Language Law and Legal Definition

Language planning is becoming more and more essential in an increasingly multilingual society. A legislative response to the social and political questions raised by the changing composition of the population is needed so that legislators and educators can make informed choices about language policy in areas such as educational policy and access to basic services. Language policy and planning decisions arise in response to sociopolitical needs. Language planning decisions may be required, for example, where a number of linguistic groups compete for access to the mechanisms of day-to-day life, or where a particular linguistic minority is denied access to such mechanisms. Two examples of such decisions are the Court Interpreters Act, which provides an interpreter to any victim, witness, or defendant whose native language is not English, and the Voting Rights Act of 1975, which provides for bilingual ballots in areas where over 5% of the population speak a language other than English. Both governmental and social institutions must effectively and equitably meet the needs of the population so that groups varied in linguistic repertoire have an equal opportunity to participate in their government and to receive services from their government.

Language planning decisions typically attempt to meet these needs by reducing linguistic diversity, as in instances where a single language is declared a national language in a multilingual country or where a single variety of a language is declared "standard" to promote linguistic unity in a country where divergent dialects exist. For example, although many dialects of Spanish exist, the promotion of a single variety as the national language contributes to a sense of national unity.