Sociolinguistic Studies, Estudios de Sociolingüística 2.1 2001

Private language planning: The best of both worlds?

Ingrid Piller
Issued Date: 14 Mar 2007


One aspect of childhood bilingualism that is frequently overlooked is the fact that, in many cases, childhood bilingualism is the result of private language planning. Particularly so-called 'elite bilinguals' (middle-class international couples, expatriates, academics who raise their children in a non-native language, etc.) make carefully considered choices when it comes to the question whether to educate their children bilingually, and how to go about it. This article reviews the research literature on childhood bilingualism as it pertains to parental language planning. The main part of the article is devoted to an exploration of the choices parents make in such contexts, the ideologies that inform those choices and the practices that they engage in (as evidenced in self-reports). Finally, the attention will turn to the reported outcomes and the evaluations of those outcomes. The findings suggest that only a very limited number of aspects of public discourses (the research literature) filter through into private discourses (parental reports on their language planning). Consequently, the parents act in a societal context where bilingualism is increasingly valorised, but where a limited understanding of the sociolinguistics of bilingualism often leads to disappointment and self-doubt.

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DOI: 10.1558/sols.v2i1.61


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