Role of agency and family language policy in language socialisation practices of  Polish families living in Ireland

Thematic Section: Language and communication in transcultural families

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

Malgorzata Machowska-Kosciak, Dublin City University
Agency can be defined as one’s “socioculturally mediated capacity to act” (Ahearn, 2001: 112). It needs to be noted that this concept is understood as a complex notion that is achieved and negotiated in culturally or linguistically specific contexts. Children’s agency has also been found to be very important for parental language policy. Spolsky (2004) has distinguished three main areas of investigation of home language (i) language practices (ii) language ideologies (iii) language management. Thus, children’s language learning in the home environment is mediated by not only parental language ideologies but also about learning and the role of children in society in general (De Houwer, 1999, Fogle, Fogle&King, 2006). This paper follows this framework to understand the role of agency and language ideologies to impact family’s language policy in the context of Polish families living in Ireland. Multiple or competing language ideologies or conflicts between implicit vs explicit ideologies (King, 2000) are often at play in the context of transnational families, they are the ‘genesis of language policies’ as Fogle ( 2012: 20) points out. The present study is adding to these developments by illustrating how parental engagement in community organizations play a significant role in the socialization of adolescents’ ethnic identity and language maintenance. The focus is no longer on parent’s language strategies (use of the first language) but on the choices they make for themselves about staying connected to the heritage community. The research described in this paper investigates issues related to family language policy, agency, language ideologies towards Irish, English and Polish among Polish migrant adolescents and their families living in Ireland. It involves an ethnographically informed analysis of speech acts and actions (social acts) with a particular focus on stance taking, affective and moral attitudes, as they were constructed over time (Ochs, 1993; Goodwin, 2000, Davis & Harre 1995).