Family language policy between the bilingual advantage and the monolingual mindset

Ingrid Piller, Livia Gerber*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Citations (Scopus)
156 Downloads (Pure)


In contemporary Western societies, parenting has become the subject of a substantial body of advice and self-help literature. Within this literature, questions of bilingual parenting have begun to add yet another dimension to parental anxieties. Against this background, we examine how parents in a general Australian online parenting forum discuss the desires they have for their children's bilingualism and the challenges they experience to their bilingual parenting. We first demonstrate that individual bilingualism in the abstract is discussed in highly favourable terms and is widely conceptualised as a ‘gift’ from parents to children. However, posters’ belief in the bilingual advantage does not easily translate into effective bilingual parenting practices. First, many posters are concerned that bilingualism in the early years might be jeopardising their child's English language proficiency and hence school success. Second, a very narrow definition of ‘true’ bilingualism is connected with a relatively dogmatic belief in the ‘one parent, one language’ parenting strategy. As a result, consecutive bilinguals, particularly migrant fathers, come to be perceived as both problematic bilinguals and problematic parents. We close with implications for family language policy and advocacy in the face of entrenched institutional English monolingualism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)622-635
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism
Issue number5
Early online date1 Aug 2018
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2018. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • bilingualism
  • bilingual parenting
  • family language policy
  • gender
  • monolingualism
  • multilingualism
  • online parenting advice


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