Language Planning & Policy


Decisions around language policy and planning are made around the globe every day, both formally by governments and informally by scholars and community leaders. These decisions influence the right to use and maintain languages, affect language status, and determine which languages are nurtured. Language policy and planning decisions have a major impact on language vitality and, ultimately, on the rights of the individual.

Decisions about language policies, requirements, and practices have important consequences in all social contexts. “Language planning refers to deliberate efforts to influence the behavior of others with respect to the acquisition, structure, or functional allocation of their language codes” (Cooper, 1989, p. 45). It may be undertaken with formal, official governmental sanction or reflected in unofficial and informal practices. Language planning is frequently undertaken for the expressed purpose of solving communication problems. Nevertheless, ill conceived, poorly informed policies can result in negative impacts on those affected by them.

Traditionally, there are two dimensions of language planning: “Corpus planning deals with norm selection and codification, as in the writing of grammars and the standardization of spelling; status planning deals with initial choice of language, including attitudes toward alternative languages and the political implications of various choices” (Bright, 1992, p. 311). A third major type planning that is particularly important for education is known as language acquisition planning (Cooper, 1989). Choosing which languages will be used as mediums for instruction is particularly important in acquisition planning as one must not only learn the language but use it to learn.

For further reading:

  • Bright, W. (1992). Language Policy. International Encyclopedia of Linguistics Vol. IV:310-311.
  • Cooper, R. L. (1989). Language planning and social change. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.

CAL believes that language diversity should be seen as an asset, not a problem. We conduct original research in the field, and facilitate collaboration nationally and internationally among scholars and other stakeholders. CAL is committed to making significant contributions to the dialogue and debate about language planning and policy with the goal of expanding language choices and widening the context within which language policy decisions are made. In particular, CAL is focusing on language in education planning as a means of promoting language acquisition and achieving greater equity of access to resources.

To learn more about CAL's work and resources about this topic, browse the subtopics within this section.


Language Policy Research Network (LPReN)

The Center for Applied Linguistics manages the Language Policy Research Network (LPReN), an international organization of researchers, scholars, and stakeholders in the field of language policy.


Literacy and Language Diversity in the United States, 2nd Edition

Literacy and Language Diversity in the United States, 2nd Edition

In this revised and updated edition, the author takes a fresh look at the differences between native and nonnative speakers of English in the United States in terms of their literacy performance and educational achievement. He also discusses the social and educational policy debates that surround literacy in the 21st century.

News & Events

Educating America’s Emerging Multilingual Learners: Congressional Briefing

12:00 - 1:00pm

The Center for Applied Linguistics presents to members of the House and Senate on issues pertaining to the state of K-12 English Language Learners in this country. Speakers will include Dr. Keira Ballantyne, Peggy McLeod, EdD, Gabriela Uro, and Dr. Eugene García. Invitation-only.

The High Cost of Undercounting

June 7, 2019

Including a citizenship question in the 2020 U.S. Census could lead to an undercounting that would dramatically reduce education funding in some states and school districts, educators say.