Seminar: Digital languaging in the family

Welcome to a digital seminar about online language practices in family contexts. 

23 September 2021, 13.00-17.30 CET, online, free and open to all

Contact for Zoom link


13.00 Welcome

13.15 Multilingual Digital Practices in Transnational Families, Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen, University of Bath - Click here for Curdt-Christiansen's Presentation

13.45 Digital Media as Language and Literacy Learning Spaces in Multilingual Families - introducing a new research project from Luxembourg, Maria Obojska, University of Luxembourg - Click here for Obojska's Presentation

14.15 Anti-screen but pro-language: exploring parental attitudes and practices towards digital heritage language practices, Sabine Little, Sheffield University - Click here for Little's Presentation

14.45 Break

15.15 Digital resources as overt tools for family language learning and use among Arabic multilingual families, Fatma Said, Zayed University - Click here for Said's Presentation

15.45 Examining family language practices with the Mobile Instant Messaging Interview (MIMI), Åsa Palviainen, University of Jyväskylä

16.15 Digital communication and sociolinguistic change, Andreas Candefors Stæhr, Lian Malai Madsen, Astrid Ag and Janus Spindler Møller, University of Copenhagen - Click here for Stæhr and Madsen's Presentation

16.45 Digital communication in family contexts in light of sociolinguistic perspectives on (family) multilingualism, transnationalism, mobility and online interaction. Panel discussion with Jannis Androutsopoulos, University of Hamburg, Ana Deumert, University of  Cape Town/Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences, Elizabeth Lanza, University of Oslo, and Li Wei, University College London.

17.30 End

Organized by Kristin Vold Lexander, Inland Norway University of Applied Sciences



Multilingual Digital Practices in Transnational Families


Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen, University of Bath

Digital devices are omnipresent in our everyday life and have an immense impact on our social communication and language practices. Transnational families often engage in multilingual practices with their family members close and far via digital devices and through social media. As a result, children are immersed in new technologies which exposes them to multiple languages and digital literacy. This presentation focuses on multilingual and multiliteracy practices of three transnational families from the Chinese diasporic communities in the UK. Through the lens of family language policy, this study looks into how parents and children establish their family language practices, negotiate meanings and develop multiliteracy skills through social media and digital devices. The study involves three sets of families with extended family members living far or near.  Using family language audit as a methodological tool, we conducted ethnographic fieldwork through observation of the families to collect ‘live’ events that were captured through digital communications, including Wechat (Chinese social media app), WhatsApp, Skype, and other apps. The findings indicate that social media are powerful tools to socialise children into multilingual practices and thus enable them to engage in both heritage language and cultural activities. Such engagement will have positive impact on their multi-literacy practices, identity and cognitive development.


Digital Media as Language and Literacy Learning Spaces in Multilingual Families - introducing a new research project from Luxembourg

Maria Obojska, University of Luxembourg

Recent sociolinguist research suggests that transnational families offer their members unique safe spaces for language and literacy learning. With the growing availability and accessibility of digital technologies, many of these families draw on digital media in their learning endeavours. Yet, as of today, there is little systematic knowledge on how digital media are used by transnational families to facilitate language and literacy learning. Focusing on transnational families in Luxembourg, the project DigiFam addresses this knowledge gap through a mixed methods design employing a focus group, a large-scale survey and qualitative case studies. The project’s overarching research question is: In what ways and to what extent are digital media used for language and literacy learning in multilingual transnational families in Luxembourg? To help answer this, the research maps out the tools used by family members for their learning practices, the kinds of language and literacy learning activities the families engage in, as well as the ways the family members create individual and joint learning spaces for learning. The present talk introduces the project, outlines the research questions and the methods used. Further, some preliminary findings from an exploratory focus group interview with parents of 4 transnational families are offered.


Anti-screen but pro-language: exploring parental attitudes and practices towards digital heritage language practices

Sabine Little, University of Sheffield

Family language policy is only recently beginning to explore the notion of child agency (King, 2016; Smith-Christmas, 2021), and technology looks, at first glance, to hold additional motivational opportunities, with many parents recognising the motivational pull it has for their children. On the other hand, continuous news stories warn of “addictive behaviour” in children’s technology use, leading to parental insecurities and concerns regarding the affordances of technology for heritage language maintenance. This talk refers to a study on heritage language families’ expectations, attitudes and practices regarding technology, exploring the role of parents as gatekeepers in this context (Little, 2019, 2020), juxtaposing this with the idea of children as knowledgeable experts in their own language learning experience and technological competencies and motivations, exploring concepts of control, collaboration, and agency.


King, K. A. (2016). Language policy, multilingual encounters, and transnational families. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 37(7), 726-733.

Little, S. (2020) Social Media and the Use of Technology in Home Language Maintenance. In S. Eisenchlas and S. Schalley (Eds) Handbook of Social and Affective Factors in Home Language Maintenance and Development. Berlin, Germany: De Gruyter Mouton.

Little, S. (2019) ‘Is there an app for that?’ Exploring games and apps among heritage language families, Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 40:3, 218-229, DOI: 10.1080/01434632.2018.1502776

Smith-Christmas, C. (2021, online first) Using a 'Family Language Policy' lens to explore the dynamic and relational nature of child agency. Children & Society.


Digital resources as overt tools for family language learning and use among Arabic multilingual families

Fatma Said, Zayed University, UAE

The role technology plays in people’s lives is evermore greater as well as the ease with which

technology and other devices have entered the family home (Plowman, 2015; Palviainen &

Kędra, 2020). This paper presents data on the role Skype, Youtube and online Arabic digitised

book platforms play in supporting five Arabic-English bilingual families’ language learning and practices. The data suggest that technology or digital content appears to support parental efforts in the learning and development of the heritage language (HL). Though heavily monitored by all the parents, technology is strategically employed and engaged with openly to the extent that it conforms to parents’ own visions of it as a support tool in the learning of Arabic, the HL. Equally, children appear to embrace this parental enthusiasm and engage with learning their HL digitally. Despite the many restrictions children seem to also educate their parents on some aspects of the efficient use of technology.

Data was collected through background language forms, audio recordings of interactions, parental interviews, and mothers’ diaries. Findings through thematic analysis (Braun & Clarke, 2013) reveal that Skype offers families an opportunity to enhance the learning of the HL through monolingual interaction with extended family members in their home countries. Youtube allows parents to select specific Arabic language educational content that are fun, modern and instrumental in helping children develop their HL skills. Digital content seems to also offer, in particular, an opportunity for children to systematically develop HL literacy skills to levels that Arabic schools or parents could not offer within the same timeframe and to the same levels of proficiency (See Said, 2021b). The paper highlights how the modern nuclear family unit can transform the home environment into a hub in which the learning of the HL is supported in multiple overt and covert ways.


Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2006). Using thematic analysis in psychology. Qualitative Research in Psychology, 3(2), 77– 101.

Palviainen, Å., & Kędra, J. (2020). What’s in the family app? : Making sense of digitally mediated communication within multilingual families. Journal of Multilingual Theories and Practices, 1(1), 89–111.

Plowman, L. (2015). Researching Young Children’s Everyday Uses of Technology in the Family Home. Interacting with Computers, 27(1), 36–46.

Plowman, L. (2016). Rethinking context: Digital technologies and children’s everyday lives. Children’s Geographies, 14(2), 190–202.

Said, F. F. S. (2021b). ‘Ba-SKY-aP with her each day at dinner’: Technology as supporter in the learning and management of home languages. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 0(0), 1–16.


Examining family language practices with the Mobile Instant Messaging Interview (MIMI)

Åsa Palviainen, University of Jyväskylä

In the Finnish ethnographic project “What’s in the App?”, which is about about bilingual families and their use of technology, the researchers had to quickly adapt to the changed conditions for data collection when the whole society was forced into lockdown in the Spring of 2020. One of the data collection methods implemented was an adaptation of the Mobile Instant Messaging Interview (MIMI) (Kaufmann and Peil, 2020) which allows for data collection on language and media practices in situ and on remote. In the original study, Kaufmann and Peil asked eight young adults the same question every hour via WhatsApp over one day. In our study, 5 children and 9 adults from five families participated for seven days. Six times a day the researcher asked “What are you doing right now?”. The participants could respond in any mode and language. The MIMI interactions generated over 900 messages including texts, images, video clips and/or voice messages. The MIMI provided a rich, multi-voiced and unique insight into the lives of families during exceptional times. In this paper I will discuss the potentials that the remote, in situ MIMI methodology has as an ethnographic data collection tool, but also point to some of its challenges.

Kaufmann, K., & Peil, C. (2020). The mobile instant messaging interview (MIMI): Using WhatsApp to enhance self-reporting and explore media usage in situ. Mobile Media & Communication, 8(2), 229-246. doi:10.1177/2050157919852392


Digital communication and sociolinguistic change – insights from the digital everyday life of Copenhagen families

Andreas C. Stæhr, Lian M. Madsen, Janus S. Møller & Astrid Ag, University of Copenhagen

Concurrently with the technological developments and the increased digital impact on social and cultural life, the interest for the sociolinguistic implications of this has grown among media focused language scholars. The relationship between digital media, linguistic practices and larger scale processes of sociolinguistic change, however, is not straightforward. Some research has focused on language forms within digitally mediated communication and across modalities. Others have been interested in the impact of digital media on linguistic norms and ideologies. In our paper, we contribute to these discussions with a focus on digital communication as part of everyday sociolinguistic conditions. Based on our studies of social media and digital communication among families in Copenhagen, we take into account the impact of particular ideologies of communication, the increased amount of vernacular writing in everyday life and the relationship between vernacular writing and spoken language. We argue that while it is likely that digital communication as sociolinguistic condition leads to a pluralization of norms for written language and communication forms, it is, first and foremost, pertinent to take into account that digital communication involves a variety of different contexts, media and modes of communication with different impact on sociolinguistic change.


Publisert 7. okt. 2021 10:46 - Sist endret 13. jan. 2022 11:01