Parents as Agents of Multilingual Education: Family Language Planning in China

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As a linguistically heterogeneous nation, China has 290 languages and nearly 2000 distinct fangyans (dialects or subdialects) with Putonghua as the national language. These languages and language varieties are hierarchically ranked, based on their wider communicative and socioeconomic values. This paper reports on how Putonghua, fangyans, and English are perceived by a group of Chinese middle-class parents and how parents as agents of language policy provide affordances and constraints in facilitating or limiting their children’s language development in English, Putonghua and fangyans. The study involves eight Chinese city-dwelling families with children aged 5-11 years. By examining the children’s family language audits, observing their language/literacy practices, and engaging in conversation about parental language ideologies, the study aims to understand how public discourse about different languages or fangyans and their perceived values shape parental involvement in their children’s language development. The results of the study suggest that parents as agents of decision making have a strong influence on the changes of linguistic ecology in China in urban contexts.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)235-254
Number of pages20
JournalLanguage, Culture and Curriculum
Issue number3
Early online date31 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2018


  • Chinese families
  • Parental agency
  • Putonghua
  • family language policy
  • fangyan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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