Families make language choices, sometimes seen as family language ‘policies’, although these decisions will obviously not be as formal as a policy. Raising children bilingually seems a popular choice, particularly in a world where international mobility (for various reasons) brings people from different language background in contact with each other.

Choice is a much-loved concept in Western society, often linked to ideas of free will and autonomous individuals. In this paradigm parents may choose to use particular languages in their homes and they then choose to send their children to particular schools. However, when we are asked to choose, it is often productive to ask back, Can we say no? For example, when you are given the choice between a fine or imprisonment, can you say no? When you are conscripted, can you say no? We may think these examples exaggerate the importance of language ‘choices’, but when we think about the results of language-in-education choices, it is clear that their consequences can be far-reaching. In this presentation I discuss some of these consequences from pre-school to tertiary education. My point of departure is South Africa and I will discuss the transactions, transitions and disruptions that result from language choices, linking the evidence from my country to that of other countries.