linguistic repertoires and attitudes to FLP by means of in-depth interviews and language portraits. Such a combination of research tools offers a unique potential for obtaining deep, meaningful data from respondents and seems particularly valid in the case of research on sensitive issues or involving minor participants. Despite certain criticism, the language portrait methodology is worth revisiting in the context of FLP research as it can reduce social desirability bias and enhance the self- expression of all family members (especially children).
The findings point to the uniqueness of the individual’s experience within and across families under study. Additionally, they also reveal that children’s attitudes do not always go in line with their parents’ views and expectations, which might potentially threaten harmony within the family and be a source of conflict. On the other hand, the results also show differences in parents’ approaches to FLP, ranging from laissez-faire FLP, with the goal to raise a ‘happylingual’ child, to a more controlling style and an ambition to raise a ‘super-linguist’ (cf. Schwartz and Verschik, 15-16). Finally, the paper emphasises the centrality of children’s perspectives and their impact on the final shape of FLP that is seen as a constantly negotiated and dynamically evolving construct.

Schwartz, M. and A. Verschik, 2013. Achieving success in Family Language Policy: Parents, children and educators in interaction. In M. Schwartz and A. Verschik (eds.), Successful Family Language Policy: Parents, Children and Educators in Interaction, Multilingual Education 7, pp. 1-20. Dordrecht: Springer.