Family language policy involves implicit and explicit planning as well as practices in relation to language use and literacy within home domains and among family members. Contemporary socio-political and cultural contexts have led to intensified mobility and an increasing number of multilingual transcultural families. The project MultiFam: Family language policy in multilingual transcultural families has had as its main goal to generate knowledge on the factors involved in multilingual transcultural family members' decisions and practices concerning language use and literacy in the home. Language ideology investigates how ways of using languages reflect and (re)produce socio-cultural values, and the beliefs and assumptions people have about language and language users. Family language policy can thus be defined as conscious and unconscious planning of language use and literacy practices within home domains and among family members. Various types of data have been collected including a large-scale questionnaire survey, focus group interviews, and conversations in the home among various family members. The body of new knowledge on family language policy evolving from this project will have the potential to contribute to policy and practice in local society, and to a better understanding of what it means to be a contemporary citizen in a society with increasing linguistic and cultural diversity.
As part of the project's launch, in Autumn 2015 the workshop 'MultiFam: Family language policy in multilingual transcultural families" was held in Oslo. The workshop gathered 16 researchers from six countries. Another project workshop was held in Spring 2016 in Australia hosted by researchers associated with the Australian Centre of Excellence Dynamics of Language. Two subprojects: Postdoctoral Fellow Judith Purkarthofer's research 'Family's heteroglossic 'safe spaces'. Constructing social spaces for multilingual competence and practices. And PhD Fellow Maria Antonia Obojska's research 'Language, Youth and Identity among Polish Families in Norway'. One major result of the project was Obojska?s doctoral dissertation (defense 2019). Results have been presented at national and international workshops and conferences. PI Elizabeth Lanza held a keynote at the prestigious International Symposium on Bilingualism in Ireland in June 2016, entitled The multilingual child and the family: Input, practices and policies. The results of the project are reported in various publications and dissemination outlets (lectures, seminars/workshops): 47 conference/ scientific presentations; 15 articles in journals/ books; and 12 media presentations; in addition to four special issues co-edited on the topic in prestigious international journals.
The research in the MultiFam project drew on multiple synergy effects through its incorporation within the research plans and activities at the Center of Excellence for which MultiFam?s PI is the Director: Center for Multilingualism in Society Across the Lifespan - MultiLing (2013-2023), and the two senior researchers are members of the core group. MultiFam research was integrated into two major events organized by MultiLing:(1) Ta tempen på Språket!, which was the Research Campaign for 2014 in which school children across Norway collected data on language use and variation, in the family and among friends; and (2) the language exhibition at Oslo City Museum Oslo sier - Språk i byen. There was a separate exhibit on multilingual families and talks were given to student groups and other visitors. Both events were directed by senior researcher at MultiFam, Bente Ailin Svendsen.
Due to MultiFam's success, research on multilingual practices in the family has continued to be highlighted at MultiLing with projects involving multilingual transcultural families, including an MSCA Marie Curie Individual Fellowship that was awarded to an Australian scholar who will bring her project on multilingual families to MultiLing in 2020.
The research done through MultiFam has contributed to advancing the study of family language policies and practices among multilingual families, both theoretically and methodologically. The knowledge generated has been, and will continue to be, disseminated across scientific, academic and public outlets; moreover, it will be included in research-based teaching. Research training for two young MultiFam scholars has been successful, judged by the positions they were recruited to after their tenure at MultiLing.
A strengthened knowledge base of multilingual family language policies will provide insight into how transcultural families manage their linguistic and cultural heritage in contemporary urban spaces. An understanding of the interrelationships between multilingual practices and identity construction can facilitate an appreciation by the wider society of the benefits of multilingualism and what it means to be a contemporary citizen.
MultiFam research has contributed to advancing the study of family language policies and practices among multilingual families, both theoretically and methodologically. Through the project, increased international research collaboration was attained and will continue. The research field is a vibrant one that has become increasingly interdisciplinary, drawing on (socio)linguistics, anthropology, sociology, media studies, critical discourse studies, and many other fields. The project has generated knowledge that is particularly useful and important for all institutions dealing with multilingual families. The research contributes to raising awareness of the factors that promote language learning and use in the family, and how heritage languages are maintained or lost. Through continued workshops with multilingual transcultural families, the research will surely have an impact over time as awareness is raised over the challenges and rewards of raising children multilingually.
The main goal of the proposed project is to generate beyond-state-of-the-art knowledge on one of the central dimensions of intensified mobility in
contemporary society: family language policy in multilingual transcultural
families, with a focus on language ideologies and language practices. Family
language policy can be defined as explicit and overt, as well as implicit and
covert, planning in relation to language use and literacy practices within
home domains and among family members. The project is situated at
the cutting edge of two well-established areas of sociolinguistic research:
language socialization and linguistic ideology. Language socialization
includes socializing into language to enable appropriate use of linguistic
structures, and through language into effective social actors and community
members. Language ideology investigates how particular ways of using
languages reflect and (re)produce socio-cultural values, and the beliefs
and assumptions that people have about language. Data collection will
involve a triangulation of methods, including large-scale questionnaire
surveys, ethnographic community profiling, focus group interviews, and
in-home recordings of interaction. A strengthened knowledge base of
multilingual family language policy will provide insight into how transcultural
families manage their linguistic and cultural heritage in contemporary urban
spaces. The body of new knowledge on family language policy generated
by this project is likely to have significant impact on policy and practice. An
understanding of the interrelationships between multilingual practices and
identity construction can facilitate an appreciation by the wider society of the
benefits of multilingualism and what it means to be a contemporary citizen.