Why is language planning essential in any country. What are the factors which influence language planning.

Why is language planning essential in any country. What are the factors which influence language planning.

Many countries have a language policy designed to favor or discourage the use of a particular language or set of languages. Although nations historically have used language policies most often to promote one official language at the expense of others, many countries now have policies designed to protect and promote regional and ethnic languages whose viability is threatened. Indeed, whilst the existence of linguistic minorities within their jurisdiction has often been considered to be a potential threat to internal cohesion, States also understand that providing language rights to minorities may be more in their long term interest, as a means of gaining citizens’ trust in the central government.

Language policy is what a government does either officially through legislation, court decisions or policy to determine how languages are used, cultivate language skills needed to meet national priorities or to establish the rights of individuals or groups to use and maintain languages. The scope of language policy varies in practice from State to State. This may be explained by the fact that language policy is often based on contingent historical reasons


Linguistic factor

Linguistic factors can be regarded as those that are needed to be considered on the part of a language in relation to other languages. It relates to the status and characters of a language as well as similarities between languages. Such considerations would inform why a speech community, a country for instance, would prefer language like English to language like Chinese. The former has simpler characters as opposed to the complicated characters of the latter. In Indonesia, for instance, Malay was preferred to Japanese as a national language because it is less complicated in terms of characters, though it is a minority language. The status that a language presently enjoys can also influence its preference as national language of a country. This is why many multilingual countries in Africa would choose an European language. In terms of similarities and dissimilarities between languages, it is the case that languages with common origin do share some similarities and vice versa. If a language lacks adequate lexicon for day-to-day usage, it is imperative that language planning is done so as to rectify this anomaly

Political factors

Political factors are considerations that relate the general policy of a country to its language policy. It is not a gain saying that the Government is the Chief-actor in the process of language planning. Government uses language planning to achieve its other aims such as political stability and economic benefits from other nation(s). Government also provides funds for implementing any language policy. In maintaining political stability in Nigeria, the Government has always avoided choosing any indigenous language as the official language in order to prevent geo-political conflicts. Thus, the highest status any indigenous language has enjoyed is the status of a national language. The three major Nigeria languages recognized as the national language are: Hausa, Igbo, and Yoruba. As an illustration, it was for political-economic reasons that General Sani Abacha imposed French on the Nigerians during his military regime. He single-handedly recognized French as an official language just because France supported his oppressive ruling while the United States and the Commonwealth of nations opposed it. Also in the time of apartheid in South Africa, the policy which promoted segregation was supported by the language policy adopted. Such language planning helped in undermining the language of the South African. Moreover, it is the responsibility of the (Nigerian) Government to fund the implementation of language planning, particularly the policy on the use of mother tongue in teaching school children in the lower primary level. The failure or success of meeting this responsibility or otherwise is one major way in which politics influences language planning. A language could also be planned for political reasons

Socio-demographic factor

Socio-demographic factor relates to the numbers of speakers of the languages and their geographical distribution. The actors in language planning usually consider not only the majority language but also the minority languages. Thus, ethno linguistic consideration made Tanzania chose a minority language as a national language. There are about hundred languages and none of them could compete with the official language. India chose Hindi as the official language which is language of the northern majority ethnic group. While that of Tanzania might be said to be partially successful, India has not succeeded in appeasing the other ethno linguistic groups which continue to protest the choice of Hidi: [Akinnaso, 1989]. This factor influence language planning in the sense that if the majority of people for whom the language is being planned do not speak the language, it will lead to the failure of the language planning process. Also, if the language planning does not reflect the social lives of the speakers, the planning process may not see the light of the day. The society and its geographical distributions in which language planning have to be carried out is a contributing factor that influences language planning. Since a multilingual society is often not mono-religion. For instance, since Hausa is very close to the Arabic language (language of Islam) and subsequently the Islamic religion, choosing Hausa as an official language in Nigeria may be considered as a way of imposing Islam on Nigerians. Also, for example, in India, when Hindi was chosen as the national language; speakers of other language protested because Hindi is associated with the Hindu religion. And also, there have been wars in Sudan due to the imposition of Arabic language on the people. Language is also planned so as to foster the spread or a religion. It is related to the use of local languages in spreading religion

Pedagogical factor

In pedagogical factor, the need for qualitative education also influences language planning. Since it is being scientifically proven that it is better to teach a child with his/her mother tongue in his early years. Language policy in Nigeria, for instance, has always reflected the need for mother tongue in education. This is not just to preserve culture but also to aid the cognitive ability of the school children.

financial factor

The financial factor has to do with the consideration of finance in the process of planning a language. Language planning can be financially draining, so adequate planning of financial resources is essential. What we are actually reiterating here is that whatever one does is affected by the resources one puts into it and that one of those resources in language planning that has to be present is the financial resource. The presence of enough financial resources can make a language planning work as its absence can equally make it fail. When a government, a group of individuals, or an individual is making a plan for a language consideration has to be taken of the financial cost of the plan. For instance, if Nigeria is making a move to make Igbo, Hausa, or Yoruba a national language, the financial cost of such a move should be consider just as a husband planning for the use of Yoruba in his home would consider the cost of the materials (e.g. Yoruba dictionaries, texts written English, etc.) to be used in carrying out such a plan. So, financial factor is one of those crucial factors that have to be considered in planning a language.

The people

People who own languages of a particular territory should also be considered in language planning. If the argument that language is the people who use it is anything to operate by, then it will never fall out of scope to take an examination on the people who use the language to be planned for. Here, we look at the history of the people and try answering some questions such as: what have been the dealings of these people? Have they once been colonized, enslaved? (a reason which may account for certain linguistic borrowings in their language)? Have they conquered a group or groups of people and lorded their ways of life on them? What do this people like? Hunting, Adventure, etc.? What is the current status of this people? What do these people think of themselves? What do others think of them? The essence of these raised questions is to find data on certain information that needs to be considered while planning a language

Cultural factor

Cultural factor is another factor that can influence language planning. When a language exists, it does not exist alone, there is a culture attached to it. Culture refers to the beliefs, the ways of life, the custom, the art, and the social organization of a group of people. Learning the culture with which a particular language is attached is crucial to planning such a language especially in corpus planning. For instance, Yoruba people have respect as an aspect of their culture and this is shown in their language.

With everything discussed so far above, it is discovered that language planning is a careful exercise. Language planners need to pay serious attention to some factors influencing language planning. Meanwhile, this work has been to justify some of these; ranging from linguistic factor to economic factor. It is therefore a crucial thing to be meticulous in analyzing those factors that determine whether the goal of language planning will be achieved or not. In a nutshell, if factors that influence and motivate language planning are well considered and addressed such that language is planned with full regard to those factors, the society will be of high benefit. Take Japan as an example today Japan as a monolingual state is enjoying high rate of socio-political development based on their well planned language. Scholars believe Japan is a living proof of what a brilliant language planning can result to.

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