What is language policy importance examples 2020 guide – Education blog


In this article, we will study language policy which is the set of beliefs and actions that we take towards multilingualism in a society and you might have seen headlines like these for example: (seven years ago in Canada).

there was a scandal called Pastagate were in Quebec.

language policy learn

There was a restaurant that served Italian food but they got an official letter from the government saying that the word.

pasta was not French enough and should be removed from the menus and and replaced with the french “pâtes”.

you might have heard that in places like France or Ukraine.

there are certain quotas that demand that you pay a certain percentage of your music.

in a given language like French or Ukrainian, you might have seen headlines about countries wanting their classes to be taught in a language or another for example the Malaysian government trying to teach science and math in English as opposed to the Malay language and there are governments that even want to change their entire language.

alphabet and way of writing to show their political alignment for example change.

the Cyrillic-based writing system Russian-based to a Roman-based writing system and then saying they don’t like it and then changing it to a different type of Roman-based writing system so all these are conflicts surrounding language.

and the place that language is going to have in society.

all this week we’ve talked about multilingualism but the truth is that there are many ways in which languages can be distributed in a society.

For example we have places like Canada or Belgium where people and spaces tend to be relatively monolingual.

For example most English speakers in Canada are not going to learn French and many spaces in Quebec will tend to be mostly in French so the two languages exist in the country but they’re kind of separate there’s societies like type number two here.

where everyone is multilingual this is the case in South Africa that has 11 official languages English Afrikaans Xhosa a number of African languages but practically everyone speaks at least two of them.

and so you need to make decisions of when you are going to speak the language policy for general communication which might be English. and when are you going to speak your own language?

like Afrikaans or Xhosa and there are societies like the US like Australia where most people are monolingual in a single language most people speak English and there’s a number of people that are bilingual in English. some other language for example maybe speak English and an indigenous language like Navajo in Arizona or maybe they speak English and Spanish. like in California or New Mexico.

And, so there have to be decisions about how these communities are going to interact and what languages they’re going to use and what kind of attitude we are going to approach.

historically there have been three of them. People have sometimes seen multilingualism as a problem like the Tower of Babel problem where they think that one society should have.

a single language and if we all speak in that language policy everything will be fine and we’ll get along in essence.

This is seeing multilingualism as a problem and societies like these tend to use instruction like schools.

to get the minority languages out of the way and try to make everyone speak a single language so as you can see multilingualism is seen as a problem that has to be.

solved multilingualism can also be seen as a resource where society can cultivate more than one language for example because it has economic value.

maybe they think that if we all speak something and English then we’ll have opportunities.

for exchange with other people in the world and societies can also choose to view multilingualism as a human right they can try to value each of the languages and try.

to help the communities maintain their usage of language.

which is by the way the approach that we’re going to use in this class yeah everyone should have the right to say “I love you” to their mother in whichever language that they choose if you’ve always spoken to your mom in a certain language.

you should be able to say “I love you” to her in that language.

and not have to change it because that multilingualism is seen as a problem.

so whichever three of these approaches you choose.

about multilingualism, this is where language planning comes in; language planning is a deliberate effort to steer the use of language in one direction.

or another it is mostly done by governments but as we’ll see it is also done by individuals.

whoever makes these decisions is trying to decide which languages are going to be used in a nation or in a society and which functions are going to be assigned to each of the languages.

there’s basically four ways in which you can plan these functions you can choose assimilation.

multilingualism vernacularization and internationalization of a society assimilation is the idea that one nation should have one language because somehow speaking one language will make yourself.

all one person would try to assimilate everyone into a single language most likely the language of the dominant community so for example these are attempts to make.

the U.S. English only for example to have English-only laws and this is not exclusive to the U.S of course this happens everywhere on planet earth.

but this is in general the idea that the correct way to build a society is for everyone to speak.

the same language and for the government to provide services in a single language that then everyone would need to learn for them to access these services.

Multilingualism is the idea that societies could exist with multiple languages coexisting in parallel.

so for example in Canada you can access government services in either English or French.

In theory wherever you are in a country this would be the same in Switzerland whichever of the four languages you speak the government should be able to provide judges for you in any of the languages.

you should be able to access schooling in any of the languages and so forth vernacularization is very interesting is trying to use a language that was not used for administration before and then have.

that one as the official language this happened in Israel for example and this happened to Swahili when it was promoted to the official language.

language of Tanzania and Kenya in Eastern Africa.

We’ll talk more about the case of Hebrew in the upcoming article’s internationalization is the adoption of a non-local language as the official language of a territory.

this might happen in places that are so multilingual that choosing one lingua franca could be difficult for example Nigeria has about 180 languages.

So choosing any single one of them might put one community at an advantage and many others at a disadvantage so these societies have chosen for example to use.

English as the language of the government of education to provide sort of a neutral alternative.

and that everyone would have to learn this is the same thing that has happened in Singapore for example:  where English is used for government likewise in the Philippines instead of the government having to use all the local languages.


so these are four ways in which you could orient a multilingual society.

After you decide what you want to do, you need to decide how to get there and these involve the following decisions: status planning.

involves deciding which settings will correspond to each language for example what is going to be the language of the courts. what is going to be the language of the banks of health care of the schools and in general what will be the language of wider communication for the community which will be the language that the government will prefer.

for providing its services you also need to decide on corpus planning by the way corpus has two meanings in linguistics: it could mean a collection of documents that we use for research.

but it could also mean the collection of vocabulary that is chosen.

so you’re going to need to decide new words for schools and what is the word for chlorophyll.

going to be if the language doesn’t have one yet.

Who’s going to make the new word, is it going to be a committee, is it going to be the ministry of education for example, who is going to decide on the orthography.

And how words should be written and taught in schools.

should they be written to favor one dialect over the other should you try to reach a neutral form that is usable for all the dialects.

These decisions also affect schools you’re going to have to decide who learns the languages for example: you’re going to have to provide support for the parents you give them kindergartens.

In the languages for example see which languages are going to get taught in schools and who gets to learn how to read and write. in their language in schools who make these decisions historically governments have made these decisions so centralized governments or regional governments.

schools are also involved by choosing to use the balance of languages in the day for example in an indigenous territory.

you can choose to spend some percentage of your day in English and some percentage of the indigenous language and you’re going to have to manage the balance hopefully.

minority community members will have some political power to make these decisions themselves or to participate in these decisions and ultimately all of civil society makes these decisions.


when you decide which language you’re going to learn or when you decide to have a conversation in public you are making language policy.

and better language planning I’m sorry and by the way also is the person who’s saying.

hey you only speak English here this is America that person is making a decision about what kind of society they wish and what kind of usage of language they want in that society.

so all of us are involved in these decisions. A very interesting short case study is baby names.

because names of babies are in languages in Mexico there was a small scandal in the city of Oaxaca because a family tried to name their baby Po’Malala.

means ‘moon’ in Mixe, one of the languages of Oaxaca but it has the apostrophe which is a glottal stop which the system couldn’t take because the system could only take Roman letters and so.

There was a fight back and forth to see how this could be included in their birth registries in California for a long time.

names could have the apostrophe which is not in the alphabet, but couldn’t have an accent mark like in José for about 30 years California had an English-only law which was repealed in 2017 so now you can name a baby with an accent in California in Japan. for example, there are strict laws telling you that names have to be in simple or common letters.

which in practice means the Kanji or the other letters in the Japanese writing system so if you want to name your kid George that’s not allowed you’d have to.

use the Japanified form “Jōji” to name them and by the way, they have the philosophy that even though names are personal names are ultimately for social use and that the name of use of rare and difficult names negatively affects. The interest of others and of society what do you think about these.

None of these topics have easy answers and this is what language planning studies are: a set of beliefs and practices that regulate the learning and use of languages in society.

societies can view multilingualism as a problem as a resource as a human right and then they have to make decisions about how they want to manage this multilingualism.


If you like our Language Policy program article so please share this article with your friends and follow our Twitter account for more updates.

Leave a Comment