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  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: December 2009

1 - Language practices, ideology and beliefs, and management and planning



A fifty-six-year-old Turkish woman was refused a heart transplant by clinics in Hanover on the grounds that her lack of German (common among Gastarbeiter) made the recovery process dangerous. The clinic defended the decision: the patient might not understand the doctors' orders, might take the wrong medicine and might not be able to get help if there were complications. The state minister for health said (Sunday Telegraph, August 27, 2000) that in future in similar cases they must find a more practical solution. Doctors and hospitals make language policy when they decide how to deal with language diversity.

Many stories deal with similar cases. Some involve public signs, outward evidence of language policy. In the Old City of Jerusalem, there are trilingual street signs, with the changing order of languages (English, Arabic or Hebrew at the top) tracing the recent history of the city (British Mandate, Jordanian or Israeli rule). But other Israeli cities have signs only in Hebrew and English. After years of litigation, the courts recently ruled that street signs in cities with a mixed Jewish–Arab population should include Arabic. Half a world away, Transit New Zealand agreed to add Māori to English road and place signs (The Dominion, March 2, 2000; for more on Māori and New Zealand, see the section beginning on p.). Quebec law requires that all public signs be in French, permitting the addition, in smaller letters, of a translation into another language.