Language policy in families and institutions with pre-school aged children

Panel session, Friday November 8 at 10:30

Venue: E0101

Organized by Sally Boyd and Leena Huss

Åsa Palviainen 

Bilingual pedagogy in a time of change? Language ideologies of a Finnish preschool teacher

Carola Kleemann 

Play in two languages. How bilingual children use Norwegian and North‐Sámi in role‐play

Leena Huss and Sally Boyd 

Language policy and practice in two non-Swedish medium pre-schools in Sweden 


Language policy in families and institutions with pre-school aged children

Sally Boyd and Leena Huss

Research on early multilingual development has classically been carried out in the home, with a few children studied intensively (Ronjat 1913, Leopold 1970, Lanza 1997, de Houwer 2007). Often the children studied have been raised using the one person -­‐ one language policy. Development is studied primarily, but not only, from a psycholinguistic perspective (e.g. Lanzas study is an exception). As families and contexts become more and more linguistically diverse, further research is called for which looks at multilingual development when more than two languages are involved, or when living contexts are complex or changing. Different families have different goals for and ideologies supporting their children’s bi- or multilingual development. The concept of family language policy (King, Fogle & Logan‐Terry 2008; Schwarz 2010) has recently been introduced to capture the breadth and diversity of contexts and ideologies surrounding children’s multilingual development.

Some researchers have also begun to look at children’s 
agency in their own linguistic development in relation to family language policy or language socialization. 
Children in modern welfare states do not merely develop their languages at home, from their parents. Pre-schools in various European and North American contexts have also become more diverse in terms of language curriculums, goals and policies, in response to increasing language diversity. Some schools are started with the goal of developing more than one language, others of primarily developing a minority language, still others of children supporting each other’s language development in different languages. Often, children with a variety of language backgrounds in the home attend the same pre-school. An increasing number of pre-schools need to formulate policies regarding language practices, to develop pedagogical practices to achieve these new goals, while taking families’ varying wishes and goals into account. Multilingual practices in these diverse pre-school contexts have become an interesting object of research. 
The contributors to this workshop are all currently engaged in research in early multilingual development in family or pre‐school contexts or both. What we have in common is a sociolinguistic or sociocultural approach to language development and diversity.


De Houwer, A. 2007. Parental language input patterns and children’s bilingual use. Applied Psycholinguistics 28(3): 411–424.  

King, K., L. Fogle, and A. Logan-Terry. 2008. Family language policy. Language and Linguistics Compass 2(5): 907–922.

Lanza, E. 1997. Language mixing in infant bilingualism: A sociolinguistic perspective. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Leopold, W. 1970. Speech development of a bilingual child: A linguist’s record. New York:AMSP.

Ronjat, J. 1913. Le développement de langage observé chez un enfant bilingue [Language development observed in a bilingual child]. Paris: H. Champion.

Schwartz, M. 2010. Family language policy: Core issues of an emerging field. Applied Linguistics Review 1(1): 171–192.


Bilingual pedagogy in a time of change? Language ideologies of a Finnish preschool teacher

Åsa Palviainen & Karita Mård-Miettinen, University of Jyväskylä

This study describes the process of introducing a new type of bilingual pedagogy in a Finnish ‐medium monolingual preschool. Apart from language immersion schools, bilingual education in Finnish and Swedish is not permitted and this is at the moment a hot topic of debates in Finland. Further, there is a strong language educational dogma that languages should be kept separate for the best language learning results. In the case study preschool we have examined, a bilingual teacher has instead used translanguaging (e.g. García 2009) strategies in the monolingual preschool classroom for a period of four months at the time of data collection. We will show how her own language pedagogical ideologies have changed over time and also how she copes with her ideologies sometimes clashing with prevailing ones expressed e.g. by colleagues.


Play in two languages. How bilingual children use Norwegian and North-Sámi in role-play

Carola Kleemann, Finnmark University College

The theme this presentation is language choices in bilingual role-play with children using Norwegian and North-Sámi. The children in the kindergarten use both Norwegian and North-Sámi daily, their family praxis is often bilingual. I found that the children use both their languages in role-play, and their language praxis is governed by the rules of role-play.

Research on codeswitching has treated language alternation as a switching of codes (Alvarez-Cáccamo, 1998b; Auer, 1984, 1998, 2011; Gafaranga & Torras, 2002; Myers- Scotton, 1993). I view this as a monolingual perspective on language alternation, in a bilingual perspective codes may change when language alternation occurs, but in a bilingual setting there are other alternatives, like bilingualism (Alvarez-Cáccamo, 1998a, 1998b; Gafaranga, 2007; Gafaranga & Torras, 2002). From my study of bilingual play, I see the children not necessarily treating the languages as codes, there are other cues, or clusters of cues, that convey the codes of role‐play (Halmari & Smith, 1994).

Language policy and practice in two non-Swedish medium pre-schools in Sweden

Sally Boyd, University of Gothenburg & Leena Huss, Uppsala University

Huss’ work in this presentation focuses on the role of the Swedish and Finnish languages in the daily practice of a Finnish pre-school class in an otherwise Swedish preschool in Sweden. On the basis of classroom observations, a few preliminary findings will be discussed, among them some ways in which the children seem to comply with, or challenge, the perceived language policy of the preschool.
Similarly, Boyds presentation will look at the role of Swedish and English in the daily practices in an English medium pre-school class in an English-medium school in Sweden. She will likewise present some early findings and discuss how children and staff comply with and use in a flexible manner the monolingual policy of the pre-school.