Project description

The ENIFALPO project seeks to identify and map out the ways in which ideas about student achievement in English are evolving among Spanish families, with a particular focus on their language policy strategies. The project departs from the on-the-ground observation that families are taking into their hands, as it were, their children’s acquisition of English more than ever before.

Until recently, families’ intervention outside the school context was generally limited to deciding whether or not to enroll their children in extra-curricular language classes, and choosing what they viewed as the most apt provider. In the last decade, by contrast, the insecurity generated by the 2008 crisis has led to intense forms of individual self-capitalization. Spanish families have become careful ‘nurturers’ of their children’s English capitals (Park, 2016) in hitherto unseen ways.

They thoroughly plan and organize their children’s language learning in order to maximize opportunity. They search for and strategically choose the best ‘investment’. Most of these efforts are shaped by the ideology of linguistic immersion as the most authentic and effective way of learning a foreign language, which means that in many cases children are sent abroad at very early ages. English language immersion is no longer viewed as happening exclusively in the school context, but rather, is an ideal that can be constructed elsewhere provided that a number of steps are taken: the selection of appropriate speakers, policies for regulating and engineering language use, regular mobilities, etc. ENIFALPO attempts to unpack and engage critically with the concept of immersion and its imaginaries to understand how social actors navigate the possibilities (and constraints) of immersion with what consequences (economic, educational, affective, etc.) for whom, and what social inequalities are generated in the process. We also hope to understand how immersion is linked to neoliberal forms of personhood, and to moralized stances of responsible parenthood and citizenship.

Our approach

We draw on situated ethnographic methodologies. These involve researchers’ long-term engagement with actors in the field, and the generation of a variety of empirical data. We work with a pool of families located at the intersection of different sociocultural backgrounds, bi/multilingual experiences, and social class.

Project objectives

  • To study Spain’s intensified desire for English with a focus on the family as the unit of analysis.
  • To discover what kinds of immersion practices, strategies and investments are sought for and engaged in by Spanish families in Catalonia, Castilla-La Mancha and the UK.
  • To analyse families’ language and language learning ideologies sustaining English immersion.
  • To understand the linguistic, socio-economic and affective impact of immersive practices.
  • To unpack families’ motivations, rationalizations and evaluations of their investments.
  • To understand and compare the perspectives and rationalities of family members belonging to different generations.
  • To compare and contrast family strategies across cities and family types.
  • To advance an ethnographic and family-based agenda in the field of language policy and planning.
  • To consolidate a network of researchers working on linguistic immersion from a social perspective across sociopolitical and sociolinguistic contexts.