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Open Linguistics

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Engaging with Linguistic Diversity in Global Cities: Arguing for ‘Language Hierarchy Free’ Policy and Practice in Education

Dina Mehmedbegovic
Published Online: 2017-11-16 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0027


Educators working in diverse contexts and looking to promote language learning, as well as maintaining home languages, often encounter resistance and negativity directed towards a wide range of languages resulting in language loss at the individual level and language death at a societal level. On the other hand, a small number of languages are regarded as high status languages, in demand to study and speak. This paper has two aims: firstly, to identify processes which result in different attitudes to languages, which will be termed: language hierarchies and, secondly, to suggest an innovative way of creating conditions for development of ‘hierarchy-free education policy and practice’. In order to exemplify these processes the author’s previous research conducted in London and Cardiff is used. Hierarchy-free policy and practice is promoted as a necessary condition for sustainability of endangered languages. The second part of this paper introduces the concept of: ‘Healthy Linguistic Diet’ (Mehmedbegović 2011) and makes a proposal based on this concept for a new, cognitive-based approach to policy and practice in education which would help eradicate language hierarchies. This section presents latest research evidence from cognitive neuroscience, which supports the argument that all stakeholders in education and wider society would benefit from a shift in attitudes and approach to bilingualism and learning other languages. The benefits at the individual and societal level are so significant that acting on this evidence is not only an educational, but also a health and moral imperative too. In the conclusion, I give recommendations in terms of how this new strategy could be developed and implemented.

Keywords: language hierarchy; linguistic diet; bilingualism; multilingualism; plurilingualism; cognitive benefits of bilingualism; global cities


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About the article

Received: 2016-11-15

Accepted: 2017-10-03

Published Online: 2017-11-16

Published in Print: 2017-11-27

Citation Information: Open Linguistics, Volume 3, Issue 1, Pages 540–553, ISSN (Online) 2300-9969, DOI: https://doi.org/10.1515/opli-2017-0027.

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© 2017. This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 License. BY-NC-ND 4.0

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