CANCELLED Multilingualism Research Forum/ Flerspråklighetsforum: Parental Involvement: Online Chinese Learning as Heritage Language Education in the UK

This event has unfortunately been cancelled.

Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen (Professor, University of Bath, UK) will discuss parental involvement of a group of Chinese parents in their children’s heritage language (HL) development in the UK.


Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen
Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen

This paper reports on a study of parental involvement of a group of Chinese parents in their children’s heritage language (HL) development in the UK. Parental involvement is not a new phenomenon. In relation to family language policy (FLP), it is directly reflected in parents’ conscious investment in providing linguistic conditions and deliberate engagement in language learning and literacy development (Curdt-Christiansen, 2018, 2020). While research into FLP has flourished in recent years, from studying why parents make certain decisions on what languages to learn (e.g., Curdt-Christiansen, 2016; Lanza & Lexander, 2019) to how they facilitate home language practices (e.g., Curdt-Christiansen & Lanza 2018; Lanza & Curdt-Christiansen 2018; Said & Zhu 2019), few studies have examined how parents are involved in their children’s online heritage language learning during the lockdowns.

The study is situated in the context of the pandemic lockdowns, where it has been observed that children from transnational families not only spend more time with their parents but are also more exposed to their heritage languages (Hardach, 2020). Involving seven Chinese families of different home country origins, this study looks into why parents choose to enrol their children in a particular online heritage language learning programme, the Language Link. It further examines what roles parents play during the online learning sessions and how children perceive parental involvement in the online learning of Chinese as HL.

The study adopts the netnographic approach to data collection (Kozinets, 2015) in response to school closure during the Covid-19 pandemic. Data sources include: 1) online classroom observations; 2) parents’ focus group interviews; 3) parent-teacher interactions; and 4) semi-structured interviews with children. Data are coded through emerging patterns and presented in the following types of parental involvement: parents as emotional supporters, co-educators, teaching assistants, and technical supporters.

The findings suggest that parental involvement needs to be reconceptualised in relation to FLP. With online learning in particular, it goes beyond the three elements of language ideology, language practices and language management to include why they are involved in and how they select specific types of involvement. Building on existing studies, we propose a new model of parental involvement (PI) that includes PI as a commitment, PI as a process, and PI as a practice. This conceptualisation of PI will enhance our understanding of FLP by concretely manifesting what parents do and the ways they do it in their children’s heritage language development.


Curdt-Christiansen, X.L. (2020). Educating migrant children in the UK: Language and educational practices in home and school environments. International Multilingual Research Journal, 14(2), 163-180.

Curdt-Christiansen, X. L. (2018). Family language policy. The Oxford handbook of language policy and planning, 420-441.

Curdt-Christiansen, X.L. (2016). Conflicting language ideologies and contradictory language practices in Singaporean bilingual families. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 37(7), 694-709.

Curdt-Christiansen, X.L. and Lanza, E. (2018) (Eds.). Language management in multilingual family: Efforts, measures and choices. Multilingua: Journal of Cross-Cultural and Interlanguage Communication, 37(2), 123-130.

Hardach, S. (2020). In Quarantine, kids pick up parents’ mother tongues.,a%20shared%20identity%20and%20heritage

Kozinets, R. (2015). Netnography: Redefined (2nd ed.). Los Angeles: SAGE.

Lanza, E., & Curdt-Christianesn, X.L. (2018). Multilingual families: Aspirations and Challenges. International Journal of Multilingualism, 15(3), 231-232.

Lanza, E., & Lexander, K. V. (2019). Family Language Practices in Multilingual Transcultural Families. In Montanari, S., & Quay, S. (eds.) Multidisciplinary Perspectives on Multilingualism (pp. 229-252). De Gruyter Mouton.

Said, F., & Zhu, H. (2019). “No, no Maama! Say ‘Shaatir ya Ouledee Shaatir’!” Children’s agency in language use   and socialisation. International Journal of Bilingualism23(3), 771-785.


Xiao Lan Curdt-Christiansen is Professor in Applied Linguistics at the Department of Education, University of Bath, UK. She is Director of Centre for Research in Education in Asia and Cluster Leader in Language, Education and Practice Cluster.

Her research interests encompass ideological, sociocultural-cognitive and policy perspectives on children’s multilingual education and biliteracy development.  As an active researcher, she has examined bi/multilingual community-home-school contexts in the UK, Canada, France, China and Singapore on topics of curriculum policy, language-in-educational policy and family language policy. Her most recent research project is entitled Family Language Policy: A Multi-Level Investigation of Multilingual Practices in Transnational Families, funded by The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

She has published widely in the field of applied linguistics. Her recent books include: Learning Chinese in Diasporic Communities; and Language, Ideology and Education: The Politics of Textbooks in Language Education. Her other publications have appeared in leading academic journals, such as Language Policy; International Journal of Sociology of Language; International Journal of Bilingualism and Bilingual Education; Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development; Language and Education; and Language, Culture and Curriculum, etc.

Published Apr. 6, 2022 12:21 PM - Last modified Apr. 27, 2022 11:52 AM