The situated construction of language ideologies in Aruba : a study among participants in the language planning and policy process.
The focus of this research project is the intricate relationship between language ideology, colonization and socio-economic mobility and emancipation in former colonies where the present-day language policies echo the inherited colonial language policies. These language policies favor the use of the former colonizer's language over the home languages of the people in education, and often in legal practice and governance as well. I demonstrate that existing theoretical models that aim to offer comprehensive insight into the language policy process do not address the complexity of the formulation and implementation of language policy, especially in terms of the importance of belief systems in society, the contradictory forces which underpin decolonial relations, and the multi-faceted and multi-level character of the language policy making processes. Despite international institutional acceptance of the importance of mother tongue-based education, the 21st century reality is that - at least - 40% of the world's children have no access to education in their home language. The mistakenly self-evident dominance of the former colonizer's languages in education has negatively impacted access to knowledge, quality education and socio-economic mobility. The linguistic unbalance in this world deprives many people and communities of the opportunity to go through a schooling system that uses their mother tongue as the language of instruction, and as such limits their intellectual opportunities, creativity, safety and socio-economic potential. It also deprives their communities of the potential of being agents of change, of standing up for their own culture, lifestyle, and environment. Especially when it comes to formal education settings, this colonial legacy has led to a variety of challenges that have a major impact in these societies. More often than not the colonial language is chosen as the main medium of instruction for secondary and higher education, and if the home language is used in primary education, it is mainly with the goal of supporting the achievement of some degree of proficiency in the colonial language. In this study, I have demonstrated that the maintenance of the colonial language in education and in other domains, goes hand in hand with ideologies that present the former colonizer's language, culture, institutions and education systems as superior, whereas the home language(s) are presented as inadequate, as an unfit tool for teaching, or even as unfit to be called a language. At the hand of legal documents, policy texts, research papers, print media and social media discussions I have demonstrated the persistence of colonial language ideologies throughout history and across different text genres in the multilingual small island state Aruba. Furthermore, at the hand of five additional case studies, I have demonstrated that these colonial language ideologies also underly the structural hierarchical positioning of home languages in other countries. This structural hierarchical positioning is consciously and unconsciously accepted and is supported by the majority of the population, who continue to be reluctant to embrace an inclusive use of their home languages for education, the judiciary and governance. The former colonizer's policies and practices are in principle not disputed but rather taken for granted, whereas the possibility of development of more suitable and inclusive policies on the basis of home languages is rejected off hand on the basis of beliefs about the prestige, use and function of languages. On the basis of this research I draw the conclusion that an understanding of the ideologies and belief systems concerning language, education and socio-economic development can expose the structural and ideological nature of inequality on the basis of language choices in multilingual decolonial states. Full support for transitions that favor the languages of the majority of the people of the former colonies can only materialize when the persistent beliefs about the inferiority of home languages vis a vis the languages of the former colonizers are identified, exposed and critically analyzed as remnants of the colonial past. It is only when that structural ideological nature of the debate is recognized that it can be addressed. Then the slow incremental change in language policies in decolonial states can fully embrace their multilingual realities as unifying opportunities, rather than maintaining language policies based on subtractive multilingual or exclusive monolingual ideologies as separating tools for exclusion.
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