Language Education Policy Studies
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Monolingualism, Linguistic Intolerance, and the State 

Language-in-education policies express policymakers’ ideologies about mono- or multilingualism and relate closely to (see) National Frameworks. This page discusses the conceptual history of monolingualism through linguistic intolerance and policymaking at the state or national level. Historically, even Western languages were once designated sacred or profane, and fragmented by political and later European nation-state building project. The field of linguistics evolved closely with geography, both as ‘hard’ sciences (like biology or physics, as opposed to ‘social’ sciences)- mapping boundaries and resources; and religion- missionaries as early arbiters of education. Scientific disciplines, political and religious forces intertwined. The colonization of much of the world by Europe imposed this monolingual ideology on many places, at least at the political level.


Yet is monolingualism really the norm, and do multiple languages constrain systems of governance and education? How are languages planned and governed? Then, at the state level, how does the state envision itself and its political and educational system- as multiethnic, multicultural, and multilingual or as a homogenous monolingual society? These questions are implied for research on language-in-education policies.


Scholars across the spectrum who research these questions agree that multilingualism is the norm, yet disagree on how to solve the problems of multiculturalism and social justice. (See Social Justice). For example, not forgetting domains, many argue that schooling is but one domain for languages. However, educational governance has increased, particularly in the last two decades; while immigration, migrations, and inequalities have increased. Therefore the language of schooling with its reliance on standardized testing makes it a crucial domain. Other domains are the family, workplace, or community- clearly these are all influenced by schooling and the role it plays in success or failure.


Heteroglossia is often denied, as in the U.S. (See U.S.- NCLB, English-only, and worldwide implications.) The ideology and fallacies of monolingualism and English as a global lingua franca usually produce compensatory or deficiency views of language and education, while Foreign Language Learning for the dominant language/ monolingual speakers could be part of Multilingual Education (See Multilingual Education) that could open doors to Deep Education and a better world.


For other levels of policymaking see for example Globalization, Teachers as Policymakers.




Angermeyer, P. S. (2008). Creating monolingualism in the multilingual courtroom. Sociolinguistic Studies, 2(3), 385-404.


Blackledge, A. (2000). Monolingual ideologies in multilingual states: Language, hegemony and social justice in Western liberal democracies. Sociolinguistic Studies, 1(2), 25-45.


Errington, Joseph (2008). Linguistics in a colonial world: a story of language,

meaning, and power. Malden, MA: Blackwell.


Harris, R. (2004). The Linguistics of History. Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.


Hinnenkamp, V. (2005). Semilingualism, double monolingualism and blurred genres-on (Not) speaking a legitimate language. JSSE-Journal of Social Science Education, 4(1).


Love, N. (Ed.). (2004). Language and history: Integrationist perspectives. New York: Routledge. 


This web page has a copyright. It may be referred to and quoted, or reproduced and distributed for educational purposes according to fair use legislation only if the following citation is included in the document:

This information was originally published on the website of the International Network for Language Education Policy Studies ( as

Harrison, K. M. (2013). Monolingualism, linguistic intolerance, and the State. In F. V. Tochon (Ed.), Language Education Policy Studies (online). Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin—Madison. Retrieved from: (access date). 

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