Position Statement on Language Policy

(Approved by the SSTESOL Board of Directors September 28,2002)

Sunshine State Teachers of English To Speakers of Other Languages of Florida (SSTESOL) is a professional organization dedicated to the teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages.  The mission of SSTESOL is to provide educators access to professional development, resources, and interactions and to provide leadership and advocacy in language policy issues.

Issue: …language belongs to each one of us, to the flower-seller as much as to the professor … language can generate an astounding amount of heat.  What is it about language that makes people so passionate, and so curious?  The answer is that there is almost no aspect of our lives that is not touched by language.  We live in and by language. *

* Source:    McCrum, R., W. Cran, and R. McNeil (1986) The Story of English: A Companion to the PBS Television Series. New York: Viking Penguin Inc.

As language professionals we frequently witness the personal and passionate reactions to English language teaching and bilingual issues in our school systems that might be reflective of the McCrum, Cran and McNeil quote as stated above. We believe that occasionally these personal reactions can impact school policies or legislation that is academically destructive for English language learners.  “English Only” laws, limitations placed upon the amount of time any language learner can be served in an instructional program, lack of support for bilingual programs are a few of these issues.  Thus, SSTESOL takes a position here on language policy that is reflective of issues relative to language as an integral part of the life of all human beings.

Position: The Board of SSTESOL supports in its entirety, the California Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages’ (CATESOL) position statement on language policy. (Used with permission.)  Adaptations appear in brackets.  The original CATESOL statement can be read at http://www.catesol.org/langpol.html

[SSTESOL] is committed to:

  • respecting the diverse linguistic and cultural heritages of non-native speakers of English,
  • promoting professional competence and professional standards in the teaching of English to speakers of other languages or dialects,
  • monitoring relevant educational policy,
  • representing the needs of non-native speakers of English and their teachers to decision-making bodies such as school districts and the [Florida]state legislature, and
  • advancing the professional field of teaching English to speakers of other languages or dialects of English.

In implementing these commitments:

We [SSTESOL] affirm that language is a major source of individual, personal and cultural identity since it is central to intellectual development and socialization plus basic to learning and concept formation.

Therefore:

  • We support language policies which meet the needs of a pluralistic society in an era of global interdependence.
  • We support public policies and actions which further understanding of the importance of language and culture in the education process.
  • We recognize the rights of all individuals to preserve and foster their linguistic and cultural origins and to maintain their native languages.
  • We affirm the rights of non-native speakers of English to use languages other than English.
  • We support the right of all non-native speakers of English to have access to educational programs in which to learn to function in the common language of communication, English.
  • We support the study of languages other than English especially for native English speakers.
  • We affirm that all [Floridians] have rights to government services and equal appropriate and fair treatment by the law regardless of English proficiency.

We [SSTESOL] advocate the respect and wide-spread acceptance of other languages as well as English.

Therefore:

  • We affirm that non-native speakers are entitled to positive affirmation of their linguistic and cultural backgrounds.
  • We advocate promoting multilingualism as a positive value to individuals and society.
  • We advocate that schools develop and encourage the potential for multilingualism in students.

We affirm the right of non-native speakers of English in [Florida] to have access to educational equity through adequate and appropriate English as a second language an content area instruction programs in both public and private sectors.

This includes the right to:

  • participate in a program that adequately assesses language proficiency through tests normed on non-native speakers of English and other appropriate assessments such as academic performance and motivation.
  • participate in programs taught by teachers with training and credentials appropriate for working with linguistically and culturally diverse students.
  • participate in a coherent curriculum using materials appropriate to the needs and levels of learners
  • participate in programs for a sufficient time to develop English and academic competencies needed for personal, social, educational and career use.
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