To Mix or Not to Mix: Parental attitudes towards translanguaging and language management choices

Wilson, Sonia (2021). To Mix or Not to Mix: Parental attitudes towards translanguaging and language management choices. International Journal of Bilingualism, 25(1) pp. 58–76.



Aim and objectives:
The present study investigates parental language beliefs and management among French-English bilingual families in the UK. It addresses the following two research questions. (a) What are parents’ attitudes towards translanguaging and beliefs about effective language management? (b) Do these beliefs and attitudes translate into language separation strategies versus flexible language practices?

This paper reports part of the results of a mixed-method study consisting of an online survey as well as multiple in-depth case studies. The qualitative portion of the present article focuses on two case studies including face-to-face interviews and observations in the family home.

Data and analysis:
Responses to the online questionnaire ( n = 164) were analysed using descriptive statistics. Thematic analysis was used for interview data. Observations were analysed through the Family Language Policy framework and by looking at turn-taking sequences and meta-linguistic comments.

Parental ideologies appear to have evolved towards more positive attitudes towards language mixing. However, these positive attitudes towards translanguaging do not necessarily result in flexible language practices at home. Findings/conclusions: Language separation strategies such as one parent–one language may be adopted not as a result of ideologies, but despite parents’ beliefs about the flexible nature of bilingualism and owing to the pressure experienced by parents to develop children’s heritage language (HL) proficiency.

The findings contradict previous studies, which reported the predominance of monoglossic language ideologies among middle-class parents. They suggest that parental language beliefs may have evolved and that a translingual ideology is making its way into multilingual families.

The study suggests that practical support in the form of additional sources of HL input, rather than theoretical guidance, would be required for parents to embrace flexible language management at home. The present study findings also highlight the dilemma parents face between prioritising their children’s bilingual development and fostering a harmonious bilingual environment for their families.

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