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Family Language Policy and Multilingualism

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Title: Family Language Policy and Multilingualism
Author(s): Nyberg, Romina
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Degree program: Master's Programme Linguistic Diversity in the Digital Age
Specialisation: General Linguistics
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2021
This thesis explores the family language policy (FLP) of mixed-language families living in Finland. More and more children are born in multicultural families, where parents have different first languages, and many of them wonder what language strategy to use in the home environment to be beneficial for the language development of their children. Sharing circumstances with other parents in multicultural families, and having a personal interest in multilingualism drove my interest in investigating the family language policy of mixed-language families who reside in Finland; how the daily use of more than one language is established, implemented and managed at the family level. With three main objectives - 1) identifying parental language practices, 2) examining parental views on multilingualism, 3) identifying influencing factors of language choice – this thesis intends to offer an overview of the family language policies employed by parents, and to reveal possible insightful information about attitudes towards language use. It also aims to highlight areas where parents who raise multilingual children in Finland might need practical guidance and support. A survey was conducted through an online questionnaire across Finland among parents of children up to 17 years old and whose spouses have different first languages. The questionnaire was both quantitative and qualitative in nature. The quantitative data was analysed by means of descriptive statistics, and for analysing the qualitative data, an inductive approach was used based on a thematic analysis performed at a semantic level. The main results identified one parent - one language (OPOL) as the most preferred language practice and showed that parents’ determination and plan to employ a language separation strategy does not fully materialize into practice. The type of parental language practice differs among parents of children from different age groups. Despite the myriad of factors that influence parents’ language choice, their family language policies seem to be oriented around a similar language ideology, one that places value on first language transmission and on equal early multilingual acquisition. The transmission of first language appears to be intrinsic to the nature of parenthood. In addition to the main findings, the timing of introducing a new language and the limited availability of language resources for minority languages were identified as the areas where parents who raise multilingual children in Finland need guidance and support. The results and findings of this study deepen our knowledge and understanding of relevant aspects and challenges related to the family language policies of mixed-language families.
Keyword(s): Family language policy bilingualism multilingualism multilingual families language attitudes

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