‘No! I’m going to school, I need to speak English!’: Who makes family language policies?

Yalda M. Kaveh, Jorge Sandoval

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Schools in the United States have historically conducted language policing in favor of standardized American English. The current study examines links between language policies in eight immigrant families in relation to educational language policies of two public elementary schools operating under an English-only policy in Massachusetts. The study places a focus on the agency of children and parents expressed through interviews, while paying attention to the institutional power of schooling. The participating families spoke Cape Verdean Creole, Mandarin, Portuguese, and Spanish as their heritage languages. Two theoretical frameworks informed our findings. Firstly, we use “family language policy” to define language decisions in families as a multifaceted construct. Secondly, we analyze family language beliefs and practices through a “language ideology” lens to unveil power structures influencing them. Our findings showed that the participants’ spoken beliefs positioned bilingualism and heritage language maintenance as valuable. However, family language decisions showed an increasing preference for English that inherently aligned with the English-only educational policies and practices and alienated heritage languages. Our study contributes to the existing body of literature on family language policy by adding more nuance to the contextual and fluid nature of language decisions in bilingual families.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)362-383
Number of pages22
JournalBilingual Research Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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