Speaker: Ruth Kircher, Ph.D., Mercator European Research Centre on Multilingualism and Language Learning
Date: Friday, February 26, 2021
Time: Noon - 1:30 p.m.
Location: Online presentation, on Zoom
Language of presentation: English
In Quebec, thousands of children are being raised multilingually – with French and/or English as well as a multitude of different heritage languages (Statistics Canada 2021). In this talk, I will present three studies (two completed and one in progress) that investigate the links between language attitudes on the one hand, and intergenerational language transmission and family language policy on the other hand.
In the first study (Kircher 2019), I made use of a questionnaire to gather quantitative data from 274 parents of different linguistic backgrounds throughout the province. The aim was to find out what language(s) these parents transmit to their children, and what factors affect this intergenerational language transmission. The results reveal clearly distinct transmission patterns for the different linguistic groups, but they show that attitudes towards the language(s) are significant predictors for all. Specifically, attitudes on the solidarity dimension were found to play a significant role – that is, the parents’ sense that the language(s) represent(s) the social group(s) to which they belong.
Yet, the entirety of the factors that influence family language policies remains poorly understood. In the second study, we (Ballinger et al. 2020) thus conducted interviews and focus groups to elicit qualitative data from 27 Montreal-based parents of different linguistic backgrounds. All were raising their children multilingually, and we sought to determine their language ideologies and practices as well as their concerns about raising their children with more than one language. The findings indicate a complex co-existence of family and official language policy, revealing many similarities among the different linguistic groups while also highlighting the particular difficulties faced by parents who are raising their children with a heritage language.
We used the findings from the interviews and focus groups to construct a questionnaire. By means of this, we aim to gain an even more comprehensive understanding of parents’ attitudes towards raising their children multilingually, and about the role that such attitudes play in family language policies. This questionnaire is currently being used to gather both quantitative and qualitative data from Quebec-based parents (>800) throughout the province.
In this talk, I will discuss the three studies with a focus on the link between language attitudes, intergenerational language transmission, and family language policy in Quebec, and I will elaborate on the potential implications that the findings can be seen to have in practice.
Ballinger, S., Brouillard, M., Ahooja, A., Kircher, R., Polka, L. and Byers-Heinlein, K. (2020) Intersections of official and family language policy in Quebec. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, online ahead of print.
Kircher, R. (2019) Intergenerational language transmission in Quebec: Patterns and predictors in the light of provincial language planning. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, online ahead of print.
Statistics Canada (2021) English, French and non-official languages spoken at home by geography, 2001 to 2016.