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CAL Language Policy Statements

What Is Language Policy?

"The three components of the language policy of a speech community [are] its language practices…, its language beliefs or ideology…, and any specific efforts to modify or influence that practice by any kind of language intervention, planning or management"(Spolsky, 2003 , p. 5).

Because no explicit language policy exists in the United States at the federal level, language policy and planning are manifested, implicitly, through the sum of the government’s actions in various domains (Christian, 1999).

Why Is Language Policy Important?

Language is a societal resource (Christian, 1999). It is in the nation’s interest to promote the expansion and protection of linguistic resources.

Policy Statements from CAL on Language Use and Language Education

On Linguistic Diversity

Multilingualism "enhances America’s competitiveness abroad, helps maintain our political and security interests, and promotes tolerance and intercultural awareness" (Marcos & Peyton, 2000).

"The United States has a critical need for individuals who are highly proficient in English and other languages" (Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages, n.d.).

The United States must ensure that residents develop and maintain proficiency in English and at least one other language (Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages, n.d.).

On Heritage Languages

Heritage language speakers, who include immigrant, refugee, and indigenous groups, contribute to the linguistic and cultural richness in the United States (Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages, n.d.).

Thus, the linguistic and cultural background of heritage language speakers should be actively developed in order to promote high levels of proficiency in languages other than English that are necessary for meeting America’s security, military, diplomatic, and business needs (Malone, Rifkin, Christian, & Johnson, 2003).

On Official English

"The Board of Trustees of the Center for Applied Linguistics wishes to make known its opposition to ’English-Only’ measures on the grounds that they are based on misconceptions about the role of a common language in establishing political unity, and that they are inconsistent with basic American ideals of linguistic tolerance.

We believe that it is important for all Americans to be proficient in English. At the same time, we believe it is to the economic and cultural advantage of our nation as a whole that its citizens be proficient in languages other than English, and to this end we wish to encourage both foreign language study for native English speakers, and programs that enable speakers from other linguistic backgrounds to maintain proficiency in those languages along with English"(CAL Board of Trustees, 1987).

On Language Education

The teaching and learning of languages are essential activities for promotion of multilingualism (Center for Applied Linguistics, 2004b).

Learning a language at any age is beneficial and should be supported (Center for Applied Linguistics, 2004a).

Stakeholders must actively develop into the infrastructure of language education "strong, coherent pathways and partnerships that lead to high levels of language proficiency for individuals who seek to pursue that goal, with all of the incentives and resources we can muster"(Christian, 2004).

On Bilingual Education

"On the basis of contemporary education theory as well as research and evaluative information, the Center for Applied Linguistics concludes that bilingualism should be maintained and extended as a national resource and that bilingual/multicultural education is an optimal approach for the education of children of limited English proficiency"(CAL Board of Trustees, 1981).

Well designed and well implemented two-way bilingual education programs are the only educational models that provide all students the opportunity to develop high levels of proficiency in both English and an additional language and the opportunity to meet state content standards. These programs should be promoted (Christian, 2003).


Alliance for the Advancement of Heritage Languages. (n.d.). Guiding principles of the Alliance. Retrieved November 23, 2004, from

CAL Board of Trustees. (1981). Policy statement on bilingual education. Retrieved November 23, 2004, from

CAL Board of Trustees. (1987). CAL resolution on language rights. Retrieved November 23, 2004, from

Center for Applied Linguistics. (2004a). Why, how, and when should my child learn a second language? Washington, DC: Author. Available from

Center for Applied Linguistics. (2004b). Working together to build a multilingual society. Washington, DC: Author. Available from

Christian, D. (1999). Looking at federal education legislation from a language policy/planning perspective. In T. Huebner & K. A. Davis (Eds.), Sociopolitical perspectives on language policy and planning in the USA: Vol. 16. Studies in bilingualism (pp. 117–130). Philadelphia, PA: John Benjamins.

Christian, D. (2003, June 21). Wise change in bilingual education [Letter to the editor]. The Boston Globe.

Christian, D. (2004, June). Practices and partnerships in academia. Paper presented at the National Language Conference, Adelphi, MD. Available from

Malone, M., Rifkin, B., Christian, D., & Johnson, D. (2003). Attaining high levels of proficiency: Challenges for foreign language education in the United States. ERIC/CLL News Bulletin (26), 2. Retrieved November 23, 2004, from

Marcos, K. M., & Peyton, J. K. (2000). Promoting a language proficient society: What you can do (Digest EDO-FL-00-01). Washington, DC: ERIC Clearinghouse on Languages and Linguistics.

Spolsky, B. (2003) . Language Policy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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