Election Day Post- Language Advocacy

Did you know that there is some overlap with recreational linguistics and politics? And language policy to the extent it exists at all, in the US, more than possibly any other legislative area is driven by willful ignorance of anything about the social science of linguistics? So you, more than anyone else have a role to play in US language policy?

Lingua Francas
A lingua franca is the language that is used over a large area either as a common 1st language or a common 2nd language.
- Official Languages — In the US there isn’t an official language, what services will be provided in what language is still an issue though.
- English Only campaigns– these are just frickin’ evil. It is also the only policy that politicians want to pay attention to.
- Esperanto– Is anyone at any level of government give any auxlang serious attention anywhere in the world? Radio Poland’s Esperanto station seems to be gov’t backed and still alive.
- Abroad. These battles go on abroad too, eg. Belgium, Baltic States in Russia. Personally, I favor policies that support the right for people to speak more languages than fewer. But its a battle that people abroad need to fight… unless the minority group isn’t big enough… see Endangered language below.

2nd Language Advocacy
Around about World War II, 2nd language learning was moved to high school. This policy made the US a monolingual country. That and the power of lingua francas. English steam rolling other languages isn’t anyones fault really (and if it is, sometimes you can only tell in retrospect, see Ostler). But the money we waste on ineffective 2nd language acquisition and the general failure to teach anyone any language (but English) at any time– for this someone is at fault. And we should be pressuring state local and federal governments about it.
American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages

Endangered Languages
- From the top, government can fund academics to document the languages before they disappear. (Or not– some linguists think it is a crime that money should go to low prestige languages when there are so many deserving theoretic syntacticians like themselves to take that money instead)
- From the bottom, government can fund efforts or usages laws to bring dead languages back to life, which can be very effective like Modern Hebrew or depressing like Modern Irish.

Terra Linga
Foundation for Endangered Languages

- At least for ASL, the politics are hot and heavy. Just recently suppression of ASL went out of fashion. Teaching parents of deaf babies that they need to learn a 2nd language (see anti-biligualism policies in US) is still a challenge. Still too many parents think their deaf/hard of hearing babies can hear and talk English if they just try harder or take advantage of sci-fi cyborg technology that isn’t really all that baked yet.

National Association of the Deaf
Deaf Bilingual Coalition of USA

Wait there’s More!
And there is more… maybe I’ll come back and update this. I want to become a one many political action committee (or maybe a one couple, if I can get my fiancĂ©e to participate with me) and join a bunch of advocacy groups of the following criteria:

1) Involved in policies that have the interest to follow in some depth over the next 40 years. This guy’s language policy blog/website in my opinion is the pinnacle of good advocacy.
2) Are funded in some non-trivial part by small donors. I don’t want to be the donor that added a rounding error to an advocacy groups budget on top of say, Bill Gates’ contribution
3) Involves some personal action that actually fits my skimpy personal time budget.
4) Use their money towards goals with some sort of leverage. For example, a law requiring public services to be rendered in more languages has more impact than me giving a pro-bono translation office $20 to translate half a page of tax regulations.
5) And I would like to join a portfolio of groups stretching for advocates of things that are nowhere near success (e.g. Esperanto Advocacy), on the cusp of success or recently became successful (ASL policy in the US) and issues that are generally won and done (but could be undone). I can’t think of any language themed policies in the last category– anti-smoking policy in the US is a good example of a mostly won and done policy, but need eternal attention lest the tobacco companies come back.

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