To Make the Root Stronger: Language Policies and Experiences of Successful Multilingual Intermarried Families with Adolescent Children in Tallinn

  • Colm DoyleEmail author
Part of the Multilingual Education book series (MULT, volume 7)


The present chapter reports results of a study on the language policies and experiences of 11 intermarried families in Tallinn. As the capital of Estonia, the city contains much of the linguistic and ethnic diversity of the state. Forty-five percent (45 %) of the country’s 392,000-strong non-ethnic-Estonian population resides in the city (Statistics Estonia, Statistical database: population and Housing Census 2011: PC0428: population by ethnic nationality, sex and place of residence, 31 December 2011. Accessed: 24 June 2013, 2013a), half the city’s population speaks a non-Estonian language as a mother tongue and 23 % of residents are of a different citizenship than Estonian (Tallinn City Government, Statistical Yearbook of Tallinn 2012. Accessed 24 June 2013, 2012). Ten of the participant families had been successful in raising at least one child to adolescence with active and productive competence in at least two languages including the state language, Estonian. Another participant family was on its way to achieving this goal. Through semi-structured interviews the family members discussed the formation and application of language policy; shared their experiences; and looked to the future when the adolescent children become adults and consider starting families of their own. It is suggested that the successful outcomes were not wholly due to the families’ language policies, but that the particular sociolinguistic context of Tallinn, as well as the status of the languages involved, also had a large role to play.


Present Author Language Policy Mother Tongue Minority Language Adolescent Child 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



I acknowledge the valuable feedback to this chapter of Mila Schwartz, my doctoral supervisor Anna Verschik and my family, and also the assistance of the schools and the participation of the 11 families, without whom this study would not have been possible.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Estonian Language and CultureTallinn UniversityTallinnEstonia

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