Language Education Policy Studies
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Language Protection Questions: How to “Save”

Before “how” to protect languages is “who”: for the linguistics contribution, a disciplinary unity - the transdisciplinary approach- could reshape ideologies that inform policies. Interdisciplinary work in education is already linking many fields through education. (See The Field of Language.) Then “why”- See previous page.


This page focuses on the political and the pedagogical- the “how” involved when communities or policy makers seek to preserve, protect, revitalize, reclaim, or maintain languages that are endangered or threatened. Again it is important to remember the theme of this website that policy and social practice meet in the middle through language in education policies. Then after the role of policy the major question and debate becomes the role of schools vs the role of communities.


Language-in-education policies, as seen on related pages (below), often lead to language shift or disappearance, even when/as mediated by teacher or social practices. With the large scale shift and difficulty of maintaining linguistic diversity due to the many contributing forces, and the lack of policies that would make it easy, many questions arise. In particular, how to revive—is it a structural, communal, or individual choice? Do oral languages need to be written? Clearly policy alone is not enough, but leaving it to communities and speakers to try to revitalize or even maintain their language without resources and support is also clearly not enough.


School-community relations are crucial (Tollefson, 2002). Communities’ involvement is the most important agreed upon ingredient, yet face many obstacles from schooling to poverty. Some applied linguists—in particular sociolinguists but also psycholinguists—and educators have worked together on how to do multilingual schooling and envision flexible policies. (See Multilingual Education, Deep Education, Deep Approach to Language Learning.)


Pedagogies are needed: documenting and recording is clearly not enough to revive and protect a language from disappearing, yet a tool that communities can use, in fact a tool they must use when very few speakers are alive. In addition to community members, applied linguists and anthropologists undertake such work now, previously done by some missionaries (see “historical questions”). Other pedagogies are the master-apprentice model, art, theater, or poetry.


Discussing language revitalization in U.S.: Two models of language revitalization- Master-apprentice and Breath of Life archival (for when there are no speakers left).

Digital archive/collection of recordings and texts in and about Indigenous Languages of Latin America. (see “Indigenous”)

One language’s efforts through a rock band in Oaxaca, Mexico: (see “Indigenous”)

Tove Skutnabb Kangas Keynote address

Anton Treuer- Ojibwe history of revitalization.

Ojibwe immersion school in Wisconsin.


Fishman, J. (ed) (2001). Can Threatened Languages Be Saved: reversing language shift revisted: a 21st century perspective? Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.


Fishman, J. (2006). Do Not Leave Your Language Alone: The Hidden Status Agendas Within Corpus Planning in Language Policy. Mahwah: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.


Fishman, J. (1991). Reversing language Shift: Theory and Practice of Assistance to Threatened Languages. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.


Flores Farfán, J. A. (2003). The use of multimedia and the arts in language revitalization, maintenance and development. Indigenous Languages Across the Community (pp. 225Á236). Retrieved on July 26, 2013.


Flores Farfán, J. A. (2006). Who studies whom and who benefits from sociolinguistic research?. Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 27(1), 79-86.


Farfán, J. A. F., & Holzscheiter, A. (2010). The power of discourse and the discourse of power. The Sage Handbook of Sociolinguistics, 139-152. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.


Greszcyk, R. (2010). Ojibwe Language Warriors, Leaders in the Ojibwe Language Revitalization Movement. MN: University of Minnesota.


Skutnabb-Kangas, T. & Heugh, K. (Eds.) (2012). Multilingual education and Sustainable Diversity Work: From Periphery to Center. New York: Routledge.


Hornberger, N. (1996). Indigenous Literacies in the Americas: Language Planning from the Bottom Up. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter.


McCarty, T. (2009). Empowering Indigenous Languages: What can be learned from Native American experiences? In T. Skutnabb-Kangas, R. Phillipson, A. K. Mohanty, & M. Panda (Eds.), Social Justice through Multilingual Education (pp. 125-139). Bristol, UK: Multilingual Matters.


McCarty, T. (2009). Indigenous Youth as Language Policy Makers. Journal of Language, Identity & Education , 8 (5).


McCarty, T. L. (2008). American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian Education in the Era of Standardization and NCLB- An Introduction. Journal of American Indian Education , 47 (1), 1-8.


Olthius, M., Kivela, S., & Skutnabb-Kangas, T. (2013). Revitalising Indigneous Languages: How to Recreate a Lost Generation. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


Tochon, F. V. (2009). The Key to Global Understanding: World Languages Education Why Schools Need to Adapt. Review of Educational Research , 79 (2), 650-681.


This web page has a copyright. It may be referred to and quoted, or reproduced and distributed for educational purposes according to fair use legislation only if the following citation is included in the document:

This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. (2013). How to "Save". In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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