Naturalism and ideological work: How is family language policy renegotiated as both parents and children learn a threatened minority language?

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Parents who enrol their children to be educated through a threatened minority language frequently do not speak that language themselves and classes in the language are sometimes offered to parents in the expectation that this will help them to support their children's education and to use the minority language in the home. Providing language-learning opportunities for parents with children in minority-language education is understood as good practice in language revitalization, but there is little research on the efficacy of this practice. I will present data from narrative, life-history interviews with mothers who have learned Scottish Gaelic to some level and who have children who attend Gaelic-medium education and I will discuss the difficulties they encounter in establishing new norms of language use in the family and the strategies they use to effect a new language policy in the home. I will show how these mothers work to establish a new norm of Gaelic use in the family in opposition to a common background ideology that understands language as a natural object, and therefore, that it is wrong and bad parenting to 'force' a language on a child.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)570-585
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number5
Early online date3 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - 2014



  • family language policy
  • language ideologies
  • immersion education
  • adult language learners
  • Scottish Gaelic

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