Projected desire in language. An interview study with parents of young language learners.

Luk Van Mensel, Julie Deconinck

Research output: Unpublished contribution to conferenceUnpublished abstract


Recent studies on language learning motivation in SLA have foregrounded notions of identity formation and self-fulfilment. Kramsch (2006, 2009) similarly highlights the hopes and aspirations of the language user, but she conceptualizes these in terms of ‘desire in language', said to be about “exploring various possibilities of the self in the real or imagined encounters with others” (Kramsch, 2006, p. 102), thus going beyond traditional notions of motivation. This paper takes Kramsch's theoretical framework as a point of departure, but it looks at the parents of young language learners, rather than at the learners themselves. Parents make decisions about their children's education, frequently with a view to making their children multilingual. So what hopes, dreams, idealised projections inform this parental ‘desire' to have multilingual children?

In order to explore this line of enquiry, we use data from in-depth interviews about language and identity with 9 parents of various linguistic and social backgrounds in Brussels, Belgium. The participants had all consciously enrolled their children in Dutch-medium education, reputed for its standards in language teaching, even though these parents frequently did not speak the school language(s) (well) themselves. The data reveal that parental choices were not just motivated by a desire to enhance their children's professional opportunities. The parents frequently had vivid mental images of what their multilingual children would achieve in the future (in contrast to their own ‘monolingual' achievements), and what various identity options would be available to their children thanks to this multilingual education. In this way, we show that ‘desire in language' is not limited to the construction of an “inwardly generated identity” (Kramsch 2006: 102); it can also be projected outwardly onto other individuals, in our case by parents onto their children.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Apr 2016
Event2016 Annual Conference American Association for Applied Linguistics - Hilton Orlando, Orlando, United States
Duration: 9 Apr 201612 Apr 2016


Conference2016 Annual Conference American Association for Applied Linguistics
Abbreviated titleAAAL
CountryUnited States
Internet address


  • Desire in language
  • multilingualism
  • identity
  • parents


Dive into the research topics of 'Projected desire in language. An interview study with parents of young language learners.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this