Osman Abdillahi

MA Education TEFL dissertation prize winner 2016

Osman Abdillahi

Maintaining a Language at the Margins at Home: The family language policy of four Somali families in Birmingham

I am tremendously happy that my hard work has been rewarded. Winning TEFL dissertation prize was beyond my wildest dreams for, in the initial stages, I lacked research experience. However, through generous support from my tutors and my supervisor in particular that wildest dream was possible. I hope the recognition of my work would motivate me to further my academic work and pursue a Ph.D. degree. I would like to share my success with my family who has been very supportive along the way. Similarly, I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to my tutors and supervisor who constantly guided and encouraged me during all the stages of my dissertation.


There has been a general dearth in sociolinguistics research on Somali community in the UK and more particularly, research on natural intergeneration Somali language transmission (Abibar, 2013). To address this gap, this dissertation looked at the family language policy of four Somali families in Birmingham. It used micro-ethnographic interviews, observation, and recording of parent-child interactions to investigate the dynamics of Somali language maintenance at the family level. Using Spolsky’s (2004) tripartite Language Policy Model, the dissertation focused on the parental language ideologies that underpinned the family language policy and examined how home language choice in the families were negotiated and managed. The findings suggest that the Somali families’ language ideologies were strongly influenced by socio-economic factors. They believed in the instrumental value of English language for their children’s career advancement and extremely valorised the maintenance of Somali language to maintain social and family relationships, cultural oral traditions and ethnic Somali identity. The result shows that language management and practice provided locus of continuous negotiation either for monolingual Somali language or for bilingual contexts where English and Somali co-existed. The negotiation for home language choice and practice showed ways in which family language policy was constructed .