Blurring the binaries of home/school in Family Language Policy


  • Busani Maseko North-West University Author



Family Language Policy, Ndebele, language lessons, language ideologies, language practices, Zimbabwe


The persistence of the COVID-19-induced lockdowns resulted in increased parent-child encounters as parents worked from home while children learnt through remote platforms. This blurred the binaries of home/school as parents assumed the role of teachers by participating in children’s schooling more formally. By focusing on the role of parents as teachers in heritage language tasks, this study discusses family language ideologies and how they are infused into the teaching and learning of Ndebele, a historically minoritised and marginalised language in Zimbabwe. Data is drawn from a linguistic ethnography of a Ndebele heritage language family residing in the city of Bulawayo. Data consists of audio-recorded Ndebele language lessons and parental interviews. By drawing on the concepts of Family Language Policy and Bourdieu’s notion of ‘legitimate language’, the study exposes how children’s heritage language tasks became important aspects of family’s language transactions, contestations and negotiations. Parents build on their temporary teacher authority to assert their agency in reinforcing a Ndebele identity by endeavouring to teach Ndebele to their children through a ‘Ndebele lens’. Children’s stances towards parents’ monolingual practices and ideologies reveal their resistant agency. Their appeals for explanations and translations of some Ndebele words and expressions into English reproduce school language practices and ideologies that project English as the legitimate language. Parents’ insistence on monolingual practices and children’s language negotiations also reproduces the tensions that exist between English and indigenous languages at school and in the community at large. The study concludes that despite these tensions, these heritage language tasks present opportunities for productive language concordant parent-child encounters that reinforce children’s linguistic identities.

Author Biography

  • Busani Maseko, North-West University

    Busani Maseko is a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the School of Languages at North-West University (Vanderbijlpark, South Africa). His research interests intersect on the broad areas of multilingualism, language policy, and language and social justice.


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How to Cite

Maseko, B. (2024). Blurring the binaries of home/school in Family Language Policy. Sociolinguistic Studies, 18(1-2), 81-106.