Is Foreign Language Knowledge a Form of Capital Passed from One Generation to the Next?

  • Joanna Rokita-JaśkowEmail author
Part of the Second Language Learning and Teaching book series (SLLT)


The roles of family environment and parental involvement in child education have been particularly emphasised in recent pedagogical research, which indicates that children from more favourable family backgrounds, characterised by such distal variables as higher socio-economic status of the family (SES), higher level of parental education etc., are more likely to succeed at school than children from less favourable family backgrounds. This has been found to be partly due to the fact that such children tend to obtain more support and help from their parents at home, and have better access to material and educational resources. Parental Foreign Language (FL) knowledge can also be regarded as a form of capital from which children’s eventual interest and success in FLs evolves. This paper reports the findings of a survey study that was conducted among parents of very young learners of L2 (n = 670). The aim of the study was to investigate whether there is any relationship between parents’ own knowledge of foreign languages and their motives for enrolling their children into very early FL instruction, the level of parental aspiration for the children’s FL achievement and parents’ vocational plans for their children. A correlation was found to exist between maternal knowledge of FLs and certain motives for enrolment into very early FL instruction, as well as long-term FL and vocational aspirations. A similar relationship was identified between the paternal level of education and long term FL and vocational aspirations. In respect of current expectations in relation to the child’s FL achievement, parents with higher levels of FL knowledge were found to have lower expectations than parents of lower FL competence. Finally, it is argued that the impact of the family environment is the key social factor that accounts for differences in very early FL acquisition; and, whilst family environment may not be deterministic in early childhood, it may be an early indicator of future ease of learning and a positive attitude to FLL.


Very young learners Language policy Linguistic capital Parental aspirations 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Pedagogical University of CracowCracowPoland

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