Transnational experience, aspiration and family language policy

Zhu Hua*, Li Wei

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Transnational and multilingual families have become commonplace in the twenty-first century. Yet relatively few attempts have been made from applied and socio-linguistic perspectives to understand what is going on within such families; how their transnational and multilingual experiences impact on the family dynamics and their everyday life; how they cope with the new and ever-changing environment, and how they construct their identities and build social relations. In this article, we start from the premise that bilingualism and multilingualism mean different things to different generations and individuals within the same family. Additive Bilingualism, which is often celebrated for the positive benefits of adding a second language and culture without replacing or displacing the first, cannot be taken for granted as a common experience of the individuals in transnational families. Using data gathered from a sociolinguistic ethnography of three multilingual and transnational families from China in Britain, we discuss the experiences of different generations and individuals in dealing with bilingualism and multilingualism and how their experiences affect the way individual family members perceive social relations and social structures and construct and present their own identities. The key argument we wish to put forward is that more attention needs to be paid to the diverse experiences of the individuals and to the strategies they use to deal with the challenges of multilingualism, rather than the overall patterns of language maintenance and language shift.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)655-666
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Feb 2016


  • Britain
  • Chinese
  • family ethnography
  • generation
  • Transnational family

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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