Multilingual family practices: An interactional study

Luk Van Mensel*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book or Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Many voices in contemporary sociolinguistics profess an understanding of multilingualism as a set of (social) language practices that make up a speaker's language repertoires, rather than as a combination of separate languages seen as bounded entities. Such an interpretation of multilingualism, however, is hard to maintain from a language policy point of view, which typically, perhaps all too easily, assumes a macro-perspective. So even if policy makers include words such as "variety" and "multilingualisation" in their discourse, in practice policies evolve around top-down categories such as Nederlandstalig ('Dutch-speaking') and Franstalig ('French-speaking'), which tend to eschew (and erase) the complexity and fluidity of microlinguistic contexts. In multilingual Brussels (Belgium), for instance, these categorisations, as well as the category anderstalig ('other-speaking'), and combinations of all three, are frequently used. In this Chapter, I will look into some of the language practices of parents from different (linguistic) backgrounds in Brussels. Spoken data were collected from two parent-pairs with children enrolled in Dutch-medium education in Brussels, specifically focusing on the interactions between two of these parents, in this case the fathers, and their respective children. The data consist of audio recordings made by these parents during some of their daily routines, e.g. taking the children to school or extracurricular activities, or picking them up. The findings illustrate how these parents deploy and activate their various linguistic resources in day-to-day interactions, pointing to a variety and complexity of multilingual practices that may be ill served by the top-down classifications of "named languages" commonly used.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUrban Multilingualism in Europe
Subtitle of host publicationBridging the Gap between Language Policies and Language Practices
PublisherDe Gruyter Mouton
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9781501503207
ISBN (Print)9781501511295
Publication statusPublished - 2 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes


Dive into the research topics of 'Multilingual family practices: An interactional study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this