‘I feel both Polish and Irish’: Family language policy and hybrid Polish-Irish identity construction within Polish migrant families in Ireland
Thematic Section: Language and communication in transcultural families
family language policy, transcultural bi/multilingual families, translanguaging, migrant families, language ideology
As a result of striking levels of Polish migration to Ireland following Poland’s EU membership in 2004, the Polish community now represents the largest non-Irish group in Ireland and makes up 2.5% of the population (Central Statistics Office, 2017). Increased transnational flows (Martin-Jones & Martin, 2016) raise important questions about how families raise bi/multilingual families. As ease of international movement and digital technologies enable migrant families to maintain connectedness with their countries of origin, identity has become a more fluid and complex concept (Farias & Asaba, 2013). This can partly be explained by the fact that families often find themselves situated within two spaces: their country of origin and the host society.
Drawing on Curdt-Christiansen’s (2018) interdisciplinary framework of family language policy and theories of language socialisation and ethnolinguistic identity as the theoretical framework, the findings presented in this paper are part of a larger ethnographic study investigating the family language policy of five Polish transnational families in Ireland with children ranging in age from two to 17 years old. Through a combination of ethnographic methods, the findings reveal identity formation processes among Polish families in Ireland as fluid and complex. While all parents identified as being Polish, children identified as both Polish and Irish, thus reflecting the notion of a hybrid identity among Polish transnational children. The findings clearly elucidate the contrasting viewpoints of identity which existed across first and second generations within discrete migrant families, as also highlighted in previous studies (Zhu Hua & Li Wei, 2010). The role of the Polish language in maintaining linguistic and cultural identity was clearly evident. There was a recognition among parents and children themselves that children’s identities continued to evolve and change over time as they grew older and became more socialised into English language use through their contact with school and peers.
The findings contribute to our understanding of the particular challenges faced by transnational families where parents are first-generation migrants who moved to the host country as adults, and their children are either first-generation migrants who moved to the host country as children or second-generation migrants who were born in the host country. The findings enhance our understanding of parents’ high levels of attachment to the Polish culture and language, and their children’s hybrid Polish-Irish identities and dual identification with Polish and English languages.