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The Interrelationship of Family Language Policies, Emotions, Socialisation Practices and Language Management Strategies


Sviatlana Karpava

University of Cyprus, CY
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Multilingual families in immigrant/minority language contact settings face various challenges that are related to their affective and emotional domains, as well as to their well-being. This study investigated the interrelationship of the family language policies (FLPs), emotions, socialisation practices and language management strategies of immigrant Russian and mixed-marriage families in Cyprus. The participants were eighty multilingual families from low-middle-high socio-economic backgrounds, including two- and one-parent families who resided in rural or in urban areas. Forty were mixed-marriage (Russian wife and Greek Cypriot husband) families and 40 were Russian-speaking (both spouses Russian) immigrant families who resided in Cyprus. Data sources included a questionnaire about the families’ general backgrounds, the parents’ socio-economic status, their linguistic behaviour and their children’s language proficiency, and semi-structured interviews with the mothers focused on their FLP, home language development and socio-emotional well-being. An analysis of the diverse family types revealed both differences and similarities amongst Russian speakers in Cyprus and their FLPs. Russian speakers incorporated a wide range of language repertoires in their everyday lives. Multilingualism and the maintenance of the Russian language and culture were usually encouraged, as was the development of the children’s Russian-language literacy, and the parents often used the one-parent-one-language (OPOL) approach at home. In many cases, FLPs were characterised by translanguaging to enhance dynamic multilingualism and emotional well-being at home. However, not all of the efforts resulted in successful language transmission, which may have been due to individual and/or societal differences and family configurations.

How to Cite: Karpava, S. (2022). The Interrelationship of Family Language Policies, Emotions, Socialisation Practices and Language Management Strategies. Journal of Home Language Research, 5(1), 4. DOI:
  Published on 28 Oct 2022
 Accepted on 16 Oct 2022            Submitted on 17 Aug 2021


Bilingual and multilingual families in immigrant and minority language contact settings encounter various challenges that are related to their affective and emotional domains and well-being (De Houwer, 2015; Little, 2017). Both parents and children may experience emotional distance, social exclusion, and a lack of social connection with their immediate social environment due to various factors such as a low level of proficiency in the majority language and mixed cultural and linguistic identities (Müller et al., 2020). Language awareness in the community, effective family language policies (FLPs) and socialisation activities are important for the maintenance and transmission of language. FLP presupposes practice, management, and ideology, as well as emotional and psychological factors (Spolsky, 2004). Language ideologies depend on the family, the language use and the value assigned to it, the place and status of minority and majority languages, dynamics, quality, the extent and longevity of social use, social networks, and strategies for revitalisation (Curdt-Christiansen, 2018; King et al., 2008; Spolsky, 2009). Bi-/multilingual parents might prefer translanguaging to express their emotions in child-parent interactions and may tend to select their first language (L1) when discussing sensitive or emotionally laden topics (Chen et al., 2012). Translanguaging allows the use of the full linguistic repertoire and resources for communication or learning, promoting flexible bilingualism and multiple discourse practices (Blackledge & Creese, 2010; García, 2009).

This study focuses on the FLP, socio-emotional well-being and home language development of mixed-marriage Russian and immigrant families in Cyprus. Positive attitudes and beliefs towards the use, maintenance and transmission of the heritage language, interventions, planning, management, language choices and communication patterns, language ideologies, socio-political factors, language status and prestige, the size of the immigrant/minority community, linguistic and cultural identities, child and parental agency and emotions, family language socialisation are reflected in explicit and implicit FLPs. Furthermore, such factors as parental education, socio-economic status and prior language-learning experiences, as well as the broad social and cultural context of family life should be taken into consideration (Curdt-Christiansen, 2014, 2018; Guardado, 2018; King & Fogle, 2013; Romanowski, 2021; Spolsky, 2012).

Family language policy

The theoretical framework of FLP is located at the interface of children’s language acquisition and language policy and is based on interdisciplinary research that has been conducted over the past twenty years (Hollebeke et al., 2020; King & Fogle, 2013). FLP is affected by internal and external factors, including the society, family members, teachers, educators, experts (Okita, 2002), parental expectations (Curdt-Christiansen, 2009), the family’s socio-economic status (Caldas, 2012) and child agency (Gyogi, 2015; Kheirkhah & Cekaite, 2018; Revis, 2019; Said & Zhu, 2019; Spolsky, 2019). The parents’ discourse strategies and translanguaging affect their children’s language use (Lanza, 2001).

Previous research has shown the interdependence of FLP and children’s language development (King et al., 2008), particularly regarding language use, language maintenance or shift, and children’s language proficiency and lexical and grammatical development (Hollebeke et al., 2020). Both qualitative and quantitative language input, as well as the parents’ and siblings’ language use, play an important role in language acquisition, as well as in the development of passive/active, (un)balanced bi-/multilingualism (Hoff et al., 2012; Paradis, 2011). A lack of willingness or opportunity to support and develop a heritage/minority language may lead to heritage language shift or even heritage language loss (Spolsky, 2004, 2012).

The socio-emotional and cognitive domains of FLP, as well as the interaction of the various components of the FLP, such as interplay, reciprocity, dynamics and directionality, have been within the scope of interest in recent studies (Hollebeke et al., 2020). The parents’ and children’s positive beliefs and attitudes trigger the development of a facilitative environment for language development and support (Makarova et al., 2019; Schwartz, 2012). In addition, parental efforts to use, maintain and transmit the heritage language in collaboration with heritage and community schools have a scaffolding effect (Mattheoudakis et al., 2017) on the children’s language proficiency.

FLP is a decisive factor in the linguistic upbringing of children, particularly in bi-/multilingual families in immigrant and minority settings (Hollebeke et al., 2020). According to Yates and Terraschke (2013), FLP and decisions about language choice and use are crucial for children at the very early stage of their development, particularly before the age of three. Overall, there has been a shift in the attitude towards bi-/multilingualism, with an increasing emphasis on the positive side effects and benefits for children’s linguistic, cognitive, socio-emotional and cultural development. However, on the practical level, much depends on the context, the setting, the country, and the language and education policies, which are not always supportive of multilingual child-rearing practices (Aghallaj et al., 2020; Kirsch, 2012). The FLP, efforts at language management, ideologies, implicit and explicit language choices, as well as the parental language use, strategies, beliefs, attitudes, practices, well-being, and affective factors, influence children’s language outcomes (Caldas, 2012; Fogle, 2013). Furthermore, children’s language use and attitudes should be considered in addition to their exposure to parental input and interactions with their siblings and peers (De Houwer, 2017, 2020; Hirsch & Lee, 2018; King, 2016).

It is rare for bilinguals to have equal performances in their majority and minority languages (De Houwer, 2009), and much depends on the amount of input in the minority language from caregivers or parents (Smith-Christmas, 2016), particularly in the case of mixed-marriage, binational or exogamous families (Kulu & Gonzales-Ferrer, 2014). The amount of input in the minority language could be minimal, as parents may prefer to speak the majority language and adapt to the new environment of the host country. Minority language transmission is emotionally demanding; thus, minority/immigrant families need to build close and positive relationships amongst all the family members to ensure support for the home language, as well as the development of cultural and linguistic identities, in order to avoid minority language and identity loss (Curdt-Christiansen, 2009). As minority/immigrant families live in the majority language context of the host country, they often find themselves in the situation of hidden bilingualism/multilingualism, which is reserved for private/family contexts (Nakamura, 2016) in which it is mainly mothers who do the ‘invisible work’ of raising bilingual/multilingual children (Okita, 2002, pp. 226–227).

Socio-emotional well-being: Positive and negative emotions of parents and their children

From the perspective of positive psychology (MacIntyre et al., 2019; MacIntyre & Mercer, 2014; Oxford, 2016), subjective well-being is measured via the three core components of life: satisfaction, a lack of negative emotions, and the presence of positive emotions (Diener et al., 2003). Seligman (2011) measured well-being using the following criteria: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and accomplishment (the PERMA framework) (Adler & Seligman, 2016; Kern et al., 2014). Within the field of positive psychology, positive emotions are believed to trigger the development of creativity and motivation, to contribute to health and well-being, a connection to the society, and to reshape the perception of the world (Fredrickson, 1998, 2001; Sevinç, 2020). However, negative emotions such as anxiety and anger have an adverse effect on people in terms of actions and reactions (Fredrickson, 2013; Oxford, 2017). Anxiety could have a debilitating effect on language acquisition and education processes by decreasing the students’ confidence and self-esteem, particularly in the case of students from immigrant and minority backgrounds and heritage speakers (Horwitz, 2017; MacIntyre, 2017; Rubio-Alcalá, 2017; Sevinç & Dewaele, 2018).

Previous research on anxiety has examined the socio-emotional, socio-biographical and language background variables in transnational families, as well as the home/heritage language development, maintenance and support, language avoidance, intergenerational tensions in the family and power relationships (Sevinç, 2016, 2017, 2018). In addition, issues of discrimination, associated with transnational status, social instability and isolation, the monolingual/bilingual/multilingual mind set, identity, cultural norms, language prestige, linguistic and cultural ideologies, education and the political system as well as intercultural communication have been investigated (Sevinç & Backus, 2019; Sevinç & Dewaele, 2018).

Emotion-relevant research is on the increase in sociolinguistics (Norton, 2013; Prior, 2016; Sevinç, 2020). According to Pavlenko (2004, 2005, 2006), there is a close link between emotions and language choice, use, maintenance and transmission, and FLP. Negative emotions and experiences, such as stress, anxiety, tension, apprehension, nervousness, fear, shame or disappointment, can affect the desire to use and support the home language, which will eventually lead to language attrition, shift or loss (Boudreau et al., 2018). Numerous studies have focused on FLP and the maintenance of the home language by taking sociocultural, educational, emotional, and cognitive factors into consideration (Curdt-Christiansen, 2009; Lanza & Curdt-Christiansen, 2018; Lanza & Li, 2016; Tannenbaum, 2012), as well as the benefits of multilingualism (Eisenchlas & Schalley, 2019; Piller & Gerber, 2018) and harmonious bilingualism (De Houwer, 2009, 2015).

FLP has been investigated in relation to the affective domain, ideologies, and the maintenance of the home language by various researchers (Hirsch & Lee, 2018; Sevinç, 2020; Zhu & Li, 2016). According to Tannenbaum (2012), emotions are one of the issues in FLP that should be addressed in depth and in explicit and implicit ways to enable families, particularly those in transnational contexts, to address the challenges and pressures of society and intergenerational tensions within a family regarding the choice of language, decisions about educational institutions for the children, language and cultural identities, emotions and well-being (Purkarthofer, 2020; Tannenbaum & Yitzhaki, 2016).

Hollebeke et al. (2020) suggested differentiating between linguistic and general socio-emotional well-being. The former is associated with the positive and negative emotions of both parents and children regarding language acquisition, whereas the latter concerns family relationships, identity issues and feelings pertaining to general well-being. Negative emotions (such as shame, frustration, disappointment, stress, and anxiety) can be the result of conflicting ideologies, a lack of family cohesion and emotional bonding, and enforced FLP that is focused on the use of the heritage language at home. Accordingly, positive socio-emotional outcomes and psychosocial and emotional well-being are expected if there is family cohesion, efforts to manage and maintain the heritage language, a strong emotional connection to the heritage language and culture, and a high level of proficiency in the heritage language (De Houwer, 2017; King et al., 2008; Soehl, 2016).

A lack of proficiency in the heritage language can lead to stress and anxiety for both children and parents in transnational and minority contexts (Sevinç, 2020) due to sociolinguistic and emotional pressure, misunderstandings between the generations, relatives’ opinions regarding the use, maintenance and transmission of the home/heritage language, language and cultural identities, and values, practices and beliefs (Sevinç, 2016). Monolingualism is the preferred social norm in many countries (Clyne, 2005), and more research on the role of negative and positive emotions in transnational studies regarding the maintenance and development of the home language is needed.

This study was conducted in Cyprus, the sociolinguistic situation of which can be characterised as multilingual as apart from Greek Cypriot and Turkish Cypriot communities, there are minorities who live in the country (e.g., Armenians, Latins, Maronites), residents of British origin, and immigrants from various countries of the European Union, non-EU Eastern Europe, Asia, and especially the former Soviet Union (Hadjioannou et al., 2011). In addition, Greek Cypriots are considered to be bilectal (Grohmann et al., 2017) as they use two varieties: Standard Modern Greek (SMG) and Cypriot Greek (CG), which differ in the domain of use (formal vs. informal), status (high vs. low) and in terms of phonetics, morpho-phonology, lexicon and morphosyntax (e.g., Pappas, 2014).

Among the foreign language groups, the Russian community is considered to be the largest. The Russian-speaking population living in Cyprus is not homogeneous. They come from Russia and other republics of the former USSR and vary in terms of their socioeconomic status, reasons for coming and staying in Cyprus and family composition. Mixed-marriage families, with one partner being Russian and the other Greek Cypriot, are multilingual, having Greek, English and Russian in their Dominant Language Constellations, while Russian immigrant families, with both spouses of Russian origin, are mainly bilingual using Russian and English in their daily lives (Karpava, 2021). English is a global language and is widely used all over the island for communication, education, and business purposes. Russian has recently gained the status of a new lingua franca on the island (Karpava, 2022).

This study aimed to answer the following research questions:

  1. Is there any interdependence amongst FLP, language ideologies, practices and management strategies and socio-emotional factors, parents’ and children’s emotions, families’ levels of multilingualism and socio-psychological well-being?
  2. Do socio-emotional and affective factors have any effect on the success of the development, use and transmission of the home language?
  3. Are there any differences between endogamous and exogamous Russian-speaking families (family type) regarding FLP, the use, maintenance and transmission of the heritage language, and emotional salience?



This study investigated the interrelationship of FLP, emotions, socialisation practices and the language management strategies of Russian immigrant families in Cyprus. The participants were eighty multilingual families with low-middle-high socio-economic backgrounds, including two- and one-parent families who resided in rural or urban areas: Forty mixed-marriage (Russian wife and Greek Cypriot husband) families and 40 Russian-speaking (both spouses Russian) immigrant families residing in Cyprus were investigated. The ages of the participants ranged from 29 to 45 (Mean = 33, SD = 2.1), as follows: The ages of the parents in the mixed-marriage families ranged from 28 to 43 (Mean = 31, SD = 1.9); for the parents in the endogamous families, their length of residence (LoR) ranged from one to 16 (Mean = 11.5, SD = 3.99), and from one to 13 (Mean = 5.9, SD = 5.21) in the exogamous families. For the exogamous families, the age of onset to L2 (AoO) ranged from 27 to 44 (Mean = 31.2, SD = 3.2) in the mixed-marriage families, and from 28 to 42 (Mean = 29.5, SD = 3.6) in the immigrant Russian families. The ages of the children ranged from 2 to 16 (Mean = 9.3, SD = 3.51) in exogamous families, and from 1.5 to 16 (Mean = 8.1, SD = 2.9) in endogamous families. See Figure 1.

Participants: Age, LoR and AoO
Figure 1 

Participants: Age, LoR and AoO.

The participants in focus here, mothers in mixed-marriage families and immigrant Russian families, were from various countries, including Russia, Moldova, Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Latvia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and the USSR, and had Russian as their L1. Their linguistic repertoire (L2/L3/Ln) consisted of English, Greek, Bulgarian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, Romanian, Turkish, Spanish, Latvian and Georgian. Each family had from one to three children, whose ages ranged from two to sixteen years; the children were attending public or private kindergartens and schools in Cyprus. The participants were first-generation immigrants in Cyprus who were members of endogamous and exogamous families, and their children were simultaneous and sequential multilinguals who were heritage speakers of Russian (Montrul, 2020; Polinsky, 2018). Not all the children had access to education and literacy development in L1 Russian. The researcher took the individual experiences related to the ideologies, practices and outcomes, home language development and socio-emotional well-being of the transnational families into consideration (King, 2016).

Materials and procedure

In this study, the researcher implemented questionnaires (Karpava, 2021; Otwinowska & Karpava, 2015) and semi-structured qualitative interviews (Foley et al., 2021) to take affiliative, empathic, and emotional aspects into account (Catalano, 2016; Costa & Briggs, 2014; Prior, 2016, 2017), in line with ethical considerations (Dewaele, 2013; Gibson & Zhu, 2016). Open-ended questions allowed the participants to express their views, feelings and experiences about their life trajectories, migrant experiences, FLPs, the development of their home language and their emotions (Iwaniec, 2020; Rolland et al., 2020).

The participants were accessed via social networks and at Russian community centres and complementary schools by implementing the snowball sampling technique. The researcher visited them in their homes in various geographical areas of Cyprus, including both urban and rural areas. The participants were informed about the research procedures and ethical considerations and had the right to withdraw at any time should they have wished to do so. The participants filled in the consent forms. The mothers, in both mixed-marriage and Russian immigrant families, were interviewed and were provided with the opportunity to express their views regarding their FLP, home language development, social-emotional well-being, affective experiences and the socio-emotional bonds between the parents and their children. Overall, eighty participants (mothers) filled in the questionnaire and participated in the interviews.

The interviews were conducted in Russian, the L1 of the participants, as this was the most convenient language for them to speak and in which to express their emotional perceptions (Dewaele, 2013, 2018; Resnik, 2018). The analysis was conducted in Russian; the excerpts of the interviews were translated by the researcher into English for the purpose of presentation in the current paper. The interviews were recorded, transcribed, thematically coded and analysed in accordance with the grounded theory research method (Bryant & Charmaz, 2019; Creswell & Poth, 2018). Iterative and recursive content analyses of the data were implemented to reveal the thematic patterns (Ward & Wolf-Wendel, 2004). The data were reviewed in depth to identify repeated themes. The emergent themes were then coded using keywords and phrases, and the codes were grouped hierarchically according to the concepts and categories. The researcher implemented a qualitative content analysis (Mayring, 2010) to analyse the data; the qualitative data were quantified, and then reduced to constructs and themes that allowed the researcher to transform them into number and frequency counts (Sandelowski, 2000; Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). Theme intensity was calculated by counting the number of instances in which a chunk of data relating to a theme occurred, while the total count evaluated its significance (Wao et al., 2011). The participants’ questionnaires and interviews allowed the researcher to apply triangulation in the data collection and analysis, enhancing the validity, reliability, and generalisability of the results.


Family type and family language policy

An analysis of the different family types revealed both differences and similarities amongst Russian speakers in Cyprus and their FLPs. The Russian speakers incorporated a wide range of language repertoires into their daily lives. Multilingualism and the maintenance of the Russian language and culture were usually encouraged, as was the children’s development of literacy in the Russian language; the parents often adopted the one-parent-one-language (OPOL) approach at home. In many instances, the FLPs were characterised by translanguaging to enhance dynamic multilingualism and emotional well-being in the home. Nonetheless, not all of the efforts resulted in successful language transmission, which may have been due to individual and/or societal differences and family configurations. The analysis of the data showed that there was a close association of the family type, the FLP, emotional salience (the emotional value that members of the family assign to the minority and majority languages), socio-emotional well-being, and the development of the home language. See Figure 2.

Factors that affected the development of the home language in Russian families in Cyprus
Figure 2 

Factors that affected the development of the home language in Russian families in Cyprus.

Figure 2 reflects the findings, specifically that home language development depends on the socio-emotional well-being of children and their parents, on the FLP and the family type as endogamous, immigrant Russian families, and exogamous, mixed-marriage families differ in terms of their FLP, which lead to different outcomes regarding their home language use, maintenance and transmission and associated with their affective domain and emotional salience.

Family language policy: Parental and child emotions, language choice and use

Nearly one-third of our participants in mixed-marriage families chose the OPOL approach as their FLP. However, in some families, particularly those in which the children had a reported low level of proficiency in the heritage language (mainly receptive rather than productive skills), dual-lingual interactions were implemented, which might have a negative long-term impact on the harmonious multilingual development of the children. Many of the transnational families implemented translanguaging as the heritage language practice (see Excerpts 1–3), while the immigrant Russian families tended to use only the heritage/minority language at home (see Excerpt 7). Mixed-marriage families have a rich linguistic repertoire; their language choice depends on the situation, context and the purpose of communication. Very often translanguaging facilitates the flow of interaction and content comprehension. Individual differences of both parents and children play a role, as well as parental views, emotions and beliefs, and FLP. Most of the families send their children to Greek-speaking institutions and they understand that this can negatively affect the development of the heritage language (HL), Russian. Their children might lose their interest towards the HL without proper support and pro-Russian FLP.

Excerpts 1-3

Interviews with mothers from mixed-marriage families.


Participant 25
Age: 35
LoR: 7
В нашей семье мы смешиваем языки, так проще и быстрее. Я с мужем могу и по-гречески и по-английски, с детьми и по-русски и по-гречески…Что в итоге: все трое детей по-разному. Первая в 2.5 начала говорить по-русски, вторая в 1.5 четко на греческом и русском, третья почти в 3, сейчас миксует языки, греческий и русский. In our family we mix languages, it’s easier and faster. My husband and I can both speak Greek and English, with the children I use both Russian and Greek … What is the result: all three children differ from each other. The first one began to speak Russian at the age of 2.5 years old, the second one at the age of 1.5 clearly in Greek and Russian, the third one -- almost at 3, now she mixes languages, Greek and Russian.

Participant 71
Age: 35
Мой сын понимает отлично оба языка. Мне отвечает по-русски, но иногда и по-гречески, с папой на греческом. Не скажу, что идеально, но лопочет давно уже…где-то с 2х лет, будет в марте. Ходит в греческий сад, дома 3 языка. My son understands both languages perfectly. He answers me in Russian, but sometimes in Greek, with his father [my husband] in Greek. I won’t say that it’s perfect, but he has been babbling for a long time already… from 2 years old or so, he will be 2.5 in March. He goes to the Greek kindergarten, at home we have 3 languages.

Participant 2
Age: 40
LoR: 11.5
Надо чтоб мама говорилас ребенком по-русски. Когда общение в основном в грекоговорящейсреде, то ребенку легче говорить и думать по-гречески. Русскийязык может стать и неитересным. Я дочку просила переводить мне, говорила, что не понимаю. Сейчас она сама мне уроки переводит, хотя я уже и не хочу. It is necessary that the mother speaks Russian with the child. When communication is mainly in a Greek-speaking environment, it is easier for a child to speak and think in Greek. The Russian language may also become uninteresting. I asked my daughter to translate for me, she said that I did not understand. Now she translates her lessons herself, although I no longer want to.

The parents in exogamous, mixed-marriage families attempted to strike a balance between Russian and Greek; despite often selecting the OPOL approach as their FLP, they were still concerned about the outcomes. In the following example, a Russian-speaking mother, a member of a mixed-marriage family, had an explicit FLP and language management strategies (OPOL) for her son. Nonetheless, despite trying with regard to language choice, use, and future plans regarding her child’s education, she felt anxious about the outcomes of the FLP. She understood the importance of supporting the home language but was also concerned about the development of the majority language, Greek. See Excerpt 4.

Excerpt 4

Interview with a mother from a mixed-marriage family.


Participant 23
Age: 46
LoR: 15
Мой муж – греко-киприот. Мы решили, что я буду говорить с сыном только по-русски, а моймуж только по-гречески. Сейчас ему 2.5 лет. Он говоритпока только по-русски и совсем не говорит по-гречески. Он понимает, но если его спросишь что-нибудь по-гречески, он всегда отвечает только по-русски, может сказать только несколькослов по-гречески. Я в панике, так как он неможет общаться с греческими родственниками. Поэтому мы планируем отправить егов греческий садик, но я планирую продолжать говорить с нимтолько по-русски, хотя я знаю греческий и я живуна Кипре уже 15 лет. В будущем нам надо будетотдать его на дополнительные занятия по русскому языку, так какмы планируем отдать его в греческую или английскую школу. Важноне переставать говорить по-русски. My husband is Cypriot Greek. We have decided that I will speak only Russian with my son and my husband only Greek. He is 2.5 years now. So far, our child speaks only Russian and he does not speak Greek at all. He understands [Greek], but if you ask him something in Greek, he always answers only in Russian, he can say only several words in Greek. I am in a panic as he cannot communicate with our Greek relatives. So, we plan to send him to a Greek-speaking kindergarten, but I am going to continue speaking only Russian with him, even though, I know Greek and I have lived in Cyprus for 15 years. In the future, we will need to send him to extra-curricular Russian-language classes as we aim to send him to a Greek-speaking or English-speaking school. It is important not to stop speaking Russian.

Relatives, grandmothers, and grandfathers can play a positive or negative role in the support or development of the home language. In some of the mixed-marriage families, the Greek grandparents opposed the children’s use of the minority language; see Excerpt 5. This example illustrates how negative emotions and lack of family cohesion and emotional bonding can adversely affect the use, maintenance, and transmission of heritage language.

Excerpt 5

Interview with a mother from a mixed-marriage family.


Participant 59
Age: 41
LoR: 10.5
Уменя двое детей, мальчику 6.5 лет, а девочке 4.8. Ссыном у нас проблема, раньше, мы жили со свекровью, иона запрещала детям смотреть русские мультики и мне разговаривать сдетьми по-русски. Она кричала: ‘нет-нет-нет.’ В результатемой сын молчал до 5 лет. Позже, у нас былинекоторые сложности в садиком, и нам пришлось пойти в частныйсадик. Мы обратились за помощью к логотерапевту. Мы переехали отмоей свекрови, когда моей дочери было 1.5 лет. Она смотреларусские и греческие мультики без всяких запретов. I have two children, a boy 6.5 years old and a girl 4.8. We had a problem with our son as before, when we were living with my mother-in-law and she was forbidding the children to watch Russian cartoons and me to speak Russian with my children. She was shouting ‘no-no-no’. As a result, my son was silent till the age of five. Then we had some difficulties with the public kindergarten, and we had to go to the private one. We turned to a speech therapist for help. We moved from my mother-in-law when my daughter was 1.5 years old. She watched both Russian and Greek cartoons without any restrictions.

Some of the mixed-marriage families chose to use only the majority language, Greek, at home due to the fear, particularly on the part of Greek-speaking husbands, Greek-speaking relatives, and mothers-in-law, that the children would not know, comprehend or use Greek, the majority language, if they speak only Russian at home or mix Russian and Greek, as seen in Excerpts 6–7.

Excerpts 6–7

Interviews with mothers from mixed-marriage families.


Participant 36
Age: 38
LoR: 10
Нашей дочери восемь лет. Мой муж настоял, чтобы мы общались с ней только по-гречески до трех лет, так как он боялся, что она совсем не будет знать греческий. Я согласилась, поэтому мы начали уроки русского языка только после трех. Но потом я устроилась на постоянную работу, и у меня не было времени. Моя дочь ходила на частные уроки, а потом в русский садик, так она и начала говорить по-русски. Сейчас она ходит в греческую школу и к русскому репетитору. Она читает и пишет по-русски, но у нее до сих пор акцент. Our daughter is eight years old now. My husband had insisted that we communicated with her only in Greek up to the age of three as he was afraid that she would not know Greek at all. I agreed with him, that is why we started Russian-language lessons only after the age of three. But then I started a full-time job, and I did not have enough time. My daughter had private lessons and then she went to a Russian-speaking kindergarten, in this way she began to speak Russian. Now she attends Greek-speaking school and has Russian private classes. She reads and writes in Russian, but she still has an accent.

Participant 60
Age: 33
LoR: 4
Наш в 2 года на двух языках говорит, до двух лет больше понимал русский. Свекровь переживала, что не заговорит и советовала на русском не говорить с ним. At the age of two, our son speaks two languages, up to the age of two he understood Russian more. My mother-in-law was worried that he would not start speaking and advised us not to speak Russian with him.

The FLP of mixed-marriage families depends on their affective and emotional domains and well-being as well as on the broad social and cultural context of family life. Child agency, their choice of language, interest, and preferences as well as the quality and quantity of language input, the parents’ and siblings’ language use: these all play a role. Not only parents, but also relatives, especially Greek-speaking ones, have a decisive role in FLP, language choices and language practices at home. Sometimes, parents and relatives can have different attitudes and views regarding language management patterns and child linguistic development, which could be sometime an obstacle for the development of a facilitative environment for home language development and support. Translanguaging or translation strategies at home are often implemented in exogamous families, which can reinforce and facilitate the learning of both languages of a bilingual child and enhance meaningful communication in a family.

In Russian immigrant (co-ethnic) families, only Russian was used at home even though some teachers suggested the use of English or Greek with the children to ensure that they made progress at school. See Excerpt 8.

Excerpt 8

Interview with a mother from a Russian immigrant family.


Participant 80
Age: 47
LoR: 15
Мы русскоязычная семья, поэтому мы говорим только по-русски дома. Наши дети учатся в частной английской школе. Нам учительница посоветовала говорить только по-английски дома, но мы не стали, иначе наши дети не выучат русский язык. We are a Russian-speaking family, so we speak only Russian at home. Our children study at the private English-speaking school. We had a teacher’s advice to speak only English at home, but we did not follow it as in this case our children will not develop their Russian language.

Russian families in Cyprus have a large social network of Russian-speaking friends, online and offline. They participate in various cultural events (e.g., festivals) organized by the Russian community in Cyprus. Their children are involved in extra-curricular activities (e.g., sports, dancing, entertainment) and are exposed to the Russian language and culture as Russian is used as a means of communication among teachers, trainers, parents and their peers. In this way, parents increase language socialization of their children and prevent the loss of the heritage language in the majority language context of Cyprus. See Excerpt 9.

Excerpt 9

Interview with a mother from a Russian immigrant family.


Participant 13
Age: 49
LoR: 14
Для нас очень важно поддержание русского языка и культуры. У нас много русскоязычных друзей на Кипре, общаемся в онлайн формате, дружим семьями, ходим в гости друг к другу. Дети, им уже 10 и 12 ходят на разные кружки. Сын занимается теннисом, а дочь увлекается конным спортом. Также ходят на русский язык и на музыку. Все учителя русские. С утра – у них английская школа – все на английском, поэтому после обеда – все на русском, иначе никак. Ну а летом, конечно, едем в Россию, к бабушкам и дедушкам. Ну, и в течение года, дети общаются онлайн с родственниками… It is very important for us to maintain the Russian language and culture. We have many Russian-speaking friends in Cyprus, we communicate online, we are friends with families, we visit each other. Our children, who are already 10 and 12 go to different clubs. My son plays tennis, and my daughter is fond of equestrian sports. They also go to Russian and music. All teachers are Russian. In the morning – they have an English school – everything is in English, so in the afternoon – everything is in Russian, otherwise it will not work well. Well, in the summer, of course, we go to Russia, to visit our grandparents. Well, and throughout the year, children communicate online with their relatives…

Linguistic and cultural identity

It was found, based on the analysis of questionnaires, that the parents differed in terms of language and cultural identity. The members of endogamous (co-ethnic) Russian immigrant families claimed a 100% Russian cultural identity, a 60% Russian linguistic identity and only a 40% mixed language identity, whereas members of mixed-marriage families reported mixed cultural identity (36%) and mixed language identity (56%). See Figure 3. The development of cultural and linguistic identities is the way to avoid minority language and identity loss. In mixed-marriage families, mainly mothers promote bilingualism/multilingualism in family contexts.

Linguistic and cultural identities of the participants
Figure 3 

Linguistic and cultural identities of the participants.

The parents from endogamous Russian immigrant families with mixed language identity decided to send their children to Greek-speaking kindergartens and primary schools more often than those who have Russian linguistic identity and have a preference towards English-speaking and Russian-speaking kindergartens and schools. The following interview excerpts show that it may not be easy for the children from Russian immigrant families to adjust to a new Greek-speaking environment in an educational setting. It may be stressful both for children and their parents, especially if parents do not speak Greek at all. Many factors should be taken into consideration such as language proficiency, social network and friends, language use, individual differences, teacher and parental support. See Excerpts 10–12.

Excerpts 10–12

Interviews with mothers from Russian immigrant families.


Participant 4
Age: 35
LoR: 6
Мой младший сын пошел в греческий садик в 4,5 года…В семье никто не говорил на греческом. Первые 6 месяцев был расстроен, даже один раз попытался сбежать из садика. Но потом всё наладилось, сначала простые фразы, а потом уже мне говорил на греческом. My youngest son went to a Greek kindergarten at the age of 4.5… No one spoke Greek in the family. He was upset for the first 6 months, once he even tried to run away from the kindergarten. But then everything got better, first simple phrases, and then he spoke to me in Greek.

Participant 49
Age: 39
LoR: 7
Моему сыну почти 5 лет. Два года отходил в английский садик. Все было ок. Капризничал иногда, но в целом ему нравилось. Первый год пошёл в греческий. К слову у нас в семье никто по гречески не говорит. По началу вроде ничего. Но последнее время категорически не хочет идти в сад. Говорит – ‘ничего не понимаю мне там скучно’. Друзья его там в основном англоговорящие. Спрашивала у учительницы – она говорит нормально все. Бывает расстроен по утрам, но потом все ок. Я переживаю. Ребёнок раскис, стал капризным, уверенность как то потерял. My son is almost 5 years old. For two years he was attending an English kindergarten. Everything was ok. He was naughty sometimes, but on the whole, he liked it. This is the first year he is attending a Greek kindergarten. By the way, no one in our family speaks Greek. At first, it seems like normal. But lately he has absolutely no desire to go to the kindergarten. He says – ‘I don’t understand anything, I’m bored there’. His friends there are mostly English speakers. I asked the teacher – she says everything is fine. Sometimes he is upset in the morning, but then everything is ok. I am worried. My child became upset, capricious, and somehow lost his confidence.

Participant 78
Age: 35
LoR: 4.5
Здесь много факторов влияют: и характер ребёнка, и его настрой, и помощь воспитателей в саду… Мой ребёнок в 3,5 года просто катастрофически переживал погружение в среду, где он ничего не понимает, но он очень мягкий и неконфликтный. И в один прекрасный момент мы его с мужем всё-таки убедили, что нужно стараться искать друзей и не расстраиваться из-за того, что все вокруг говорят непонятно… Вроде теперь все наладилось. Many factors are important such as the character of the child, and his mood, and the support of the teachers in the kindergarten … At the age of 3.5, my child was very worried about his immersion in an environment where he does not understand anything, but he is very soft and avoids conflicts. One day, my husband and I nevertheless convinced him that he should try to look for friends and not get upset because he cannot understand what the others arounds him talking about… It seems that now everything has been settled.

The parents try to support their children in their bilingual and multilingual language development taking into consideration their emotions, motivation and well-being, which is in line with the previous research by Sevinç (2020). Negative emotions of their children can have an adverse effect on their academic achievement, their confidence and self-esteem (Sevinç & Dewaele, 2018). Parental involvement in their children’s education and language learning process together with the development of home-school relationship is an effective strategy used by transnational families in Cyprus to deal with emotional challenges in their daily lives.

Language education

The analysis of the questionnaires showed that the two groups of parents tended to have different preferences regarding the education of their children. Public Greek-speaking kindergartens and schools were the main option for the mixed-marriage families, while private English-speaking (pre-)primary educational institutions were preferred by the immigrant Russian parents. See Figure 4.

Educational preferences of the families
Figure 4 

Educational preferences of the families.

Furthermore, FLP, parental preferences for language use and the choice of a school/kindergarten (e.g., private or public, Russian-, English- or Greek-speaking) depend on their type of residence in Cyprus (permanent or temporary), their socio-economic status (SES), their tendency for integration into the mainstream society, and future education and career plans for their children, which is in line with the previous research. Not every family can afford expensive education in Russian- or English-speaking private schools, which give an opportunity for their children to continue their tertiary education in Russia or in Europe. Many families instead opt for free public, Greek-speaking, schools in combination with various extra-curricular activities. Many Russian immigrant families aim to return back to Russia, after several years spent in Cyprus. Thus, they are not interested in integration in the mainstream society and are concerned with the development of the Russian language rather than Greek or English. Language status also plays an important role. English, being a global lingua franca, is preferred over Greek, as parents see English as more useful for the imagined future they envision for their children. See Excerpts 13–15.

Excerpts 13–15

Interviews with mothers from Russian immigrant families.


Participant 18
Age: 43
LoR: 9
Для нас важным приоритетом является английский язык. Мы хотим, чтобы наши дети жили и учились в Европе, поэтому мы выбрали английскую школу. Конечно, русский мы тоже поддерживаем, но университет в России… для нас это не вариант… English is an important priority for us. We want our children to live and study in Europe, which is why we chose an English school. Of course, we also support Russian, but a university in Russia… is not an option for us…

Participant 29
Age: 32
LoR: 2
Мой муж айтишник, я не работаю. Я так думаю, что на Кипре мы пробудем пару лет по контракту, а потом обратно, в Россию, поэтому заниматься греческим смысла нет. Мы отдали детей в русский садик, ну еще дополнительно уроки по английскому. Английский всегда пригодится… My husband is an IT specialist, I don’t work. I think that we will stay in Cyprus for a couple of years under a contract, and then back to Russia, so there is no point in studying Greek. We sent the children to a Russian kindergarten, well, additionally, English lessons. English is always helpful…

Participant 38
Age: 47
LoR: 12
Для нас частное образование слишком дорого. Мы выбрали греческую школу, выбора то вообще-то и не было… за нее надо платить. Хотя детям по началу было сложно втянуться, ведь мы совсем не говорим по-гречески. А сейчас наши дети нам помогают, если надо что-то перевести или объяснить на греческом, хотя это им не всегда нравиться. For us private education is too expensive. We chose the Greek school, actually, there was no choice at all … you do not have to pay for it. Although at first it was quite difficult for the children to get adjusted, because we do not speak Greek at all. And now our children help us if we need to translate or explain something in Greek, although they do not always like it.

The last example illustrates the situation of language brokering, when bilingual children and youth interpret and mediate communication between their parents and school, neighbours, or members of the society, which could be quite a stressful experience if it is a constant responsibility to help their families.

Attitudes towards multilingualism/multiculturalism: The role of language input

A positive attitude towards multilingualism and multiculturalism was thought to have beneficial outcomes in terms of the multilingual development of their children; see Excerpt 16. Members of mixed-marriage families are in favour of integration into the mainstream society, therefore bilingualism/multilingualism is a necessity for their well-being, education and career success and emotional salience. They have both integrative and instrumental motivation for multilingual FLP.

Excerpt 16

Interview with a mother from a mixed-marriage family.


Participant 47
Age: 44
LoR: 13
У нас трое детей. С самого рождения я разговаривала с ними по-русски, мы пели вместе песенки. Дома мы используем два языка. Они учатся в греческой школе, но у них также уроки русского языка два раза в неделю. Они смотрят русское телевидение, у нас русская бабушка и они ездят в Россию. Мои дети также изучают английский и моя старшая дочь – французский. Языки им легко даются. Знать много языков – это важно, им будет легче по жизни. Они понимают, как важно знать русский и другие языки. Сейчас, они используют русский язык, чтобы найти русские фильмы и игры в интернете. We have three children. From their birth, I communicated with them in Russian, we were singing songs together. At home we use two languages. They study Greek at school, but they also have Russian lessons twice a week. They watch Russian TV, plus we have a Russian grandmother and they visit Russia. My children also learn English and my elder daughter – French as well. My children learn languages without any difficulty. It is important to know many languages, it will make their life easier. They understand how important it is to know Russian and other languages. Now, they use the Russian language in order to find Russian films and games in the Internet.

Furthermore, many of the parents, especially in exogamous families, were concerned about the quality and quantity of input in both the heritage/minority and the majority languages. They felt that if the input were not balanced, this would affect their children’s patterns of linguistic use; see Excerpt 17. This is in agreement with the previous research as both quality and quantity of input are important for minority and majority language development (De Houwer, 2009; Kulu & Gonzales-Ferrer, 2014; Smith-Christmas, 2016).

Excerpt 17

Interview with a mother from a mixed-marriage family.


Participant 10
Age: 33
LoR: 5
В основном, мы используем русский дома, поэтому я обеспокоена, что мои дети не будут знать греческий совсем. Сейчас им два года. Мы не очень часто навещаем наших греческих родственников, поэтому мы не знаем, что будет с греческим, а еще английский добавиться. We use mainly Russian at home, so I am worried that my children will not know Greek at all. My children are two years old now. We do not visit our Greek relatives very often, so we do not know what is going to happen with Greek, also English will be added at a later stage [kindergarten, school].


The analysis of the data showed that translanguaging was a more common phenomenon in exogamous families (92%) in comparison to endogamous families (60%). In the Russian immigrant families, both the parents and the children used Russian outside of the home for socialisation purposes nearly twice as often as did the mixed-marriage families (50% versus 95%). The experienced discrimination due to the L1 was not widespread in Cyprus, and both groups of families had more positive than negative emotions regarding the development of the home language, even though the co-ethnic Russian immigrant families were in a more advantageous position due to their family configurations. See Figure 5.

Translanguaging, socio-emotional well-being
Figure 5 

Translanguaging, socio-emotional well-being.

In mixed-marriage families, translanguaging was often implemented at home by both the parents and the children. The parents had different attitudes towards translanguaging, as some of them were concerned about their children’s language development and the purity and correctness of the languages used. Others considered that this was the best way to raise multilingual children, because it reflected their natural linguistic situation in the family. See Excerpts 18–21.

Excerpts 18–21

Interviews with a mother from a mixed-marriage families.


Participant 75
Age: 36
LoR: 5
Моему сыну три года, и мы играем в игру – переводчик. Мой муж говорит слово παράθυρο [окно] по-гречески, и я перевожу на русский. Я говорю хлеб, и мой муж говорит ψωμί [хлеб]. Так, язык ассоциируется с каждым родителем. Мой сын ходит в греческий садик, но он также смотрит русские мультики. My son is three years old and we play a translator game. My husband says a word παράθυρο [window] in Greek, and I am translating into Russian окно [window]. I am saying хлеб [bread], and my husband says ψωμί [bread]. So, language is associated with each parent. My son attends Greek kindergarten, but he also watches Russian cartoons.

Participant 3
Age: 38
LoR: 7
Раньше моя дочь смешивала слова из разных языков в одной фразе, она даже создавала гибридные слова. Например, когда ей было 1.5 лет, она хотела “вело”, показывая на бутылку с водой. My daughter used to mix words from various languages in one phrase, she even created hybrid words. For example, when she was 1.5 years old, she said she wanted “вело” velo, pointing to the bottle of water (вода water-voda + νερό water-nero).

Participant 59
Age: 42
LoR: 11
Мой сын начал говорить на двух языках, но очень поздно. Иногда он мог смешивать два языка в одном предложении. Например, “какая хорошая скилаки (σκυλάκι).” Он не понимал, что он использовал два языка. Я думаю, что это очень важно, чтобы мама говорили только по-русски, а папа – только по-гречески. My son started speaking two languages, but very late. Sometimes he could mix two languages in one sentence. For example, “какая хорошая скилаки (σκυλάκι)” what a nice dog. He did not realize that he was using two languages. I think that it is important that mother speaks only Russian, while the father only Greek.

Participant 35
Age: 34
LoR: 4.5
Моя дочь – билингв. Греческий – ее главный язык, но я настояла, чтобы отдать ее в русский садик, поэтому русский сейчас – это ее второй язык сейчас. Она может говорить на одном языке и затем за одну секунду поменять язык, и для нее, это совсем не проблема. Она может говорить с папой на одном языке, со мной по-русски, а еще она говорит по-английски. Это просто замечательно, что она билингв! My child is a bilingual. Greek is her dominant language, but I insisted on sending her to the Russian kindergarten, thus, Russian is her second language now. She can speak one language and then switch between the languages in a second, and for her, it’s not a problem at all. She can speak with her father in one language, with me in Russian and on top of this, she speaks English. It is amazing that she is bilingual!

Some of the parents in mixed-marriage families were in favour of the idea of multilingualism, but were concerned about their children’s progress, linguistic development, and educational prospects. See Excerpt 22.

Excerpt 22

Interview with a mother from a mixed-marriage family.


Participant 44
Age: 36
LoR: 5
В нашей семье, я говорю по-русски, мой муж – по-гречески, но мы общаемся по-английски между собой. Наша дочь начала смешивать языки, русский и греческий. Сначала, было больше слов, русских и греческих, затем фраз и предложений, смешивая русский и греческий. Когда ей было 3 года, она стала различать языки. Сейчас ей 3.5 года, и она говорит по-русски немного лучше, чем по-гречески. Она знает, когда и с кем говорить по-гречески и по-русски. В этом году она начала ходить в греческий садик, дома она смотрит русские мультики. В детском садике она понимает других деток без проблем, но что касается взрослых, она не совсем понимает их, поэтому я перевожу для нее на русский. Что касается школы, я до сих пор не знаю, что делать, я очень переживаю. In our family, I speak Russian, my husband – Greek, but we communicate in English among ourselves. Our daughter started mixing languages, Russian and Greek. First, there were more words, Russian and Greek, then phrases and sentences, mixing Russian and Greek. When she was three years old, she began to distinguish the languages. Now, she is 3.5 and she speaks Russian a little bit better than Greek. She knows when and with whom to speak Greek and Russian. This year, she has started attending a Greek kindergarten, at home she watches Russian cartoons. In the kindergarten, she understands her peers without any problem, but as for adults she has some difficulties to understand them in Greek, so I try to translate for her into Russian. As for the school, I still do not know, what to do, I am really worried.

Although, members of endogamous, Russian immigrant families tend to use mainly Russian at home, there were some cases in which, although both parents spoke Russian at home, the child spoke two languages, Russian and Greek, due to his/her exposure to Greek at a kindergarten or school. See Excerpt 23.

Excerpt 23

Interview with a mother from a Russian immigrant family.


Participant 20
Age: 37
LoR: 5.5
Наш ребенок начал говорить на двух языках, на русском и на греческом. Но знаете, ни я, ни мой муж не говорим по-гречески, но наш сын начал ходить в греческий с пяти месяцев. Мы также начали изучать русские буквы, алфавит, читать и писать. Наш сын быстро понял, что русские и греческие буквы похожи и он начал читать по-гречески и по-русски до того, как он пошел в школу. Сейчас, он справляется с двумя языками. К тому же он изучает английский. Мультики очень даже помогают. Он выучил много английских слов из мультиков… Our child started speaking two languages, Russian and Greek. But you know, neither me nor my husband speak Greek, but our son has been attending a Greek kindergarten since the age of five months. We also started learning Russian letters, the alphabet, reading and writing. Our son quickly realized that Russian and Greek letters are similar and he started to read in Greek and Russian before he went to school. Now, he is coping with two languages. In addition, he is studying English. Cartoons really help. He has learnt many English words from cartoons…

The analysis of the data showed that there is a continuum of language use and management strategies ranging from monolingual to bilingual ones, which can affect child language socialization and intergenerational language transmission. Both groups of the Russian-speaking parents live in the majority language environment, consequently conscious effort is needed in order to support the minority language. The results of the study showed that often it is difficult to control children’s language choice in multilingual families due to a complexity of factors such as child agency, individual differences, context, situation, topic of the conversation and mutual comprehensibility.

Socio-emotional well-being and home language and literacy development

The analysis of the data revealed that Russian speakers residing in Cyprus differed in terms of their self-perceived status in the host country, which was reflected in their socio-emotional well-being. Immigrant Russian parents associated more with the Russian society or with neither society than did the members of the mixed-marriage families, as the latter group belonged to either the host country’s or to both Cypriot and Russian societies. See Figure 6.

Participants’ status in the host country
Figure 6 

Participants’ status in the host country.

The analysis of the data indicated that the parents understood that socio-emotional and affective factors were essential for the support and development of the home language and for the creation of a comfortable atmosphere at home, as seen in Excerpt 24.

Excerpt 24

Interview with a mother from a mixed-marriage family.


Participant 34
Age: 43
LoR: 12
Самое главное для ребенка – это атмосфера любви и понимания в семье. Каждый ребенок должен слышать правильную речь (вашу родную речь). Таким образом ваш ребенок может говорить на трех языках. Язык развивается в специальной языковой среде, особенно что касается развития детской речи. Если школа греческая, тогда просто необходимы дополнительные уроки по русскому или наоборот. The most crucial for the child is the atmosphere of love and mutual understanding in the family. Every child should hear correct speech (your native language). In this way your child can speak three languages. The language is developed in the relevant language environment, especially regarding child speech development. If the school is Greek, then it is important to have extra classes in Russian, or vice versa.

Home literacy environment, FLP, parental strategies for the minority and majority language, quality and quantity of language exposure affect the child linguistic development. The perceived status of the parents in society affects their attitudes towards the minority and the majority languages and their FLPs. The parents are concerned with the socio-emotional well-being of their children and their harmonious bilingual and multilingual development, especially because some children were sometimes shy, did not feel confident or were not willing to speak a language because they did not like it or were not accustomed to speaking it. See Excerpt 25.

Excerpt 25

Interview with a mother from a mixed-marriage family.


Participant 48
Age: 38
LoR: 7.5
Моему сыну 5.5 лет. Он говорит по-русски. Мы отправили его в греческий садик, но не добились никаких результатов. Он выучил только несколько слов в течение 1.5 лет. Он замкнулся в себе и совсем не общается с другими детьми и учителем. Но дома и с моими родственниками он постоянно говорит по-русски. Он также знает английский. Я просто в отчаянии. Я не знаю, что делать. Я думала отправить его в русский детский садик, но мой муж был против. My son is 5.5. He speaks Russian. We have sent him to the Greek kindergarten but did not achieve any results. He has learned only several words for the period of 1.5 years there. He withdrew into himself and does not communicate at all with other children and the teacher. But at home and with my relatives he constantly speaks Russian. He also knows English. I am just in despair; I do not know what to do. I have thought to send him to a Russian kindergarten, but my husband is against it.

The analysis of the data showed that the parents in the Russian immigrant (co-ethnic) families were more satisfied with their children’s level of Russian, comprehension, and literacy skills in comparison to mixed-marriage families, as they used only Russian at home. In the mixed-marriage families, more children tended not to speak Russian. In the endogamous families, more parents had been advised not to use Russian, but instead to practice Greek or English in order for their children to progress at school; see Figure 7.

Family type: Mothers’ satisfaction with their children’s language use and literacy skills in Russian
Figure 7 

Family type: Mothers’ satisfaction with their children’s language use and literacy skills in Russian.

The differences between two types of families with respect to their FLPs and outcomes regarding home language and literacy development can be explained by different opportunities for language learning, socialization and cognitive experiences, contextual and personal perspectives, affective domain, motivation to use language, language proficiency and comfort level of interlocutors. In addition, such factors as child agency, degree of acculturation and integration into the mainstream society, language and cultural identities, perceived status in the host country, choice of educational institutions for their children and future aspirations for education and career opportunities should be taken into consideration.

Discussion and conclusion

The aim of the study was to examine whether there is any interdependence amongst FLP, language ideologies, practices and management strategies and socio-emotional factors, parents’ and children’s emotions, families’ levels of multilingualism and socio-psychological well-being. The findings suggest that there is a complex relationship among these variables. In particular, the FLPs of endogamous and exogamous families depend on micro and macro factors. First, their perceived status in the host country, together with their willingness and motivation to integrate into the mainstream society, affect their language choice, use, and their FLPs. The desire to be part of the majority language society triggers the development of hybrid linguistic and cultural identity, multilingual and pro-majority language FLP and the use of translanguaging at home. Their socio-emotional well-being is also closely related to their perceived status in the society, their possibility to use their HL in a legitimate way, the availability of social networks, the affordances related to education of their children and the aspirations for future careers and life trajectories. The choice of educational institutions for their children (monolingual or bilingual with the majority or the minority language as the medium of instruction) depends on the socioeconomic status of the family and their plans for short-term or long-term stay in Cyprus. Child agency is one factor. Children tend to express their views, feelings and beliefs regarding the language choice and use at home, at school and in society, which are in turn affected by their peers, parents, siblings, relatives, and educators. Home language development is affected by emotional salience of all family members, their FLP and family type.

This study focused on endogamous and exogamous families in the Russian community of Cyprus regarding their FLP, the development of the home language and their socio-emotional well-being. It was found that the two groups of families have different linguistic behaviours, preferences and priorities that are closely related to the affective domain. The analysis of the results showed that the parents are aware of the impact of their own beliefs and attitudes on their children’s language development, which aligns with the previous findings by De Houwer (2009). Overall, the majority/society language is stronger in the mixed-marriage families, and the minority/heritage language is stronger in the immigrant Russian families in Cyprus. The results of the FLPs are not always in line with the parents’ expectations for their children’s language outcomes (Curdt-Christiansen, 2018), but the parents were generally satisfied with their children’s progress.

As the mixed-marriage families aim to integrate into the host country’s society, they placed significant emphasis on the development of the majority language, which is in accordance with the previous research by Chatzidaki and Maligkoudi (2013) and Mohr (2021). In some cases, the children are not willing to use the minority or majority language due to various factors associated with their affective and socio-emotional domains. When the parents are concerned about their children’s linguistic behaviour, some increase their efforts, while others stop forcing their children to learn and use the L1 or the second language. Home language development is ‘an essential emotional need for parents’ (Kirsch, 2012, p. 102), whereas for their children ‘it occupies a pragmatic and peripheral space’ (Little, 2017, p. 12–13). Its success depends on the practical needs of a family, the parent-child relationship and emotional salience. The results suggest that emotional salience can help to explain the mechanisms behind the parental desire to transmit L1 Russian, and to resist language attrition and loss (Mohr, 2021).

The members of the mixed-marriage families have a practical need to integrate into the host country’s society in order to decrease emotional distance and social exclusion (De Houwer, 2015; Little, 2017); hence, their children are learning both Greek and Russian and are sent to the Greek public schools in order to increase their proficiency in the majority language. Most of the children in mixed-marriage families attend Greek-speaking schools or kindergartens in order to be part of the Cyprus society. The Russian-speaking spouses understand the importance of the use, maintenance and transmission of the heritage language, but their efforts are directed towards both the majority and the minority languages. Both the parents and the children in mixed-marriage families are characterised by hybrid language and cultural identities and translanguaging in parent-child interactions, which is in agreement with the previous research by Müller et al. (2020). Translanguaging is implemented in almost every exogamous family in Cyprus as it enhances the flexibility of communication and content comprehension based on the full linguistic repertoire of the interlocutors.

One of the popular strategies in mixed-marriage families is OPOL, meaning that each parent uses his/her mother tongue with their child(ren), which is considered to be beneficial not only for the HL use, maintenance and transmission, but also for the development of the ML. Only some mixed-marriage families had an opportunity to develop the HL literacy skills of their children and to send them to the Russian school or private lessons due to socioeconomic and time constraints. As a result, not all children were reported to have acquired both productive and perceptive skills in their HL. The perceived lack of successful support of the HL causes stress and anxiety for both parents and children. At the same time, many parents have the ML and culture as their priority and are ready even to sacrifice the HL for the sake of the ML. Their choices are affected by their immediate environment, their Greek-speaking relatives, social and professional networks, which can lead to the predominant use of (Cypriot) Greek and identification with (Cypriot) Greek culture and values.

Endogamous, Russian immigrant families in Cyprus are mainly characterised by pro-Russian FLP. Most of the parents identify themselves with the Russian language and culture. These families mainly speak Russian at home, facilitating the support and development of the home language and there are few instances of translanguaging at home as Russian is the preferred home language. They choose either Russian-speaking or English-speaking private schools or kindergartens for their children (although some teachers have suggested that they should stop speaking Russian to their children in order to improve their academic progress). The parents do not feel closely related with the Cyprus society and see the future of their children abroad, both in terms of tertiary education and professional development. The parents mainly use Russian or English in their daily lives and feel that the use of English, the lingua franca in Cyprus, helps them to avoid social exclusion and to boost their social connections to the local population. They do not have the motivation to learn Greek. The omnipresence of the majority language and widespread of English on the island, as well as the status of Russian as a new lingua franca, affect the FLP, parental beliefs, language practice and management, and the use, maintenance and transmission of the home language.

Some of the parents are concerned with the issues of discrimination due to L1, though overall Cyprus seems to be a country tolerant towards immigrants. Russian immigrant families in Cyprus are in more beneficial position in comparison to the mixed-marriage families regarding the HL use, maintenance, and transmission. They have close links with their L1 country and extended family, relatives, and friends. The overall exposure to Russian is at least in two times higher than in the case of exogamous families, where only the mother speaks Russian. Russian-speaking families in Cyprus bond together and form a larger Russian community, online and offline, which helps them to keep up with the Russian culture and traditions. The affective and emotional domain is of great importance, as parents report trying their best to create the optimal conditions for their child well-being.

Endogamous and exogamous families differ in terms of language and cultural identities. The first group has mainly pro-Russian identities, while the latter group has hybrid ones. Both groups are satisfied with their socio-emotional well-being in Cyprus, although the immigrant Russian speakers are in a more advantageous position regarding the development of the home language due to their family configuration and linguistic repertoire, which is in line with the previous findings by Makarova et al. (2019). The parents attempt to encourage their children’s creativity, engagement and motivation, to provide opportunities to practice the majority and minority languages, to increase their language awareness, confidence, and self-esteem, and to facilitate harmonious multilingualism (De Houwer, 2009, 2015) in order to avoid the negative emotions, anxiety and disappointment that may lead to low academic achievements, language avoidance, intergenerational tensions in the family, and a monolingual mind set (Sevinç, 2020), or possibly language attrition, shift, or loss (Boudreau et al., 2018).

Russian is a new lingua franca in Cyprus. The Russian language has high status in the country due to socio-economic and political factors, which leads to both the children and the parents in both types of families having positive attitudes towards the use, maintenance, and transmission of the heritage language. Positive emotions, low levels of stress and anxiety, and no discrimination due to L1 in the host country provide a facilitative environment for language learning and the development of pro-multilingual FLPs. Nonetheless, much depends on the desire, willingness, means and efforts of the parents and the children themselves, as well as their agency and affordances, which supports the previous findings by Curdt-Christiansen, (2018) and King et al. (2008). The socio-economic status of the family is one of the decisive factors in the choice of public versus private education and socialisation activities because private Russian-speaking schools and private Russian tutoring centres, as well as frequent visits to Russian-speaking countries and Russian relatives and expensive multilingual educational resources, accounted for a substantial part of the families’ budgets.

Parental expectations, their choices of the language(s) to be used and the educational institutions of their children affect their explicit and implicit FLPs, which is in accord with the research by Curdt-Christiansen (2009) and Spolsky (2019). The parents’ discourse strategies are reflected in their children’s linguistic behaviour, which provides further evidence for the previous study by Hollebeke et al. (2020). Children’s linguistic development depends on the quality and quantity of input received from their parents, at school and in society. When parents are in favour of multilingualism, there is a positive effect on the use, maintenance, and transmission of the home language (Hoff et al., 2012; Spolsky, 2004, 2012).

Overall, this study has revealed general trends and language behaviour patterns in both types of the families. At the same time individual differences cannot be ignored as the participants form quite heterogenous groups based on many factors and parameters related to the complex issue of immigration and multilingualism. Both explicit and implicit FLPs are implemented at the home place of the two groups of the participants under investigation. The present study has certain limitations regarding the size of the sample and the methodology. Further interdisciplinary research with more participants from different L1 backgrounds and first, second and third generations of immigrants in Cyprus in comparison to other minority/immigrant communities abroad is needed in order to obtain a deeper insight into the interdependence of FLP, emotional salience, the development of the home language and socio-emotional well-being.

Competing interests

The author has no competing interests to declare.


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