"Give me a chance and I'll take it from here"— Language policy and indigenous languages: Latin American and European experiences applied in Mexico

2017 edition

Daniel Isaac Hernández Espíndola

What may Catalonia, Luxembourg, Scotland, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay and Mexico have in common? At first glance, anything at all. Yet there are some things that set common patterns between them. This on-going research analyzes how these countries and regions have established a precedent in valuing linguistic diversity by creating policies that have allowed indigenous and minority languages to be empowered, protected and spread over their territories. It also examines how laws and governmental programs have been implemented in order to allow speakers of these languages to ​​have the opportunity to attend school in the language that meets their needs best. The research provides a critical approach in order to know to what extent the implementation of such policies has been effective and tries to identify whether there are similarities and differences related to their success or failure.

On the other hand, the study also investigates the steps that Mexico, alongside its governmental institutions, has taken to give indigenous languages a relative presence in the educational context. A core focus of the study is the comparison between the Mexican and foreign language policies in order to understand which of the foreign paradigms may have actual implementation in Mexico. The study carries out documentation and analysis related to the institutions involved in the creation of the language policies paying particular attention to their fundamental objectives. It also collects data in the form of interviews and discussion groups performed in Mexico with policy makers and enforcers, scholars, students at university level who are native speakers of indigenous languages  and teachers who work in bilingual primary education institutions. This is an important feature in order to know not only the opinion of those who are involved in policy making but also the opinion of those who comprise the target population of such legislations. Finally, a series of recommendations are thought to be proposed so as to take a step forward towards a real inclusion of indigenous languages ​​in education.

Indigenous people are not asking for a miraculous solution to their social problems but it is evident that a stronger language policy concerning their mother tongues will open doors for them in several social spheres. They are only asking for opportunities to start a change as if they were saying: “give me a chance and I’ll take it from here.”