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Language policies

On numerous occasions, UNESCO has been invited by its Member States to monitor national and regional policies on language protection and language planning for building multilingual societies. Language policy is seen as a powerful political instrument for the promotion of the co-existence of multilingualism.

International normative instruments such as conventions, treaties or recommendations can be reinforced at the national level if comprehensive language policies are developed, concrete measures are introduced, resources are allocated, and effective tools are used by all stakeholders concerned.

Expert meeting “Towards UNESCO Guidelines on Language Policies: A Tool for Language Assessment and Planning”

(30 May to 1 June 2011 at UNESCO Headquarters in Paris, France)

In order to promote and assist in the design of language policies, UNESCO organized an expert meeting “Towards UNESCO Guidelines on Language Policies: A Tool for Language Assessment and Planning” from 30 May to 1 June 2011 at its Headquarters in Paris, France. Three UNESCO programme sectors (Education, Culture, and Communication and Information) brought together external experts working in the fields of linguistics, anthropology, education, media and the Internet. The major objective of the meeting was to develop a tool that would enable UNESCO’s Member States to assess the language situation in a local or national context and, based on that assessment, develop and implement more comprehensive language policies and measures.

As a starting point, UNESCO proposed that the experts revise the UNESCO “Language Vitality and Endangerment” methodological guidelines (LVE) that were developed in 2003 by an ad hoc expert group. This document is a tool intended for those involved in designing language maintenance and/or revitalization measures, surveying the status of languages and linguistic diversity and developing language policies.  It puts forward nine language vitality factors for the determination of the degree of vitality/endangerment of a language, and for developing measures for language maintenance and / or revitalization. These factors are as follows:

  1. Intergenerational language transmission
  2. Absolute number of speakers
  3. Proportion of speakers within the total population
  4. Shifts in domains of language use
  5. Response to new domains and media
  6. Availability of materials for language education and literacy
  7. Governmental and institutional language attitudes and policies including official status and use
  8. Community members’ attitudes toward their own language
  9. Amount and quality of documentation

Factors 1, 4 and 5 require additional attention and revision.  These are centered on intergenerational transmission, and on the ever-increasing relevance of information and communication technologies (ICTs), including the Internet as well as the media (particularly Public Service Broadcasting).

The following documents were prepared for the meeting:




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