Bilingualism and Language Policy: Four Case Studies
Peter Homel Michael Palij New York University
In this chapter, we examine the language policies of four countries: Canada, the Soviet Union, the United States, and the People's Republic of China. In particular, we try to indicate the different perspective that each of these countries has taken with regard to linguistic diversity and bilingualism and how this is reflected in the manner in which each country approaches bilingual education.
We first present a general overview of each country, including a description of the general linguistic and ethnic composition of the country, as well as some of the past and present trends in policy of the particular country toward minority languages and bilingualism. We then discuss some of the implications certain social policies may have for the psychological development of bilingual children.
Canada is officially a bilingual country, with English and French enjoying equal status as the languages of government. Of a total population of approximately 24 million in 1976, 67% of all Canadians reported English as their first language and 26% reported French ( Beaujot & McQuillian, 1982). The French speakers are concentrated primarily in the provinces of Quebec (87% of the population of the province) and New Brunswick (34%). In addition to English and French, programs for the maintenance of languages spoken by Native Indian groups and the Inuktitut ( Eskimo), as well as those spoken by major immigrant groups (German, Italian, Hungarian, and Ukrainian), are also supported by the Canadian government.
The total rate of bilingualism in Canada is 13%. The breakdown is 33% for