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Family language policy

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Photo credits to: http://ielts-academic.com/2013/01/13/ielts-speaking-practice-test-3/

A child’s linguistic repertoire largely hinges upon the parents’ attitudes towards different languages and their decision on what language should be spoken within the home domain, and what language should be learnt through formal education. This means that family language policies play a crucial role in raising a multilingual child. For instance, my current multilingual linguistic repertoire is largely the result of my family’s language policy and my parents’ language ideologies.

Curdt-Christiansen (2009) defines family language policy “as a deliberate attempt at practicing a particular language use pattern and particular literacy practices within home domains and among family members” (p. 352). According to Curdt-Christiansen (2009), family language policies are shaped by and are the reflection of language ideologies, or, in other words, the beliefs about the value and utility of different languages within a certain society. Drawing on a number of works, Curdt-Christiansen (2009) asserted that these ideologies, in turn, are heavily influenced by closely interrelated macro-level factors that constitute of political, economic, cultural and social factors, and micro-level factors such as parents’ expectations concerning their child’s future and parents’ own educational and linguistic experiences. He explicated that economic and social factors refer to the economic value of languages that provides access to social mobility, cultural factors represent the symbolic value of languages that links language with identity, and political factors refer to individuals’ language rights determined by state policies.

My family’s language policy and ideology were hugely determined by the political, economic, social and cultural factors mentioned above, and were also influenced by the language ideologies that Kazakhstan is trying to promote. Being born in China and later migrating to Kazakhstan at the age of six, I grew up being able to speak Chinese, Kazakh and Russian. Taking into account the increasing economic value of Chinese language, my parents tried to preserve my Chinese language skills by installing Chinese satellite TV at home and speaking Chinese to me from time to time. Curdt-Christiansen (2009) noted that family language ideologies may or may be in line with the state’s language policy. In my family’s case, the beliefs with regard the economic, cultural and social value of Kazakh, Russian and English were shaped under the impact of Kazakhstan’s language policy and ideology. For instance, recognizing the cultural and social value of Kazakh and Russian within Kazakhstani society, and the necessity of English in a global world, they made sure that I will acquire those languages through formal education. Thus, my language learning experience highlights the significant role of family language policy as well as state language policy in the development of individual multilingualism. However, as mentioned by Curdt-Christiansen (2009), family language policies may not always coincide with a state’s language policy. Moreover, having different views with regard to the value of learning certain languages, a child may resist the family language policy.  In this term, what was your language learning experience like? And to what degree it was shaped by your family’s language policy?

References

Curdt-Christiansen, X. L. (2009). Invisible and visible language planning: Ideological factors in the family language policy of Chinese immigrant families in Quebec. Language Policy, 8(4), 351–375. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10993-009-9146-7