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

This page discusses why language in education policies should strive to ‘save’ languages--the planetary and humanistic reasons; and the next page discusses how--the political and pedagogical. Using again the transdisciplinary approach that seeks to unify knowledge, or using a systems approach, we can see the interrelated reasons. With the large scale shift and difficulty of maintaining linguistic diversity due to the many contributing forces (See 20th Century Forces), and the lack of policies that would make it easy, the question often reverts to “why”.


Sustainability: These dominant forces have led the planet to neoliberalism and extreme inequalities and resource depletion (See also Goal of Website). Different languages catch the world differently and provide different solutions, as well as being important to the whole of cultural diversity and necessary for social and ecological justice. (See Biocultural link.) Many ideas flourished in many other civilizations before this time, and didn’t threaten the planet as a whole. Western civilization has had a tendency to ‘other’ groups of people and any non-Western possibility with its own self-believing superiority.


Humanity: Social and cultural rights come together in positive identity formation. Many groups have been forced to assimilate, and face intergenerational trauma and the legacy of forced language and culture shift and colonialism (See Inequalities.) Even economic considerations show that it is positive or pays off to invest in diversity. Children do better with mother tongue instruction. (See Mother Tongue Instruction, Multilingual Education, Deep Education).


Yet, deconstruction of languages and rights is undertaken across the fields, but amounts to ‘rootless hybridity’ (Skutnabb-Kangas 2009) where ‘the usual postmodern critique misses the boat completely’ (Fishman 2006). With the current market-oriented world- education and language are not immune--left to their own devices, most languages will not survive. (See Language Markets.) Language-in-education policies often lead to language shift or disappearance, even when/as mediated by teacher or social practices. (See Social Practice or Social Justice, Teachers as Policymakers, Youth as Policymakers.)


Furthermore, it can be seen in the other sections that multilingual schooling is not difficult nor expensive (around 3% of total education costs according to Economist François Grin). Thus, even if a global educational system were desirable, each language could contribute with its own educational standards and traditional notion of what constitutes “education”. 


Seminar with Linda Tuhawai Smith on Decolonizing Methodologies (Smith, 1999) for the 21st Century.


Languages matter! UNESCO

The World's Endangered Languages UNESCO

Dying languages (National Geographic)

Introducing the Endangered Languages Project


Fishman, J.A., Ferguson, C.A. and Das Gupta, J. (Eds.). (1968) Language Problems of Developing Nations. New York: Wiley.


Fox, M.J. (1975) Language and Development: A Retrospective Survey of Ford Foundation Language Projects, 1952-1974. New York: Ford Foundation.


Grubb, W. N., & Lazerson, M. (2004). The Education Gospel: The Economic Power of Schooling. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. (Introduction).


Lin, A. M., & Martin, P.W. (Eds.). (2005). Decolonisation, globalization: Language-in-education policy and practice (vol. 3.). Bristol: Multilingual Matters.


Pachler, N. (2007). Editorial: Choices in language education: principles and policies. Cambridge Journal of Education, 37 (1). 1-15.


Peet, Richard and Elaine Hartwick. 1999. Theories of Development. Guilford Press.


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

Harrison, K. (2013). Why 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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