Mapping the dimensions of family language policy for young children: the case of Emirati families

Qilong Zhang, Ghadah AlMurshidi, Ke Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The United Arab Emirates has a unique multilingual landscape with over 100 languages considered as the first languages of its population, English as the dominant lingua franca for communication among virtually all residents, and Arabic as the official language. The Emirati (native Arab citizens) families with young children have been in a unique sociolinguistic dilemma, and little is known about how they deal with the dilemma. This study aimed to address the gap. Individual ethnographic interviews were conducted with 20 Emirati families by trained Emirati ethnographic interviewers. Focused open and axial coding generated three dimensions of family literacy policy (FLP). Language ideology encapsulates the parents’ perception, assumption, and aspiration about Arabic and English and the child’s learning of the two languages. Language behavior features environmental control, motivational control, and task control concerning language education. Language metacognition foregrounds the parents’ evaluation of their child’s language learning and reflection on their own language behaviour. The three dimensions of FLP are reciprocally related. The three-dimensional model may serve as a useful conceptual framework for future investigation into FLP.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024


  • Arabic
  • bilingual
  • English
  • Family language policy
  • UAE

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Education
  • Linguistics and Language


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