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Language Policy and Planning in the United States

Relations between different languages within one state are inseparable from interethnic relations, which are unanimously considered by politicians and sociologists to be the most vulnerable side of the coexistence of people within the framework of society. Therefore, a vision of a complex language situation is always a part of the national policy of the state, and the ways to resolve it are rightfully called “language policy and planning”. Tollefson and Pérez-Milans (2018) also add that “the term language planning referred to deliberate efforts to affect the structure or function of languages” (p. 3). Each state, in which there is a more or less complex language situation, resolves its problems in its own way, although sociolinguists still attempt to describe the most common types of language policy. One of the main issues of language policy is the problem of the so-called “state language”. In a multinational state, if it is seriously concerned with its integrity, there must be a single language in which laws are written, centralized broadcasting is conducted, and teaching in higher educational institutions is carried out. With this language, the state is officially represented in the international arena.

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It is significant that the United States, where English speakers constitute an unconditional majority, still remains a “state without a state language”. Attempts to give the English language the constitutional status of a state language are viewed by the majority of politicians as violating human rights. Liddicoat (2018) states that “policies can be part of the process of mediation but to see this mediation only in terms of the policy is problematic” (p. 151). The relationship between the majority’s and minority’s languages can be complicated, and to resolve the tension, not only language policies but agencies, too, should be applied. Spolsky (2018) presented a good example: “Language Problems and Language Planning’s first issue focused on language loyalty in Britain, considering the status of Scots Gaelic, Welsh, and Irish” (p. 306). The journal suggested that language planning solved such problems. It is true that without proper management, processes of language assimilation may result in the extreme manifestation of that assimilation. This manifestation is called a “linguistic shift”, or “linguistic bias” – it means rejection of the native language in favor of the majority language, especially if it performs the function of the language of interethnic communication.

Analyzing these issues, a teacher might safely conclude that in order to ensure a proper language policy and planning on a micro-level, such as their classroom, they need to encourage multilingual education. García and Lin (2017) support that claim, stating that “bilingual education became a way of developing the bilingualism of language minoritized people that had experienced language shift and language loss as a result of monolingual schooling” (p. 120). Bilingualism at school presents a brilliant opportunity for language minorities not only to peruse their native language but also encourages them to preserve their cultural legacy. Jiang (2017) adds that the role of language policies and planning “constitutes policies on language learning and instructional practices in classrooms at elementary, secondary or tertiary levels; or on language acquisition and use in the classroom” (p. 104). Moreover, the necessity to learn a second language might provide the language majority with a useful insight into different cultures, as well as better perspectives for their academic and working future. Different researches prove the positive impact of an essential proficiency in two or more languages on social, cultural, and biological aspects of society.

References

García, O., & Lin, A. M. (2017). Translanguaging in bilingual education. Bilingual and Multilingual Education, 117-130.

Jiang, X. (Ed.). (2017). Sociolinguistics: Interdisciplinary perspectives. Rijeka, Croatia: InTech.

Liddicoat, A. J. (2018). Constraints on agency in micro language policy and planning in schools. Agency in Language Policy and Planning, 149-170.

Spolsky, B. (2018). Language policy: From planning to management. Un(intended) Language Planning in a Globalising World: Multiple Levels of Players at Work, 301-309.

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Tollefson, J. W., & Pérez-Milans, M. (2018). The Oxford handbook of language policy and planning. New York, NY, New York: Oxford University Press.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'Language Policy and Planning in the United States'. 29 December.

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