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  • Cited by 4
  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

16 - Language policy in the USA


In recent years, public policy debates regarding language in the USA have centered largely on the acquisition of English and the extent to which speakers of “other” languages should be accommodated if they do not speak English. The focus on English dominates public discourse so much that even the mere suggestion by a presidential candidate that there are advantages for Americans in learning languages such as Spanish has been met with ridicule (Sidoti 2008), although the presence of Spanish in North America predates that of English (Chapter 4, this volume) and the USA is the fifth largest Spanish-speaking country in the world (González and Wiley 2007). In its history, the USA has had many policies related to language. Many educational policies at the state level focus on the promotion of English, which is certainly important because it is the dominant language that is necessary for social, economic, and political participation. But the issue of the value of promoting other languages is rarely addressed. Thus, the country lacks a comprehensive policy for the promotion of languages other than English. This chapter addresses the need for a comprehensive national language policy and what such a policy might look like.