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Social justice, language acquisition, and the issue of national or official language policy

What is it that someone knows, when we say that he or she knows a language? How does knowing a language empower people socially, culturally, intellectually, and economically? Likewise, what are the adverse social and economic repercussions when someone does not have competency in the dominant language of a country or society he / she lives in?

Knowledge of language can be broken down into at least the following four components: 1) phonology: how sounds are put together to form larger units, such as words; 2) syntax: how words are put together to form sentences; 3) semantics: how the meaning of sentences is determined from the meaning of the words and the way that they are combined; and 4) discourse structure: how sentences are put together into larger discourse structures.

When it comes to language acquisition, however, there is also a social justice element involved. The goals of language education in the United States have always been informed by the social, historical, and political contexts in which the instruction takes place. Applied linguistics plays a key role in research to increase understanding and challenge inequalities and injustices in society.

explore social justice, language acquisition, and the issue of national or official language policy, such as standard English as the official language in America.

The political, social, and cultural significance of the concept of an official language is clear in the intense controversies over national language policy that have arisen, and continue to arise, in countries throughout the world and in the policies that different governments adopt. Contrasting examples include: the adoption of French as the sole official language of the Canadian province of Quebec in 1974; and the long-standing official recognition of three languages (French, Swiss German, and Italian) in the multi-ethnic, multicultural country of Switzerland.

Here in the U.S., there has been a growing movement over the past two decades advocating a federal law to designate English as the official language of the nation. The idea behind this proposal is to require that English be the sole language of all government affairs (e.g., courts, taxes, elections) and of education. This movement is highly controversial.

Prompt for Week IV Argumentative Essay:

What do you think? Should the United States proclaim English as the official language? Should America adopt a federal law on an official language?

Alternatively, if you come from a country where there have been controversies over language policy, what is your view about them?

If you are a teacher or soon- to- be- teacher, or in some other profession where you engage with people whose first language is not English, how might you engage in interactions that include a social justice ethos?