Children and choices. The effect of macro language policy on the individual agency of parents in Brussels

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In the past decade, research on language policy has shifted from a top–down approach toward the inclusion of micro-political aspects and ethnographic approaches. In studies of bilingualism and bilingual acquisition the role of parents and parenting has always been mentioned as an important (although somewhat peripheral) factor. In this paper, our aim is to bring these two strands of research together, by putting parents at the center stage of our investigation and showing how having children can considerably qualify the effects of a particular language policy at the micro level. We will do so by presenting the case of a transnational couple with a ‘mixed’ language background who are confronted with the two-tier organization of the city they live in (Brussels, Belgium). As we will see, having children has turned a previously ‘invisible’ top–down language policy into a salient reality for these parents, with a clear influence on their micro-political agency and their sense of belonging. By taking the example of this particular couple as a point of departure, we will discuss what education policy options could be implemented to cater for the particular situation of transnational parents in general.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)547-560
JournalLanguage Policy
Early online date7 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Belgium
  • Macro–micro language policy
  • Multilingualism
  • Parents
  • Transnationalism

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