Resolution on the Role and Status of Languages in the US

March, 1996

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.