Position Statements come from an applied linguistics perspective and focus on language-related issues of social and professional importance, written with the general public as one of the primary audiences. They can be responsive (in response to particular issues, events, policies, research) or proactive (focused on specific issues, events, policies, research).
Questions or comments on position statements may be directed to the Chair for the Public Affairs and Engagement Committee at PAEC@AAAL.org.
Position Statements Approved by the AAAL Membership:
The following TESOL Statement on Immigration Policy and Reform has been endorsed by the AAAL Membership:
AAAL endorses TESOL’s Position Statement on Immigration Policy and Reform in the United States because it is consistent with AAAL’s mission to raise awareness of language-related issues and “improve the lives of individuals and conditions in society," as well as with the AAAL Resolution Affirming Commitment to Promoting Diversity in AAAL. TESOL’s Position Statement recognizes the human rights of all immigrants and refugees, highlights the importance of creating resources and opportunities for immigrants, and emphasizes equity in access for immigrants and refugees in the United States. The AAAL PAEC believes that the statement is relevant and important for AAAL members to be aware of, and an endorsement would send a clear message of the field’s collective perspectives on immigration.
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The American Association for Applied Linguistics (AAAL) is a professional organization which facilitates the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and understanding regarding language-related issues in order to improve the lives of individuals and conditions in society. The Executive Order, signed by the President of the United States on January 27, 2017, banned entry into the United States for citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries, seriously hindering the goals of our organization. Although this ban has been put on hold by federal appeals courts, the current administration has indicated that they will continue to issue similar Executive Orders.
A ban that targets specific religious, ethnic, or national groups has irreparable consequences for the intellectual, educational, and scientific pursuits of AAAL and its members. AAAL members come from more than fifty countries around the world; a third of its membership is from outside the United States; and a large proportion of U.S.-based members are international students and scholars. Our members regularly engage in the exchange of knowledge and skills internationally. The travel ban, if reinstated, would have a direct impact on our members who work and live in the United States as well as those who travel to the United States to participate in academic forums and to conduct research.
In its practical implementation and through the ideological message it sends, the Executive Order has already compromised the ability of U.S. higher education to attract and retain international students and scholars, resulting in the loss of the rich diversity of perspectives, of linguistic and cultural resources, and of the scholarly knowledge and skills these individuals contribute.
The field of applied linguistics has long recognized that language is interconnected with the values, beliefs, and norms that a society shares. By singling out a specific group of people, the Executive Order and any similar ban will promote xenophobia, discrimination, and prejudice while restricting the free and open exchange of ideas and the linguistic and cultural diversity that our field values. AAAL opposes any Executive Order or legislation that undermines these goals and values of our membership.
This Position Statement may be disseminated without permission from AAAL.
Approved April 27, 2017
Prior to 2017 AAAL treated "Position Statements" and "Resolutions" as one and the same. From 2017 forward, the two are now treated separately, with Resolutions providing commentary on matters internal to AAAL operations. Below are the previously approved Resolutions passed by the membership of AAAL which are more in keeping with the spirit and intent of position statements. Please click here to view current Resolutions.
- Resolution on Guidelines for communicating rights to non-native speakers of English in Australia, England and Wales, and the USA
- AAAL Resolution against Discrimination on the Basis of Accented Speech (February 2011)
- Resolution on the US Census Bureau categorizing individuals and families as "linguistically isolated" (April 2007)
- Resolution on Guidelines for the Use of Language Analysis in Relation to Questions of National Origin in Refugee Cases (June 2006)
- Resolution Opposing the labeling of English as national language in the US (June 2006)
- In response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 (April 2002)
- Opposing The Arizona Ballot Initiative "English Language Education For Children in Public Schools" (March 1999)
- Opposing the California Ballot Initiative "English Language for the Children" Proposition 227 (Unz/Tuchman)(March 1998)
- Researchers and Education Advocate Wider Understanding of Language Diversity (March 1998)
- On the Application of Dialect Knowledge to Education (March 1997)
- On the Role and Status of Language in the US (March 1996)
Resolution on Guidelines for communicating rights to non-native speakers of English in Australia, England and Wales, and the USA
Note: The Guidelines have been endorsed by the AAAL membership at the AAAL business meeting in April 2016. They have also been endorsed by the Australian Linguistics Society, the British Association for Applied Linguistics (BAAL), the International Linguistic Association, by the Executive Committees of the Linguistic Society of America (LSA) and the International Association of Forensic Linguistics (IAFL), by the Board of Trustees of the International Research Foundation for English Language Education (TIRF) and by the Board of Directors of the international association of Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). AAAL is hosting this document as a service to the (Independent) Communication of Rights Group.
Whereas, the American Association for Applied Linguistics promotes principled approaches to language policy;
Whereas, non-native speakers of English cannot be assumed to understand the rights delivered to them in English, including the right not to incriminate oneself;
Whereas, it is crucial that their rights be delivered to them in the language they can understand;
Whereas, Guidelines for communicating rights to non-native speakers of English in Australia, England and Wales, and the USA were developed and finalized (October 2015) by the Communication of Rights Group, composed of twenty-one linguistic and legal experts (listed at the end of the Guidelines) from three countries (Australia, United Kingdom, and the United States of America);
Whereas, for the reasons outlined in the Guidelines, it is advised that
- all jurisdictions develop standardized statements of suspect interview rights in
Plain English and in other languages;
- all jurisdictions adopt a restate-in-your-own words requirement as evidence of
understanding of rights;
- all jurisdictions ensure that suspects who cannot demonstrate understanding of
their rights have access to a professional interpreter;
Whereas, endorsement of these Guidelines by appropriate professional associations should encourage jurisdictions to adopt the recommendations outlined in the Guidelines;
Therefore be it resolved at the general business meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, convened on 11th day of April, 2016
1. That the American Association for Applied Linguistics endorse these Guidelines;
2. That the American Association for Applied Linguistics help to promulgate these Guidelines through its website, relevant publications, and professional meetings; and
3. That the American Association for Applied Linguistics forward these Guidelines to l’Association Internationale de Linguistique Appliquée (AILA) to be considered for possible endorsemen
The American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) is a professional organization of scholars and educators whose mission includes facilitating the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and understanding regarding language-related issues in order to improve the lives of individuals and conditions in society.
The AAAL Executive Committee, at the recommendation of the Ad hoc Committee on Advocacy, resolves to make it known that:
- AAAL opposes the discrimination of teachers and students on the basis of accent.
- Established facts from applied linguistics or educational research, rather than opinions or folk theories about language learning, should be considered in the formulation of all education and language policies, especially those policies affecting large populations of English language learners (ELLs) and English teachers.
Knowledge grounded in sound and rigorous scientific research should be considered in making language and education policies, especially those with far-reaching consequences. With regard to policies that discriminate against ELLs and/or English teachers on the basis of accented speech, AAAL presents the following research-based facts for consideration:
- All speech is accented. Any policy presupposing the underlying idea that speech can be “unaccented” is misguided. Every single speaker, regardless of language(s), has an accent. This is an unavoidable fact. Further, from a linguistic standpoint, no one accent is inherently better or worse than any other. Judgments about which accents are deemed socially acceptable or unacceptable are rooted in and supported by divisions within historical, social, and political contexts. The designation of one accent as linguistically superior to another is not a practice that is supported by research.
- A particular accent is not an indicator of knowledge of a language. Empirical studies of language acquisition yield similar results with regard to predicting accent in a language—the older the learner when acquisition of another language begins, the more likely it is that the (s)he learner will have an accent that differs (to varying degrees) from that of language-majority speakers.
- Accent is not an indicator of the ability to teach a language. In fact, those who have gone through the process of learning a second language, English or otherwise, are often good teachers of the language because they have undergone the complex process of discerning and comparing the rules and patterns of the languages they use/know. This fact can be readily observed when such teachers successfully teach English grammar to monolingual English speakers.
- Exposure to varieties of accented speech helps children learn. Studies of language acquisition show that increasing a child’s exposure to a larger variety of pronunciation facilitates the child’s acquisition of language-specific linguistic patterns. In other words, exposure to different forms of accented speech can help children internalize more about the patterns of the language overall. In a classroom context, children learning language benefit from exposure to a range of oral accents.
- Policies that nevertheless propose accent as an aspect of teacher competence, such as those recently considered in Arizona, must at minimum present criteria for assessing accent. In any case, such criteria for measuring accent should be presented to the public and academic communities to evaluate their scholarly soundness and appropriateness for judging teacher competence.
Members of the AAAL AdHoc Committee on Advocacy who contributed to this document include Fabiola Ehlers-Zavala, Jeff MacSwan, and Karyn Mallett. This statement was drafted, in part, based on statements put forth by the Department of Linguistics at the University of Arizona (May 26, 2010) and the Linguistic Society of America (July 28, 2010).
Resolution on the US Census Bureau categorizing individuals and families as "linguistically isolated" (April 2007)
Whereas, In 1990 the US Census Bureau began categorizing individuals and families as “linguistically isolated “ if their household “ is one in which no member 14 years old and over (1) speaks only English or (2) speaks a non-English language and speaks English "very well" [Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Census 2000 Summary File 3, Matrices P19, P20, PCT13, and PCT14].
and whereas there is no threat to the primacy of English, since 82% of the US population speaks only English at home and more than 2/3 of those who do speak a language other than English at home, primarily Spanish speakers, also speak English well or very well (2000 Census), and whereas the Census does not ask about proficiency in any language except English although multilingualism is a valued norm in most communities worldwide, and every national study of education in the US decries the failure of most of the US population to speak a second language, including the failure of the children of immigrants to keep their heritage language, and whereas a widespread and growing English- only ideology, fostered by misinformation about the desire and ability of immigrants to speak English, has led numerous states to declare English their official language, thus denying bilingual services, and/or to make it illegal to teach children in their heritage language even when they are also taught in English, and whereas increasing evidence of linguistic intolerance and linguistic profiling in housing, employment, education, health, and child custody cases have been documented throughout the USA, and whereas the term “linguistically isolated” conveys the false and damaging view that people who do not speak English very well have no contact with English speakers and/or are outside the pale of U.S. society,
and whereas the Census Bureau's application of the term 'linguistically isolated" to all members of a family in which no one over the age of 14 speaks English very well incorrectly categorizes the children in those families under the age of 14 who speak English very well, and whereas the Census Bureau' categorizes as 'isolated' only the small percent of households in the USA where adults have some difficulty with English, not the great majority in which no one speaks anything but English,
Therefore be it resolved that the AAAL urge the Census Bureau to include a question about proficiency in languages other than English, and to stop classifying those who speak English less than very well-- and all members of their households-- as "linguistically isolated" because the term is inaccurate and discriminatory, and the classification promotes an ideology of linguistic superiority that foments linguistic intolerance and conflict.
Resolution on Guidelines for the Use of Language Analysis in Relation to Questions of National Origin in Refugee Cases (June 2006)
Whereas, The American Association for Applied Linguistics promotes principled approaches to language assessment and language policy and planning,
Whereas, language analysis has been used by a number of governments around the world as part of the process of determining whether asylum seekers’ cases are genuine;
Whereas, language analysis has been criticized on a number of grounds, and some uncertainty has arisen as to its validity;
Whereas, Guidelines for the Use of Language Analysis in Relation to Questions of National Origin in Refugee Cases were developed and finalized (June 2004) by the National Language and Origin Group composed of nineteen linguists (listed at the end of the Guidelines) from six countries (Australia, Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom, and the United States of America) to address this issue
Whereas, for the reasons outlined in the Guidelines, it is advised that language analysis be used with considerable caution in addressing national origin, national identity or citizenship,
Whereas, endorsement of these Guidelines by appropriate professional associations greatly assist in the recognition of these Guidelines by governments and others in deciding whether and to what degree language analysis is reliable in particular cases;
Therefore be it resolved at the general business meeting of the American Association of Applied Linguists, convened on 19th day of June, 2006
- That The American Association for Applied Linguistics endorse these Guidelines without change;
- That The American Association for Applied Linguistics help to promulgate these Guidelines through its website, relevant publications, and professional meetings; and
- That The American Association for Applied Linguistics forward these Guidelines to l’Association internationale de’linguistique apliquee (AILA) to be considered for possible endorsement
Whereas, the traditional and well-established function of foreign language study for students of all ages as stimulator of cognitive development, facilitator of intercultural exchange and understanding, and source of personal and community enrichment is being systematically bent toward being exclusively a defensive skill to be directed against our political and economic opponents in the world,
and whereas, this strictly utilitarian and in most cases hostile use of language knowledge will leave a long-term legacy of language as a weapon on this and the next generation(s) of American families, reducing interest in the study of language in general,
and whereas, federal educational mandates such as No Child Left Behind and restrictions on K-12 federal funding of FL education are applying dangerous pressure to traditionally taught foreign languages in the United States,
Therefore be it resolved by the general business meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics convened on this 19th day of June, 2006, that AAAL urges Congress and the President to adopt a legislative policy for FL support that achieves balance in two critical ways: between national security needs and enrichment on the one hand, and between “strategic” languages and other valuable international and community languages on the other.
Whereas, language, nationality, and citizenship are each distinct categories, neither mutually exclusive nor identical;
And whereas, use of English or any other language within the boundaries of the United States neither promotes nor inhibits patriotism, loyalty, or concern for country, community, and neighbors;
And whereas, the Congress of the United States is increasingly attempting to inappropriately link language use and rights within the United States with immigration-control legislation, as evidenced by current proposals and votes in the U.S. Senate;
And whereas, the American Association for Applied Linguistics is deeply concerned about the passing of the amendment to the Immigration Senate bill proposed by Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) on May 18, 2006, which threatens to restrict or remove access to appropriate language support in federal communications and services for people who are on the way to developing English competence;
Therefore be it resolved by the general business meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics that AAAL members be encouraged to write to their Congressional representatives, urging them to exercise restraint and good judgment in the creation of legislation that would inhibit the free use of languages and the provision of essential information in the languages of U.S. residents;
And be it further resolved, that members be encouraged to provide educational materials to their Congressional representatives on the social, communicative, and educational significance of languages other than English in the United States.
Whereas, in light of the events of September 11, 2001, and their aftermath, AAAL wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the crucial importance of understanding different language and cultures;
Whereas, hatred, hostility, and fear are often caused or at least exacerbated by ignorance of languages, cultures, and ways of seeing the world that differ from one‘s own;
Whereas, the study of language and cultures is one of the single most important factors in crossing gulfs created by cultural differences, dispelling misconceptions, and dismantling prejudices;
Therefore be it resolved at the general business meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, convened on this 8th day of April, 2002: That AAAL will continue to promote greater opportunities for language learning, culture study, and intercultural dialogue in all societies and educational settings.
Opposing The Arizona Ballot Initiative "English Language Education For Children In Public Schools" (March 1999)
Whereas, The American Association for Applied Linguistics endorses appropriate language instruction for immigrant and language minority children that both promotes their acquisition of English and protects their right to maintain and develop their native and heritage languages;
and Whereas, A proposed ballot initiative in Arizona "English Language Education for Children in Public Schools" would restrict or remove access to appropriate instruction while introducing harmful educational practices;
Therefore be it resolved at the general business meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, convened on this 8th day of March, 1999:
1. That, The American Association for Applied Linguistics make publicly known its firm opposition to such a ballot initiative; and
2. That, The American Association for Applied Linguistics offer its services to the government, educational associations, school boards, and parents and children of Arizona so that vital knowledge about language and educational access can be fully considered before decisions are made on this important issue.
Opposing the California Ballot Initiative "English Language for the Children" Proposition 227 (Unz/Tuchman)(March 1998)
Whereas, The American Association for Applied Linguistics endorses appropriate language instruction for immigrant and language minority children that both promotes their acquisition of English and protects their right to maintain and develop their heritage languages;
and Whereas, The proposed ballot initiative "English Language for the Children" proposes to restrict or remove access to appropriate instruction to achieve these ends while introducing harmful educational policies;
Therefore be it resolved at the general business meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, convened on this 17th day of March, 1998:
1. That, The American Association for Applied Linguistics make publicly known its firm opposition to this proposition; and
2. That, The American Association for Applied Linguistics offer its services to the government and people of California so that professional knowledge concerning language and educational access can be fully considered before decisions are made on this important issue.
A group of nationally recognized leaders in education, linguistics, communication, and speech pathology called upon public school officials to take seriously the systematic differences among varieties of spoken and written English common in this country. Language differences play a critical role in instructional effectiveness, student learning, and educational assessment, according to Donna Christian, President of the Center for Applied Linguistics. These conclusions were reached at a Conference on Language Diversity and Academic Achievement in the Education of African American Students in New York City on January 11 and 12, 1998. The conference was sponsored by national professional and research organizations. "The classroom is a communicative environment and most instruction and assessment involves the use of language," says Orlando Taylor, Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Howard University. "A disregard for language diversity can inhibit effective instruction and student learning and can result in inappropriate evaluation of student achievement," he continues.
For example, those attending the conference agreed that contrasts between Standard English and some of the varieties of English spoken by African American students frequently lead to ineffective classroom instruction and mistakes in identifying predictable differences between language varieties as deficiencies in reading, writing, and speaking. This lack of understanding pairs with negative attitudes to foster low expectations that often impede academic achievement for the students involved. Researchers urged teacher education programs to give the nation's teachers accurate and practical information about language and dialect diversity to enhance their ability to teach students that come from a variety of language communities. They also described successful programs for training teachers and their students about how English varies in different geographical regions and social groups.
Attending the conference were teachers, school administrators, educational researchers, linguists, speech pathologists, communication scholars, professors, university deans, and representatives of the sponsoring organizations.
The conference was sponsored by the American Association for Applied Linguistics, the American Dialect Society, the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, the Center for Applied Linguistics, the Council of the Great City Schools, Howard University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the Linguistic Society of America, the National Alliance of Black School Educators, the National Black Association for Speech-Language and Hearing, the National Communication Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the Office of Educational Research and Improvement at the U.S. Department of Education, and Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages.
Whereas, The American Association for Applied Linguistics recognizes the legitimacy of African American language systems, variously referred to as African-American Vernacular English, Black English, or Ebonics, and their pedagogical importance in helping students acquire standard English;
Whereas, Public discussion of the Oakland School Board's decision on the legitimacy of Ebonics and its usefulness in teaching Standard English demonstrates a lack of public awareness and understanding of the nature and naturalness of different varieties of language;
and Whereas, Students' competence in any dialect of English constitutes an important resource for learning Standard English as an additional dialect;
Therefore be it resolved at the general business meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, convened on this 11th day of March, 1997:
1. That, All students and teachers should learn scientifically-based information about linguistic diversity and examine the social, political, and educational consequences of differential treatment of dialects and their speakers;
2. That, Teacher education should systematically incorporate information about language variation and its impact on classroom interaction and about ways of applying that knowledge to enhance the education of all teachers;
3. That, Research should be undertaken to develop and test methods and materials for teaching about varieties of language and for learning Standard English; and
4. That, Members of the American Association for Applied Linguistics should seek ways and means to better communicate the theories and principles of the field to the general public on a continuing basis.
Whereas, The American Association for Applied Linguistics, a professional organization of over 1000 members whose research interests and practice focus on all aspects of language learning, teaching, and use, is deeply concerned about the nature of recent public policy debates and completed and pending legislative decisions pertaining to the role and status of languages in the United States. It urges thoughtful and encompassing consideration of these matters in light of
- the significance languages hold in the United States, a country with rich indigenous languages and a country of immigrants with many languages and cultures;
- the challenges and opportunities of multilingualism; and
- the special obligation to protect basic linguistic rights and to enhance their being exercised by all residents of this country.
Therefore be it resolved at the General Business Meeting of the American Association for Applied Linguistics, convened on this 25th day of March, 1996. That, All citizens and residents of the United States have the right to retain and use their languages in public and in private and to follow their cultural practices within the laws of the United States without interference on the part of any governmental agency, regulation, or statute.
That, The government and the people of the United States have a special obligation to affirm and support the retention, enhancement, and use of indigenous, heritage, and immigrant languages by those members of its society who wish to maintain and express their heritage and cultural values in this fashion in diverse public and private settings.
That, Since learning a second language is a complex task that can be accomplished only over the span of many years, long-term legislative and financial commitments to addressing residents' diverse needs in acquiring English must be made by all official agencies. Only then will all residents be able to participate fully in the public life of the country, an unquestioned goal of all advocates of a multilingual U.S. society who recognize at the same time the unquestioned value of English as the common societal language.