Multilingual Family Practices

Luk Van Mensel (Université de Namur)

Categorizations such as ‘Nederlandstalig’ (Dutch-speaking), ‘Franstalig’ (French-speaking) and ‘anderstalig’ (other-speaking), as well as combinations of these, are frequently used in research, policy and general discourse in and on Brussels. Such broad categorizations in terms of language background often misrepresent the actual language practices in which people engage. This presentation will look into the language practices of parents from different (linguistic) backgrounds in multilingual Brussels. Applying a social rather than linguistic approach to multilingualism, spoken data were collected from nine parents with children enrolled in Dutch-medium education in Brussels. The data consists of ‘ecological’ recordings (i.e. without the researcher being present) made by these parents of some of their routine daily (language) practices, e.g. dinner talk, taking the children to school or to an extracurricular activity, picking them up, etcetera. The findings illustrate how these parents deploy and activate their various linguistic resources in day-to-day interactions, indicating a variety and complexity of multilingual practices that is ill served by the top-down language-based classifications commonly used.