Young Swedish-Estonian Returnees to Estonia: Reflections on Family Language Policy and a Multilingual Upbringing

Anna Verschik and Colm James Doyle

Abstract The present paper reports the findings of a study into the recollections by four Swedish-Estonian young adult informants of their multilingual upbringing and their parents’ family language policy (FLP). With the narratives of the young adult children and their experiences growing up the focus, the paper investigates the outcomes of the respective FLPs and concerns itself with a form of ‘unofficial’ language policy that operates at a level far below that of the state.

Born in Sweden, the informants all now live in Estonia. The sociolinguistic context of the small nation of Estonia, a post-Soviet situation, provides some insights for a discussion of FLP; namely, the notions of ‘minority’ and ‘majority’, and how the manner in which Estonian-speakers perceive their ‘smaller’ country and language affects their FLPs.

Two semi-structured interviews (one in Estonian and one in English) were conducted separately with each of the informants (eight interviews in total). Alongside matters to do directly with the FLPs and upbringing, the issues of Estonian as a ‘smaller’ language and Estonia as a multilingual place were investigated from the perspective of the informants. This study contributes to the as yet small body of literature on children’s perspectives of FLP.

Keywords Family language policy • Youth multilingualism • Estonian • Heritage language

A. Verschik (*) • C.J. Doyle

School of Humanities, Tallinn University, Tallinn, Estonia e-mail: This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it ; This email address is being protected from spam bots, you need Javascript enabled to view it

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

M. Siiner et al. (eds.), Language Policy Beyond the State, Language Policy 14, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-52993-6_7

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