Bilingual and multilingual families in an urban setting: transitional or irreversible

Rudi Janssens

Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium


Bilingual and multilingual families in an urban setting: transitional or irreversible

This presentation focuses on language use within families. Although Brussels is considered as a bilingual city with two language communities, there have always been bilingual families speaking both languages as well. Apart from the traditional language groups, global migration has brought people with different cultural and linguistic backgrounds into Brussels adapting to the local language or languages. In a multilingual urban environment with a young population, relationships with partners with a different linguistic background are a common fact. The mixture of traditional and new bilingual/multilingual families makes Brussels an interesting linguistic laboratory. First of all this study tries to discern the different types of bilingual or multilingual families: what is the background of partners forming traditional Dutch/French bilingual families, how do immigrant languages survive in this new environment, when partners have a different linguistic background when do they prefer to speak both languages and when do they use only one, are there differences according to the languages spoken by the partners or do other factors influence their linguistic choices… Secondly we will describe the different moments of transition where families make decisions about the languages they speak: is it a matter of time, what role do children play, … Finally we will describe the way different home languages are passed on to the next generation. The data used in this paper originate from two language surveys held in 2000 and in 2006, so that apart from the description also the evolution of these types of families over time can be studied. Does the current evolution lead to bilingual/multilingual families as the dominant family type in urban areas or is this bilingualism/multilingualism an intermediate position in an evolution towards the use of the lingua franca as the single home language of the next generation.


JANSSENS Rudi, Taalgebruik in Brussel. Taalverhoudingen, taalverschuivingen en taalidentiteit in een meertalige stad, Brusselse Thema's 8, Brussel, VUBPRESS, 2001

JANSSENS Rudi, L’impacte de la immigració estrangera sobre l’ ús lingûistic a Brussel-les, In Vila F., Boix-Fuster E. & Alturio N.. Integrar, des de la fragilitat ? Societats plurilingües davant els reptes de les immigracions multilingües : Suïsa, Brussel-les, Luxemburg, Quebec i Catalunya, Barcelona : Altés, 2006, pp 23-28

JANSSENS Rudi, Taalbarometer 2. Ontwikkeling van een onderzoeksinstrumentarium voor de analyse van de taalstudie en de processen van taalverwerving en taalverschuiving in het Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest, Onderzoeksrapport VUB-BRIO (niet gepubliceerd)

Session: Paper session
Contact 2
Friday, April 4, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 10