Language policy in the United States: forming lingual personality

Analysis of historical prerequisites for formation state language policy in the United States and the factors that kept the impact on the formation of a lingual personality in the American society. Language ideologies and the US language education policy.

Рубрика Государство и право
Вид статья
Язык английский
Дата добавления 02.03.2018
Размер файла 18,8 K

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Language policy in the united states: forming lingual personality

O.Ye. Krsek


Historical prerequisites for formation state language policy in the United States and the main factors that kept the impact on the formation of a lingual personality in the American society are analysed. Recent researches which have illuminated language ideologies and the US language education policy are reviewed. Possible ways of using the American experience in Ukraine are considered in this article.

Key words: state language policy, language education policy, lingual personality, bilingual education, multicultural education.

Проаналізовано історичні передумови формування державної мовної політики в Сполучених Штатах і головні чинники, які впливають на формування мовної особистості в американському суспільстві. Зроблено огляд останніх досліджень, що прояснюють мовні ідеології і мовну політику в освіті США. У статті розглянуто можливі шляхи використання американського досвіду в Україні.

Ключові слова: державна мовна політика, мовна особистість, білінгвальна освіта, мультікультурна освіта.

Проанализированы исторические предпосылки формирования государственной языковой политики в Соединенных Штатах и главные факторы, которые оказывают воздействие на формирование языковой личности в американском обществе. Сделан обзор последних исследований, которые проясняют языковые идеологии и языковую политику в образовании США. В статье рассмотрены возможные пути использования американского опыта в Украине.

Ключевые слова: государственная языковая политика, языковая личность, билингвальное образование, мультикультурное образование.

Statement of the problem in general aspect

Language Policy is what a government does either officially through legislation, court decisions or policy to determine how languages are used, cultivate language skills needed to meet national priorities or to establish the rights of individuals or groups to use and maintain languages. For many Americans, the symbolism of the English language has become a form of civic religiosity in much the same vein as the flag. This symbolism is not new; it can be found in the words of Theodore Roosevelt: “We must have but one flag. We must also have but one language. That must be the language of the Declaration of Independence, of Washington's farewell address, of Lincoln's Gettysburg speech and second inaugural”.

The United States has never had a language policy, consciously planned and national in scope. It has had language policies - ad hoc responses to immediate needs or political pressures - often contradictory and inadequate to cope with changing times. Government cannot avoid language policymaking. Yet no federal agency is charged with coordinating decisions, resources, or research in this area [2, 3, 7, 8, 9, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 20].

The aim of the given paper is to analyze the main factors that kept the impact on the formation of the language policy of the United States, to review the researches which illuminate our understanding of language ideologies and social justice in multilingual states, to summarize the latest documents regarding the problems of forming lingual personality in a multilingual society, such as the USA.

Analysis of the main factors that kept the impact on the formation of the language policy of the United States was conducted in a few aspects. A dominant ideology of monolingualism in the multilingual society was investigated by Blackledge A., Blommaert J., Collins J., Dicker S., Doucet R., Gal S., Kroskrity P., Lippi-Green R., Mertz E., Philips S., Schieffelin B., Shannon S., Spitulnik D., Stroud C., Watts R., Wodak R. Gal S. and Woolard K. make the point that ideologies that appear to be about language are often about political systems, while ideologies that seem to be about political theory are often implicitly about linguistic practices and beliefs. Ideologies of language are therefore not about language alone, but are always socially situated and tied to questions of identity and power in societies.

History of the USA English language legislative policy is observed by Gonzales F., Littlejohn J., Lyons J., Moses M., Valenci R. Language policies in the education in the USA are considered by Bamford K. W., Campesino C., Chester D. T., Darling-Hammond L., Feiman-Nemser S., Feistritzer C.E., Furman N., Goldberg D., Hamlyn H., Ingold C.W., Jacobson P., Kuenzi J.J., Mizokawa D.T., Pufahl I., Rhodes N., Wang S.C. Language teacher preparation is illuminated by Campesino C., Chait R., Darling-Hammond L., Fasciano H., Feiman - Nemser S., Feistritzer C.E., Hamlyn H., Jacobson P., Koning P., Kuenzi J.J., Lena M., Levine A., McLaughlin M., Moll R., Pufahl I., Rhodes N., Roberts G., Ruugard V., Tedick D.J., Wang S.C.

Language Education Policies to International Human Rights Standards are investigated by Crawford J., Cummins J., Gandara P., Hammarberg T., Hopkins M., Jhingran D., Leibowitz A.H., Reyhner J., Rosado L., Singh N., Wright S. Bilingual Education research is conducted by Brisk M., Collier V.P., Combs M.C., Cobb B., Crawford J., Espinosa L., Hsu C., Fasciano H., Kronauge C., Littlejohn J., Ovando C.J., Reynolds C.W., Stewner G., Steinberg Lois S., Thomas W.P., Vega D. All students, including those with limited English proficiency (LEP) and those with other special educational needs, have rights guaranteed under the U. S. Constitution, federal legislation and decisions handed down by the U. S. Supreme Court [1, p.5].

Who are “the American people”? Is this one national group into which newcomers must assimilate? Or is this nation composed of many cultural communities, each of which is a unique but integral part of the national fabric? This fundamental point is what underlies the specific disputes over language policy. This way of looking at identity politics, as Schmidt R. [2, p.21] shows, calls into question the dichotomy between “material interest” politics and “symbolic" politics in relation to group identities. Over thirty million people in the United States speak a primary language other than English. Nearly twenty million of them speak Spanish. And these numbers are growing. Critics of immigration and multiculturalism argue that recent government language policies such as bilingual education, non - English election materials, and social service and workplace “language rights” threaten the national character of the United States. Proponents of bilingualism, on the other hand, maintain that, far from being a threat, these language policies and programs provide an opportunity to right old wrongs and make the United States a more democratic society [4, 5, 6, 8, 15.18, 20].

Over the past several decades, there have been persistent concerns about the official status of English in the USA and, simultaneously, about the preservation of languages other than English. These concerns echo those that held center stage at the outset of the 20th century as well as some that were raised even during the era of English colonization before the founding of the Republic. A historical review of language planning and policy formation and an analysis of their ideological underpinnings may be helpful in understanding current debates over language policy in the USA [3, 324].

Some of the confusion that occurs in popular discussions about language policies in the United States results from dichotomizing choices regarding governmental recognition and support for languages, as if they involved only either or choices between English and other languages. There remains some disagreement over the fundamental historical orientation of language policies in the USA. In the most comprehensive analysis of formal policy stances that can be taken by a state or by the federal government, Kloss H. [4, p.354] argued that tolerance has been the primary policy orientation throughout most of American history and that this orientation reflected the thinking of most of the founders [5, 11, 12].

Wiley Terrence G. [3, p.326-328] in his work “Historical Orientations to Language Policy in the United States” created the schema, adapted from Kloss H. [4, p.347], which allows for a classification of five language policies based on their intended purposes as well as their consequences: promotion-oriented policies which involve the use of governmental resources as part of an active governmental plan to further the official use of a language or languages; expediency-oriented policies which allow the government to accommodate minority languages in the short term to facilitate educational and political access and to guarantee legal rights (e. g., by providing for court interpretation); tolerance-oriented policies characterized by the significant absence of state interference in the linguistic life of the language minority communities. They leave language minority communities to their own devices to maintain their ancestral languages without any expectation of resources and support from the government; restriction-oriented policies that make social, political, and economic benefits, rights, and opportunities conditional on knowing or using the dominant language; repression-oriented policies which involve the selfconscious attempt to exterminate minority languages.

Questions of language policy may be approached solely from a linguistic point of view. A principal argument here, however, is that language policies, whether official, implicit, or covert, are used to influence and control social behavior. The ideology of English monolingualism presumes a contest between English and other languages in which it is assumed that only one language can prevail. Given that metaphors of social conflict dominate contemporary debates about language policy, it is impossible to avoid the social and political implications of policy prescriptions. The metaphor of conflict precludes a longstanding missed opportunity in the USA, namely the development of a more widespread capacity for bilingualism [3, p.327]. The rapid increase in the number of immigrants necessitated numerous modifications to U. S.educational policies. During the 19th and early 20th centuries, instruction was provided in many of the languages represented by new immigrants and native Americans [6, p.59]. Over time, however, English as the language of instruction became important as a symbol of immigrant assimilation into American culture and as a social /cultural unifying factor. After much deliberation, some members of Congress argued that it was not appropriate to require instruction in languages other than English, especially at a time of economic crisis. Overall, attempts to implement successful bilingual education programs in the United States have met with limited success.

Founded in 1983 by the U. S. English organization, the English Only (EO) movement was established in an effort to make English the official language of the United States. Efforts to apply this movement started with the nation's increasing number of immigrants and the “growing discontent with bilingual education" [6, p.49]. `Official English' is a political movement in the United States of America which contends that national unity, American identity and the English language itself are threatened both by immigration and languages other than English. Also known as `English Only', this movement's primary areas of focus are educational policy for language minority children, linguistic access to political and civil rights (such as the right to access voting materials and drivers' licensing exams in languages other than English), and a constitutional amendment that would give English the status of the sole official language of the United States [2, p.44]. The EO movement has received strong attention from the media. Funding and campaigns have helped the movement progress and "by 2010, 26 states had active Official English laws on their books" [6, p.52]. Although English is still not specified as the nation's official language, some states, including California, Arizona, and Massachusetts, were successful in their promotion of EO instruction. For example, in California, an initiative supported by politician and millionaire Ron Unz received great support for EO instruction, despite its attempt to devalue bilingual education [6, p.54]. Proponents of the EO movement argue that the principles that guide their movement would help the United States to resolve issues related to racism that are so common in certain divided nations where multilingualism is prevalent. Opponents of legislating English as the official language argue that making English the official language would aggravate issues of racism and discrimination. In fact, U. S. English has sparked an attitude of hostility towards Asian and Latino groups [6, 52].

language policy united state

English-only programs have also had a negative impact on Native Americans as the loss of Native American indigenous languages have resulted in a loss of cultural identity for many of their people [3, 8, 9, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 20].

The history of U. S.educational legislation is grounded in the changing conceptions about the most effective way to provide high quality education for all students. In fact, the Supreme Court has recognized the fundamental role education plays, not only in individual success, but in maintaining a prosperous society [7, p.643]. Language of instruction became the focal point of discussions over time, as more and more students came to the classroom from non-English speaking home environments. According to the 2010 U. S. Census, English Language Learner (ELL) enrollment has increased by 65% over the past ten years. The Census also predicts that students who come from homes that speak a language other than English will make up 40% of the entire school-age population by 2030 [8]. According to Article 29 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (1989) “the education of the child should be directed to the development of respect for the child's parents, his or her own cultural identity, language and values, for the national values of the country in which the child is living, the country from which he or she may originate, and for civilizations different from his or her own”. Along the same lines, Article 30 states that “a child belonging to an (ethnic, religious, or linguistic minority) should not be denied the right to use his or her own language” [9, 11]. Access to education in one's native language should be intimately connected with the question of democratic practices. No doubt, immigrant learners need to learn the language of the host country but this should happen in a way that will enable them to not only read the word but also the world.

In the United States, bilingual education was a common program model during the 1970s and 1980s for kindergarten through fifth, sometimes sixth, grades, but did not continue in middle or high school [6, 42]. Program purposes and goals varied. However, frequently BE program goals were explicitly designed for melding ELL (mainly immigrant and indigenous American) students into the common culture of the United States [6, p.9]. The term “bilingual” education is “neither a single uniform program nor a consistent `methodology'. Rather, it is an approach that encompasses a variety of program models” [6, p.9]. The Bilingual Education Act, was passed by congress in 1968 in an effort to support bilingual education in the U. S. The Act came as a by-product of the Civil Rights Movement and its emphasis on equality (National Clearinghouse of Bilingual Education, 1988). The act and its recognition of the needs of students of limited English proficiency catered to the educational needs of minority groups, particularly those from impoverished backgrounds. The 1990s witnessed drastic changes in favor of bilingual education. New Title VII funding proposed in 1994 highlighted a new set of principles supporting minority students and touting the benefits of bilingualism on cognitive and social development, as well being beneficial for the U. S. economy. The new act also emphasized the need to provide minority students with “an equal opportunity to learn the challenging content and high - level skills that school reform efforts advocate for all students” [6, p.68].

Schmidt R. [2] examines bilingual education in the public schools, “linguistic access” rights to public services, and the designation of English as the United States' `official' language. He illuminates the conflict by describing the comparative, theoretical, and social contexts for the debate. The source of the disagreement, he maintains, is not a disagreement over language per se but over identity and the consequences of identity for individuals, ethnic groups, and the country as a whole. Title VII thus resulted in significant funding as well as needed attention to the instructional needs of language minority students while, at the same time, ensuring the integrity of language minority students' educational content and environment. Title VII was eliminated in 2002 with the enactment of No Child Left Behind Act.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) was an educational reform signed into law by President George W. Bush on January 8, 2002. It was a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) and funded federal programs aimed at improving education in U. S. public schools by increasing accountability standards. The overall intent of the law was to provide all children in the United States with a significant and equal opportunity to achieve high academic standards. The U. S. Department of Education established basic objectives in NCLB which included: the acquisition of highly qualified teachers, student achievement of higher academic standards, student competency in reading and math, Limited English Proficiency (LEP) student competency in English, and higher rates of high school graduation [10].

All students, including those with limited English proficiency (LEP) and those with other special educational needs, have rights guaranteed under the U. S. Constitution, federal legislation and decisions handed down by the U. S. Supreme Court. As Multicultural Education, Training and Advocacy, Inc (META) stated, all students have a right to freedom from discrimination, the right to education programs responsive to their language needs, the right to protection under the law, and the right to special education testing and programs. In order to provide these guaranteed opportunities, accommodations must be made to serve special needs of students.

Ovando C. J. and Combs M. C. summarized the point, “Both bilingual education and special education are interventions aimed at improving educational services to students whose needs have not been met by traditional methods of providing universal public education" [6, p.369]. The challenges in educating LEP students and students of other special needs begin in correctly identifying them. Students of LEP have been heavily overrepresented and also underrepresented in special education programs throughout the United States. LEP students and traditional special needs children both often fall behind their peers, but for different reasons. The reasons need to be determined and addressed appropriately in order for the student to attain academic success. Artiles A. J. and Ortiz A. A. stressed, “Before assessing a child for special education, first assess the instructional program" [1, p.1], The federal Department of Education dictated in its inclusion requirements for Title I that LEP students need to be assessed to extents practical “in the language and form most likely to yield accurate and reliable information on what such students know and can do, to determine such students' mastery of skills in subjects other than English”. Research shows that early intervention is most effective in turning around student progress with regard to students who are falling behind their peers; so timely notice, assessment, and intervention are crucial for student success. In conclusion, LEP students have a very difficult time keeping up with their peers who have begun learning the language of instruction since birth. LEP students are in a fragile academic position and need as much help from teachers and outside sources as they can get. Teachers need to be trained to be aware of nuances between LEP students who may have greater English language deficiencies than other LEP students and LEP students with further special needs.

Language is an instrument which binds people together. When people speak one language they become as one, they become a society. Understanding the role of languages in today's world most urgently raises the question to the community on improving the level of language learning. It should be noted, that the concept of the language education in Ukraine is aimed at improving the quality and methods of forming the language education policy, language ideologies, language legislative policy. Much attention is paid to the multilingual education, which is regarded as an effective tool of preparing the young generation to the life in the interconnected and interdependent world. One of the tasks of lingual education in Ukraine becomes the introduction of the youth to the universal, global values, the formation among the students the abilities to communicate and interact with the representatives of the neighboring cultures and in the global space. In the given context, experience of the USA can be very useful for Ukraine, especially in the context of developing conceptions of state language policies in Ukraine.


1. Artiles A.J., Ortiz, A.A. English language learners and special education: A summary of English language learners with special education needs. Center for Applied Linguistics. National Education Association. Retrieved from http://www2.

2. Schmidt R. Language Policy and Identity Politics in the United States. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. - Retrieved from

3. Wiley T. Language planning, language policy, and the English-only movement. / In Finegan & Rickford, Language in the USA: Themes for the twenty-first century. // Cambridge University Press - 2004. - pp.324328.

4. Kloss H. The American Bilingual Tradition (2nd ed.). Washington, DC and McHenry, IL: The Center for Applied Linguistics and Delta Systems, - 1998. - 347 pp.

5. Crawford J. Language politics in the U. S. A.: The paradox of bilingual education. In C. Ovando, P. Mclaren, The Politics of multiculturalism and bilingual education: Students and teachers caught in the cross fire. - 2000. - pp.106-125.

6. Ovando C.J., Combs M.C. Bilingual and ESL classrooms: Teaching in multicultural contexts (5th edition). New York, NY: McGraw-Hill. - 2003. - pp.141-155.

7. Berenyi J. “Appropriate action," inappropriately defined: amending the equal education opportunities act of 1974. Washington and Lee Law review, - 2008. - 640 - 659. - http://scholarlycommons. law.

8. The United States Department of Education. (n. d.). Part A - English Language Acquisition, Language Enhancement, and Academic Achievement Act. Retrieved from

9. Convention on the rights of the child. United Nations General Assembly Resolution, 20September, 1989. http://www.unhchr. ch/html/menu3/b/k2crc. htm.

10. 10. Ingold C.W., Wang S.C. The teachers we need: Transforming world language education in the United States: National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland. Retrieved from: pdf

11. Kroskrity P. “Arizona Tewa Kiva speech as a manifestation of a dominant language ideology”. In B. Schieffelin, K. Woolard & P. Kroskrity (eds.), Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, - 1998. - 103-220.

12. Gal S. “Multiplicity and contention among language ideologies: A commentary”. In B. Schieffelin, K. Woolard & P. Kroskrity (eds.), Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, - 1998. - 3-47.

13. Lippi-Green R. “Accent, standard language ideology, and discriminatory pretext in the courts”. Language in society 23, - 1994. - 163-98.

14. Philips S. “Language ideologies in institutions of power: A commentary”. In B. Schieffelin, K. Woolard & P. Kroskrity (eds.), Language Ideologies: Practice and Theory. New York: Oxford University Press, - 1998. - 211-220.

15. Shannon S. “The debate on bilingual education in the U. S.: Language ideology as reflected in the practice of bilingual teachers”. In J. Blommaert, Language Ideological Debates. - 1999. - p.13.

16. Wiley T.G. A brief history and assessment of language rights in the United States. In J.W. Tollefson, Language policies in education: Critical issues (2nd ed.). London, England: Routledge. - 2013. - pp.61-90

17. Wiley T.G., Lukes M. English-only and standard English ideologies in the United States. TESOL Quarterly, 3. - 1993. - 511-530.

18. Ingold C.W., Wang S.C. The teachers we need: Transforming world language education in the United States. College Park, MD: National Foreign Language Center at the University of Maryland. Retrieved from: pdf

19. Bamford K.W., Mizokawa D.T. Additive-bilingual (immersion) education: Cognitive and language development. Language Learning, 41. - 1991. - 413-429.

20. Ovando C.J., Wiley T. Language education in the conflicted United States. In J. Bourne & E. Reid (Eds.), World yearbook of education, London: Kogan Page. - 2003. - pp.141-155.

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