A global perspective for indigenous languages in Mexico: language policy at work

2018 edition

Daniel Isaac Hern谩ndez Esp铆ndola

Mexico is one of the countries with the greatest linguistic diversity in the world (Skutnabb-Kangas, 2009). Despite this, its native languages 鈥嬧媍ontinue struggling to barely gain visibility in different social contexts. Current language policy sets indigenous languages 鈥嬧媔n basic education only at the primary level but there is still no legislation for the following educational levels (secondary and high school). Paradoxically there are twelve Intercultural Universities throughout the Mexican territory that mostly serve students who speak these languages. Undoubtedly, the creation of linguistic policies that provide attention to the educational needs of speakers of indigenous languages 鈥嬧媔n Mexico is a transcendental matter but at the same time an arduous task that must be approached from diverse scopes (Garc铆a, 2015; Dietz, 2016).

What can we learn in Mexico from language policy practices at a global perspective? The present study answers this question by means of three phases. In the first place, it analyzes how some countries and regions in Europe and Latin America have worked in the creation of policies allowing their native languages 鈥嬧媡o have a major role in the different social spheres, especially in education. Through a critical analysis, it focuses on examining to what extent the application of such policies has been effective and seeks to identify if there are similarities and differences related to such success. Secondly, it also focuses on analyzing the steps that governmental institutions in Mexico have taken in order to provide indigenous languages 鈥嬧媤ith a relative presence in the educational context. A core feature of the study is the comparison of foreign policies with each other and with the Mexican ones to identify if some characteristics could have real implementation in our country. In third place, testimonies from both the institutional actors and the target population (students and teachers who are native speakers indigenous languages) are collected in order to guarantee perspectives from different fronts.

Methodological tools of critical qualitative research are used such as historical-documentary and interpretive analysis for official legislations, ethnographic research for interviews with the different stakeholders, and international comparative research to carry out the comparison between the different language policies (Ricento, 2006; Hult & Cassels, 2016)

As a whole, the aim is to innovate in the area of 鈥嬧媗anguage policy with a proposal of a new classification based on their development and application stage. Moreover, from the comparative analysis along with the testimonies collected, it is also expected to propose a series of recommendations in order to reactivate some areas of the Mexican language policy and take a step forward to a more real inclusion of indigenous languages 鈥嬧媔n the educational field.


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Garc铆a, O., (2015): Language policy. En International Encyclopedia of the Social & Behavioral Sciences, 2da Edici贸n, Vol. 13. pp. 353鈥359.

Hult, F., & Cassels, D., (2016): Research Methods in Language Policy and Planning. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Ricento, T., (2006): An Introduction to Language Policy. Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Skutnabb-Kangas, T., (2009): Social Justice through Multilingual Education. Bristol: Multilingual Matters Ltd.