Global Language Policy

It has been over fifty years since UNESCO established as a core principle of education that children should receive instruction in their native language in at least the early years of school. Yet, worldwide it is common to see a difference between the language of home, and the language of instruction in school.

Globally we find tremendous language diversity. According to Ethnoloque, the majority of these thousands of languages are endangered, while there is a concentration of first-language speakers into only eight dominant languages.

The history of a large part of the world is the history of being colonized. Colonialism had the dual effect of denigrating and destroying indigenous languages, while establishing proficiency in the foreign colonial language as a gatekeeper to success and status. Modern language policies in the postcolonial world attempt to work around these issues by providing instruction in some of the local languages (e.g.South AfricaandIndia), while at the same time teaching the language of the workplace, higher education, and international communication. In many cases, this language is English.

In other parts of the world, marginalized languages are being reclaimed through community action and advocacy. Heritage or community languages are taught and revitalized in non-formal settings through the efforts of their speakers.

Globalization continues to have a major affect on explicit or implicit languages policies in individual countries. It is becoming more widely accepted that in order to be highly successful in the contemporary world, being proficient in more than one language is a major advantage.


Language Policy Research Network (LPReN)

The Center for Applied Linguistics manages the Language Policy Research Network (LPReN), an international organization of researchers, scholars, and stakeholders in the field of language policy.


News & Events

The High Cost of Undercounting

June 7, 2019

Including a citizenship question in the 2020 U.S. Census could lead to an undercounting that would dramatically reduce education funding in some states and school districts, educators say.