Home Language

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

A Family at home
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A home language is a language (or the variety of a language) that is most commonly spoken by the members of a family for everyday interactions at home. Also called the family language or the language of the home.

According to research studies examined by Kate Menken, bilingual children "who are able to develop and maintain their home languages in school through bilingual education are likely to outperform their counterparts in English-only programs and experience greater academic success" ("[Dis]Citizenship or Opportunity?" in Language Policies and [Dis]Citizenship, 2013).

See the observations below. See also:


  • "Educational organizers in English-speaking countries have tended to assume that the languages of school and home are the same, but this is not necessarily so, especially in areas of high immigration and those in which everyday usage differs from the standard."
    (P. Christophersen, "Home Language." The Oxford Companion to the English Language, 1992)
  • Language and Identity
    "[T]he Newbolt Report on the teaching of English in England (Board of Education, 1921) stipulated that children should be taught spoken and written Standard English in the interests of national unity: a unified language would help to produce a unified nation. This link between language and national identity was also made in the (more recent) Australian curriculum statement..., [which] emphasizes respect for children's home language varieties, and this balancing act between respecting home language and providing access to a standard variety has also characterized practice and policy elsewhere. In 1975, the Bulloch Report . . . argued that teachers should accept the child's home language variety but that 'standard forms' should also be taught:
    The aim is not to alienate the child from a form of language with which he has grown up and which serves him efficiently in the speech community in his neighbourhood. It is to enlarge his repertoire so that he can use language effectively in other speech situations and use standard forms when they are needed.
    (Department of Education and Science, 1975, p. 143)
    Virtually all educationalists and policymakers recognize the importance of children's home language."
    (N. Mercer and J. Swann, Learning English: Development and Diversity. Routledge, 1996)
  • The Role of the Home-Language in Second-Language Learning
    "Bilingual education programs have a mixed track record, but strong programs that support children in their home languages CAN help them make an effective transition to schooling in a second language. In the United States, we have tried a variety of approaches to educating children who are not fluent in English when they enter an English-dominant school, including immersing English learners in English-only classes with little or no support, pulling children out for ESL instruction or tutoring until they achieve basic fluency, teaching children content in their home language as they learn English, grouping children with peers who speak their home language, separating children from same-language peers in order to encourage English, and discouraging children from speaking anything but English. The results have been mixed. However, a study commissioned by the U.S. Department of Education found that children in programs that provide native-language content instruction for at least 40 percent of the school day through the fifth grade do better in math and English-language skills than children in English immersion or shorter-duration bilingual programs. This research review has convinced some previously skeptical educators of the value of teaching children content--including reading--in their home language and in English until they have become proficient in both languages."
    (Betty Bardige, At A Loss For Words: How America Is Failing Our Children. Temple University Press, 2005)

Also Known As: family language, language of the home.

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Home Language." ThoughtCo, Aug. 26, 2020, thoughtco.com/what-is-home-language-1690930. Nordquist, Richard. (2020, August 26). Home Language. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-home-language-1690930 Nordquist, Richard. "Home Language." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-home-language-1690930 (accessed June 6, 2023).