A case for policy analysis in minority language discourse: A critical literature review

Volume 2(1): 2018

TAYLOR FLOYD ELLIS, University of Manitoba


This literature review focuses on two main research areas regarding Indigenous language revitalization in educational contexts. The first area concerns itself with identifying a useful metaphor for linguistic diversity to ground the theoretical framing of this project. Two models that are considered are language-as-resource (resource) proposed by Ruíz (1984) and language ecology by Hornberger (2002). The language-as-resource model is problematized as it simply flips the deficit model of language diversity and substitutes an asset model. In contrast, Hornberger’s (2002) ecological model, which relies on health and relationships, has been considered the preferred model of those examined. One other framework examined is English-Plus multilingualism as a threat to linguistic diversity. Additionally, this review analyzes three areas of the world, which have had different experiences with significant language reforms in the past four decades: Aotearoa/New Zealand, countries of the Andean plateau in Latin America, and Nunavut in Canada circa 2008, during the time of major reforms in the territory. Examples from each of these locations illustrate the challenges that are unique to each region, but also highlight problems with the language-as-resource model as a whole. This review also examines the lack of policy analysis within second language discourse involving Indigenous populations.


La présente recension de la littérature porte sur deux principaux domaines de recherche liés à la revitalisation des langues autochtones en milieux pédagogiques. Le premier est l’identification d’une métaphore utile pour la diversité linguistique afin d’étayer le cadre théorique du projet. Les deux modèles examinés sont celui de la langue comme ressource, proposé par Ruíz (1984), et celui de l’écologie de la langue, de Hornberger (2002). Le modèle de la langue comme ressource est problématique, car il ne fait que renverser le modèle déficitaire de la diversité de la langue et y substituer un modèle axé sur les atouts. Le modèle écologique de Hornberger (2002), qui repose sur la santé et les relations, se révèle par conséquent préférable. Un autre cadre envisagé est celui du multilinguisme « English Plus » en tant que menace pour la diversité linguistique. La recension examine par ailleurs les expériences diverses de trois régions du monde qui ont connu des réformes linguistiques considérables durant les quatre dernières décennies. Ces régions sont Aotearoa – la Nouvelle-Zélande –, les pays des Andes et le Nunavut, au Canada, durant une période de changements majeurs sur le territoire vers 2008. Des exemples illustrent les défis propres à chaque région tout en soulignant les problèmes fondamentaux du modèle de la langue comme ressource. La recension aborde enfin le manque d’analyse des politiques au sein du discours sur la langue seconde relativement aux populations autochtones.

Keywords: Indigenous, language-as-resource, language ecology, minority language.


This review has considered a selection of literature involving language revitalization in Indigenous educational contexts from around the world. In particular, this review intends to identify a useful theoretical metaphor for linguistic diversity, which can be employed for the benefit of minority language communities. This literature review also includes a discussion of the limits to decolonization that English-Plus multilingualism (Klapwijk & Van der Walt, 2016) presents with a consideration of Bourdieu’s (1986) cultural capital paradigm, and with consideration of a critical race theory perspective from Yosso (2005).

There is already a significant body of literature relating to Indigenous experiences enacting and mobilizing education systems to protect and revitalize their respective languages. The following literature review will focus on the experience in Aotearoa/New Zealand trying to revitalize Te Reo (Maori language), the experiences of Andean Quechua language speakers, primarily in Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru, and Inuit language reforms in Nunavut, Canada. The example of Aotearoa/New Zealand has been referred to as the “gold standard” for language revitalization among Indigenous communities. However, contradictory evidence exists, which states that depending on the language ideologies in the schools, there can be profound differences in outcomes for students and language speakers coming out of the schools (Doerr, 2009; Harrison, 1998; Hill, 2011, 2016). This paper will also examine the experience of language reformers in the Andean, Quechua (Indigenous language most often spoken among Andean natives) speaking communities of Latin America (Hornberger, 2002; King & Haboud, 2002; Rindstedt & Aronsson, 2002; Valdiviezo, 2009). This segment of the literature review will centre on discourses of utility and social cohesion, which are discussed at length in the selected sources. The literature review will also consider the experiences with bilingual education in Nunavut, Canada (Aylward, 2009; Cancel, 2009; Laugrand & Oosten, 2009; Tulloch et al., 2009, 2016).

Additionally, two models for discussing multilingualism: language-as-resource (de Jong et al., 2016) and language ecology (Hornberger, 2002) will be examined in regard to their social implications for minority language speakers. The problematic nature of language-as-resource will also be discussed. It is the contention of this paper that this literature contains a major gap in its considerations of policy, which is mostly treated as a passive superstructure under which individual actors choose to participate, or not. The purpose of the following literature review is to emphasize the creation and implementation of policy as an important factor in the choices that individual actors make, regardless of their decision to participate.

English-Plus: Multilingualism and Capital

For minoritized language communities, as many Indigenous language-speaking communities are, it is often difficult to gain recognition of one’s own language. Until recently, the “one nation, one language” policy was frequently practised and justified as a way of uniting the often multicultural society of a nation under a single linguistic regime for the sake of expediency. This orientation has been described by de Jong et al. (2016), in reference to Ruíz (1984), as the language-as-problem orientation. This characterization of multilingual communities as a barrier to national unification is characteristic of policies in the United States. This orientation has predictable effects for minority language speaking communities, especially those who are monolingual and unable to speak the dominant language—they are often ostracized or systematically marginalized by the dominant group. Under an officially (bi)multilingual regime, this open hostility takes a more subtle and nuanced form. English-Plus multilingualism is, arguably, one of those forms.

Using the model of cultural capital described by Bourdieu (1986), Yosso (2005) expanded this category to include linguistic capital, described as “the intellectual and social skills attained through communication experiences in more than one language and/or style” (p. 78). This linguistic capital contributes to a community’s “cultural wealth,” Yosso (2005) argued, and makes individuals belonging to such a community more resilient in the face of challenges posed by an outside, dominant group. In particular, Yosso (2005) has been critical of the way that Bourdieu’s (1986) model has been used in order to claim that certain groups lack capital, which perpetuates the myth of a white middle-class norm. Minoritized communities that are measured by comparisons to such white middle-class standards, therefore, end up further privileging these standards. A problem, which Yosso (2005) seemed to underestimate, is the willingness of the state to misappropriate economic capital away from servicing minoritized communities, thus undermining the ability of these communities to resist the superior force of the state. English-Plus multilingualism, and its predecessor approaches to dominate linguistic minority communities, has had the effect of limiting the cultural wealth of linguistically diverse communities by cutting off the financial imperative to learn one’s own home language.

By returning to Bourdieu’s (1986) description of cultural and social capital in relation to economic capital, one can see the particularly pernicious way that English-Plus multilingualism undermines minoritized language communities. English-Plus’ disguise of progress towards a more linguistically diverse future masks the systemic underfunding and marginalization of certain groups from the systems of power in the dominant community. The policy change has the effect of promoting the dominant language through neglect of home language instruction, rather than demonstrating outward hostility towards it. This subtle move potentially provides an even greater challenge to marginalized communities, as people from the majority community are less likely to recognize that they continue to benefit from the hoarding of social, cultural, and economic capital without the ethical baggage that comes from open aggression. Bourdieu’s (1986) concept of capital conversion is of particular use here. This idea describes the many ways that an individual can, through appropriate investment, convert between social, cultural, and economic capital. The idea being that each form of capital can be exchanged for a certain amount of another capital. Bourdieu (1986) made clear, though, that “economic capital is at the root of all other forms of capital” (p. 24) as it is representative of the exchange value between the other forms of capital. Therefore, by neglecting financial obligations to promote official multilingualism, English-Plus systems can systematically deny the marginalized language communities among them the ability to convert their cultural wealth into a more useful form in the resistance of hegemony.

English-Plus multilingualism, as defined above, represents a serious threat to multilingual efforts to decolonize language communities, and poses a serious ethical challenge for English as a Second and Foreign Language educators. The problem is most apparent in places with apparent multilingual recognition of minoritized languages, where “very little instruction takes place in home languages” (Klapwijk & Van der Walt, 2016, p. 67). Where this instruction does take place is often relegated to marginalized spheres of the education system (i.e., early childhood or adult education). The more advanced, or privileged, subjects and programmes (i.e., secondary and tertiary education) are far less likely to have instruction in the home language of the minoritized language community. Additional barriers to home language instruction include a lack of learning materials and often a lack of qualified teachers whose language is the home language of the students (Klapwijk & Van der Walt, 2016). These factors are evident in Te Reo speaking communities in Aotearoa/New Zealand, the Quechua speaking communities of the Andean plateau, and Inuktut speaking communities in Nunavut.

Ecological Framework vs. Language-as-Resource Model

Before exploring specific examples of experiences with bilingual education from around the world, this review will begin by exploring certain theoretical metaphors for multilingual ideologies. The first of these metaphors is the concept of language-as-resource, which has been proposed as a logical extension of the language-as-problem and language-as-right discourses developed and articulated by Ruíz (1984). The main feature of the language-as-resource orientation is that linguistic diversity is an asset to nations, which should “be managed, developed and conserved” (de Jong et al., 2016, p. 201). This is opposed to the language-as-problem (problem) orientation, which situates “the speaking of languages other than the dominant language as a deficit to be overcome if individuals are to be economically, politically successful and socially integrated into mainstream society” (de Jong, et al., 2016, p. 201). The third orientation, language-as-right, is based on the more legal notion of protecting language minorities from discrimination based on language (“weak” form) or as a basic human right to be enforced in the wider discourse of autonomy and self-determination (“strong” form) (de Jong, et al., 2016, p. 201). Canada would be situated in between language-as-right and language-as-resource, with regard to its various language policies.

De Jong et al. (2016) outlined some of the obvious objections to language-as-problem (problem) and language-as-right (right) orientations. Mainly, that problem narratives consider linguistic diversity as a deficit to be overcome and right narratives rely heavily on legal coercion and do not often focus on resolving the underlying biases in society. These orientations should not, however, be considered as stages that countries progress through as they develop economically or politically, while moving from language-as-problem towards language-as-resource. The United States, for instance, is considered an exemplary language-as-problem state, whereas, Pakistan is described as having moved between all three ideologies at different points in their recent history (De Jong et al., 2016). Of these three orientations, however, De Jong et al. (2016) argued that the language-as-resource orientation has become very popular among developed and developing countries with significant minority language communities. These traditionally marginalized communities are now starting to be regarded as potential under-mobilized economic actors. The language of resource intends to mobilize these communities to greater fulfill their economic potential.

In all of the places considered for analysis, there is a heavy emphasis towards economic, political, and social cohesion at the root of language policy reform. These are, it will be argued, symptoms of the language-as-resource orientation. The resource orientation’s implicit emphasis on resource extraction, as justification for linguistic diversity, has been implemented in varied ways, as it speaks to the economic interests of the dominant community. Underlying these assumptions, though, is the need for the colonized to conform to the dominant language of the wider national community in order to participate in the hegemonic economic order. This ideological orientation is severely limited in this way. The argument made by De Jong et al. (2016) is that, by comparison to problem and right orientations, resource frameworks are more progressive and usually result in greater social mobilization of the dominant group to the aid of minority language communities, as the dominant group comes to see language diversity not in terms of economic burden, but of opportunity. Ultimately, however, the minoritized communities are viewed as a resource to be mined/exploited for labour or for their natural resources, which perpetuates the problematic orientation towards colonial attitudes, especially in relation to Indigenous peoples.

A second theoretical orientation explored in reading about education in multilingual settings was an ecological model proposed by Hornberger (2002). This model relies on the language-as-resource paradigm, but this conception is explicitly against assimilationism and in favour of “diversity and emancipation” (Hornberger, 2002, p. 29). This is reminiscent of interest convergence (Milner, 2008), where racial minorities were put in the position of seeking opportunities where their interests overlapped with those of the dominant group in order to mobilize political will towards progress. This ecological model can be best described as employing the metaphor of species health and biodiversity when considering languages. According to Hornberger (2002), “languages, like living species, evolve, grow, change, live, and die in relation to other languages and also in relation to their environment”, and “[languages] may [also] be endangered” (p. 33). The way that the language-as-resource orientation emphasizes economic utility of minority language communities, something to be mined and exploited, can be seen through comparison with Hornberger (2002), who mobilized endangerment as a theme to make the case that “the ecology movement is about not only studying and describing those potential losses, but also counteracting them” (p. 33). In this way, the ecological metaphor takes the language-as-resource orientation and mobilizes it to the benefit of minority communities, rather than for the economic wellbeing of a detached nation-state.

This model is particularly important in multilingual settings, not unlike many Indigenous communities today. The species metaphor is used to convey a sense of health rather than establishing hierarchies; for instance, the metaphor is greatly concerned with the linguistic environment. These, according to Hornberger (2002), are the “sociopolitical, economic, and cultural” features of the broader community (p. 36). The features are evident in the attitudes and ideologies of the dominant community, thus explaining the “interest convergence” comparison made above. Historically, and currently, there exists a discourse of power associated with language. Linguistic power has become particularly salient in the era of globalization as this has meant the subordination of minority languages for “world languages” in multilingual communities (Hornberger, 2002, p. 32). The status of language discourse in the early 2000s shown here by Hornberger (2002) remains largely the same today. Hornberger (2002) “concluded that unless the wider societal context could be geared toward valuing Quechua on a par with Spanish, ‘policy failure’ was inevitable” (p. 40). Given the relative value of the dominant language, in terms of economic mobility and opportunity, favours monolingualism, the impetus in the language-as-resource orientation will be for the minority language to be taught only as a means of teaching the dominant language (King & Haboud, 2002). As a theme, this will recur repeatedly in the examples explored below.

Aotearoa/New Zealand

The story of Aotearoa/New Zealand’s Te Reo education begins in the 1970s, which saw the “Maori assert control over their depleted language, cultural, and material resources” (Hill, 2011, p. 720). These assertions of control over resources culminated “in 1984, [when] New Zealand’s national Department of Education granted permission to a primary school in Huntly in the Waikato region to establish Maori language immersion programs” (Harrison, 1998, p. 297). This program was extremely successful and by “1994, more than 13,000 Maori children were enrolled in 819 Kohanga Reo programs” (Harrison, 1998, p. 301). During the time of Harrison’s (1998) publishing, these programs were considered a success. In 1994, when the research had been conducted, these schools were only recently offering full Maori instruction in secondary school. Students in the school had higher retention rates and an 80% success rate on national examinations (besides English), which was higher than the national average for Maori youth.

These positive outcomes persisted until the end of the 1990s, when it became apparent that the system was only slowing Maori language shift. By 2010, the rate of Maori who could hold a conversation in Te Reo was only 24%, a slight decrease from the 1970s, when it had been at 26% (Hill, 2011). The success of students in Maori bilingual primary schools is questionable, since many have unsuccessfully transitioned into English secondary or tertiary education. This is the case even though “[m]ost Maori-medium students speak English as their first language” (Hill, 2011, p. 720). Hill (2011, 2016) considered the language ideologies of teachers in these schools with reference to English language instruction; this is because English language programs are still dominant in secondary or tertiary education and many students are transitioning out of bilingual programs, but tend to struggle with this transition. This is an example of the language-as-resource model. In this case, the Maori language is not a value in and of itself, rather it is a means to encourage greater participation among minority language speakers in the dominant economic system of the larger society. Although, school policy in this context may be drastically different from that of Nunavut and the Andean Plateau, these examples nevertheless demonstrate that consideration of multilingualism as an asset, without a proportionate economic opportunity associated with minority language proficiency, will struggle greatly to abate a serious language shift, like that of the Maori communities in Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Contrary to the above examples of the deficit mindset, Doerr (2009) situated a series of ethnographic observations in a school operating an English-mainstream and Maori-immersion program in parallel, one where laughing at failures by mainstream teachers, who cannot or refuse to learn how to pronounce words in Te Reo correctly, is argued to be a form of counter-hegemonic resistance. In this setting, the two programs, mainstream and Te Reo immersion, come together for their final two years of high school. Mainstream teachers were assigned to teach mixed mainstream and immersion classes and were observed attempting and failing to pronounce the names of students, who responded by giggling and mocking the teacher. No attempts were made by the teacher to correct herself. Interestingly, the students who had felt disrespected by the teacher’s lack of care in pronouncing their names had been characterized by the English-medium teachers in the school collectively as being disrespectful and intimidating, an act that was framed by Doerr (2009) as a narrative of “countering pedagogy.” This term was defined as being “focuse[d] on. . .the nuts and bolts of carrying out emancipatory actions” (pp. 140-141). In this case, the act of laughing was perceived by the researcher as a counter-hegemonic form of resistance whereby the teachers were situated in the ideology of the colonizer whose power was threatened and then began to perceive themselves as the victims of a reversed oppression. This “countering pedagogy” will become an additional theoretical framework from which to consider the behaviour of people operating within a counterintuitive/oppressive policy framework. This framework will be useful when considering Inuit classroom participation as there remains a serious, and worsening shortage of Inuit teachers in Nunavut. It is, therefore, important to be aware of the ways that students are capable of subverting oppressive acts by their Qallunaat (white southern) teachers. Exploring these ways to consider the behaviour of minority language communities in dominant educational structures will hopefully produce more fruitful ethnographic observations.

Quechua Language Communities in Latin America

Since the early 1970s and late 1980s, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru have adopted similar policy changes as those described earlier. These examples will clearly highlight the problems implied in the language-as-resource model, so they will be of theoretical value, as well. First, the work of King and Haboud (2002) will be considered, which analyzed the attitudes of Ecuadorian language policymakers in the late 1990s. In Ecuador, there are profound ethnic divides, which translate into class differences. Only 10% (King and Haboud, 2002, p. 360) of Ecuadorians are of “white” Spanish ancestry, but they dominate the senior governmental and military posts in the country. The middle-class consists of mestizos (mixed Indigenous and white) and poorer “whites,” whereas, the lower classes are almost exclusively Indigenous Ecuadorians.

The most obvious examples of flaws in the language-as-resource model comes from this situation. Firstly, Indigenous languages are explicitly employed as a tool to teach Indigenous students Spanish. This discourse is also used as a way of privileging international languages, especially English, in the wealthier private schools whose graduates typically end up working for large multinational companies or the government. In both of these examples, language is used as a tool. The first shows the coercive deployment of the language-as-resource model, the second shows the exclusionary deployment of this model. Languages, in these instances, are seen as being useful only if they accomplish a specific end: the greater economic benefit of the speaker. These examples show that both wealthy and poor Ecuadorians are being forced to adopt the dominant languages of the community that appears to offer the greatest economic opportunity to people of their class, so as to be absorbed into a wider economic community. Even if the more deplorable Indigenous example is ignored, the experience of upper-class, white, Spanish communities shows the subordination of Spanish culture to that of the dominant English one; one where English becomes a status symbol among the Ecuadorian elite (King & Haboud, 2002). The dialogue of interculturality fits very well within this discourse, as long as the dominant language is the privileged one in intercultural relations. It is always the Indigenous student who is forced to learn Spanish in school, for instance, not the other way around.

Hornberger’s (2002) study of Bolivian ideological linguistic spaces demonstrates that Indigenous people themselves are conscripted into this narrative. This topic will remerge in the discussion of language ideologies in Nunavut, as well. While conducting a workshop for teachers for the Quechua bilingual program in Bolivia, Hornberger (2002) recounted that the Vice-Minister of Education reported that “questions have been raised about the Reform’s [sic] attention to indigenous languages, and indigenous parents have begun to demand that their children be taught in Spanish” (p. 28). In this case, the parents of Indigenous children in schools reported that the language of the Indigenous people came with an opportunity cost. They believed that without education in Spanish their children would be put at an economic disadvantage compared with those who had received such linguistic education. This is an inevitable consequence of placing an economic asset-based spin on language development where there is not a parallel expansion of the economic opportunities in the native language of the people.

Rindstedt and Aronsson (2002) also found support for this claim that parents were conscripted into a language ideology that subordinated Quechua in favour of the dominant Spanish culture. In their analysis, they described the “ultimate decisive factor on the individual level is parents’ choice of the language they use when addressing their children” (Rindstedt & Aronsson, 2002, p. 722). This conclusion came from ethnographic observations in a community in rural Ecuador where the community was identified as a hotbed of Indigenous activism in the region. Parents in this community reported that all of their children, regardless of age, were fluent Quechua speakers, but neither Rindstedt nor Aronsson observed children younger than ten years old speaking Quechua. Additionally, there is an important consideration here regarding the role of policy in reversing language shift. Rindstedt and Aronsson (2002) contended that “[t]he key to successful reversal of language is located primarily in the natural intergenerational transmission of the language in the home, not in government laws, policies, or formal schooling” (p. 723). This statement discounts the role of policies in influencing the behaviour of parents, who in this case, were clearly influenced by the lack of opportunity for Quechua speakers and chose to speak Spanish to their young children.

Valdiviezo (2009), who has taken a more concerted effort to analyze policy documents in multilingual settings, holds a contrary view of the dismissive attitude towards policy in the Andean context of Rindstedt and Aronsson (2002). Valdiviezo (2009) made several observations about the nature of the bilingual intercultural education (BIE) policy in Peru. In particular, the policy was constructed from the top-down, it provided a vague treatment of the intercultural element, and it focused more practical efforts on bilingualism, as opposed to interculturality. By lacking focus on interculturality, Valdiviezo (2009) argued that BIE programs have struggled with implementation and “remain. . .a space of exclusion of indigenous [sic] languages and cultures” (p. 61). This problem was further reflected in the treatment the policy was given during teacher education workshops. The information provided by the Ministry of Education to teachers at the workshops, when bilingualism was given in a collaborative and educational setting, presented the cultural elements of these new language reforms in a separate lecture from a senior school board official. This practice, Valdiviezo (2009) argued, reinforces a separation between the pedagogic value of teaching Quechua culture and language. This programme encouraged teachers to adopt an ideology of valuing Quechua only as a linguistic tool that encourages Indigenous students to privilege Spanish/Western knowledges; thus relegating Quechuan culture as something to be alluded to in lectures, rather than taught outright. This is obvious when considering the ways in which teachers treated the task of translating ideas between cultural contexts. Valdiviezo (2009) observed that teachers struggled greatly translating school culture into Quechua, thus emphasizing the Indigenous value system and deemphasizing the Western. Conversely, they found no difficulty translating Spanish texts and ideas into Quechua, which privileges Western/Spanish values in the classroom as the referent language. This kind of analysis highlights the many fruitful ways in which policy development and implementation can have very serious implications for the behaviour and ideology of the actors operating within the given policy frame.


Much of the literature reviewed that follows came at a time of major reforms in the Territory of Nunavut; in particular, the Education Act and Inuit Language Protection Act were both passed in the same year (Legislative Assembly of Nunavut, 2008a, 2008b). Additionally, since nearly 80% of newly hired teachers are non-Inuit (Department of Finance, 2017), it is important to consider the opinions of Qallunaat teachers in this context, as they remain the largest share of the teacher workforce. When Aylward (2009) conducted an opinion survey of teachers in secondary schools, many of the deficit ways of thinking from the above examples emerged. For instance, according to some of the teachers, it became obvious that students who engaged in cultural activities should not be granted a high school diploma. One teacher stated that “We need to give the child who spends half of the year on the land the right to graduate with a ‘traditional skills’ diploma” (Aylward, 2009, p. 85). Much of this talk of tiered systems of recognition for completion of school is couched in the language of refusing to “dumb down” the academic requirements in order to squeeze Inuit kids through school. According to Aylward (2009), this opinion was prevalent among secondary school teachers who were under pressure to teach an entire hidden curriculum (Giroux & Purpel, 1983) to students in three years, and then prepare them for Alberta Diploma Exams by the end of Grade 12. This bicultural metaphor, according to Aylward (2009), is used to restrict the horizons of students, as they are seen as having limited aspirations and being in need of education reform, so as not to put unrealistic pressures on them or on the teachers.

A response to this deficit mindset expressed by teachers comes from Tulloch et al. (2016) who examined the responses of Inuit to having a community member as principal in the school. Based on the experiences of two schools whose principal or co-principal was Inuit, Tulloch et al. (2016) reported that seeing an Inuk (singular form of Inuit) in the role of principal overturned the “cognitive imperialism” which had subordinated Inuit culture within the school (p. 195). The possibly symbolic gesture of hiring an Inuk as principal also had larger, more far-reaching consequences for the school culture. The Inuit principals were able to truly enforce the cultural norms of the community, rather than paying lip service to them. Inuit principals had been raised in and embodied the IQ principles (Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit are Inuit cultural values and roughly translates to things Inuit know) upon which the Nunavut school system is supposed to be founded. As Tulloch et al. (2016) reported, Inuit face many challenges stepping into these roles. They were often placed in a position where they were expected to be “better than a Southerner” (Tulloch et al., 2016, p. 203). Instead, they found themselves unsupported and on the knife’s edge of balancing the various interests of everyone in both the school and the community. Oosten and Laugrand (2009) made a similar recommendation regarding leadership in schools as they argue for the importance of on the land teaching with elders, something that is difficult to accomplish within the bureaucracy of a school, particularly if it is not valued by the school principal.

One of the main goals of these changes to educational leadership and the composition of the teaching workforce is to promote and secure the Inuit languages indefinitely; this was a founding principle of Nunavut. Tulloch et al. (2009) explored the language ideologies of language role models within Inuit communities. The language shift throughout the territory towards English remains an ongoing problem for Inuit leadership, which can be explained in part, by “the economic and political weight of English combined with years of deliberate assimilation” (Tulloch et al., 2009, p. 134-135); however, this is changing. This economic argument remains powerful within the territory, but because of the greater need and opportunity for bilingual speakers of Inuit languages, there is greater economic incentive for young people to learn their own languages. This is in contrast with the examples from the Andes and Aotearoa/New Zealand where there remained little economic incentive to learn an Indigenous language. According to Tulloch et al. (2009), the “job” discourse was important to the informants, but linked to positive prospects for the future of Inuktitut. Additionally, there is an interesting discussion with regard to minority language rights within a linguistic minority community. In this case, the unique example of the small Franco-Nunavummiut (Nunavummiut means person from Nunavut) community in the territory. According to Cancel (2009), the experiences of the Francophone debates in southern Canada played an important role for the Inuit language majority in Nunavut.


This literature review has explored the model of language-as-resource quite extensively. Language-as-resource orientations were considered problematic as they emphasize certain economic models and simply flip the deficit model on its head emphasizing assets, but maintaining the references to a balance sheet. It was also argued that, in certain contexts, this model could be explicitly harmful to Indigenous language speaking communities, while in others, it could be beneficial. In the cases of the Andes and Aotearoa/New Zealand, it appeared to be more negative than positive, as there remained little economic opportunity explicitly afforded based on belonging to their minority language communities. On the other hand, it appeared that the economic opportunities afforded by bilingualism in Nunavut could be a driver of language role models to encourage young people to pursue better use and understanding of both the dominant language and their native tongue.

In contrast, the ecological model of Hornberger (2002) was not explicitly referenced in the literature, but had some interesting characteristics that made it a more useful model for this research. The ecological model firstly emphasizes health and wellbeing, along with diversity as a benefit in and of itself, and the metaphor is inherently relational. This relationality implied in a metaphor of biodiversity is in keeping with Indigenous methodologies (Kovach, 2009; Smith, 2012). This model and its utility will need to be explored further before proceeding with this research project, but it seems to be a valid alternative to the language-as-resource model. Additionally, the efficacy of the Aotearoa/New Zealand model of Indigenous language preservation through schooling was problematized, as their reputation as a shining light seemed to be slowing, rather than reversing, the trend away from Maori language use. In all of this literature, there has only been a tangential reference to policy. Policies were often treated as codices of programs and established the boundaries of acceptable practice in each context. In some cases, insiders were seen as agents who were better suited to enforce policies, especially those that had a cultural aspect (Tulloch et al., 2016). In other cases, the boundaries of policy were transgressed or deemphasized by policy actors (Hornberger, 2002). The conforming and transgressive actions of people affected by the policies cannot be entirely understood without a serious historical analysis of the development of these policies. The purpose of this literature review was to highlight ways in which power operates within the development and implementation of policy in Indigenous contexts. This invites reference to Gale’s (2001) critical policy sociology, which emphasizes the exclusion of voices from the policy discussion as key to the operation of power in policy discourses; uncovering this use of policy will explain the actions of responsible persons within the policy apparatus.


This review was conceptualized to analyze literature from three main areas with different experiences of bilingual education and Indigenous language revitalization projects. The goal of this review was to highlight two theoretical metaphors, which prove useful in rethinking the relationship between Indigenous and non-Indigenous language communities, language-as-resource, and language ecology, and also to highlight the importance of policy analysis in this discussion. In particular, the operations of schools modelled on Western standards and the conflicts within Canada’s relationship with the Territories was at the centre of this analysis. Additionally, an analysis of English-Plus multilingualism was considered a threat to decolonization within education programmes involved in language revitalization.

Consideration was given to a variety of contexts, which have had varying degrees of success in implementing bilingual education in their respective school systems. Aotearoa/New Zealand was chosen as a place whose program has been widely regarded as a successful early adopter. The literature, however, showed that in recent years this positioning of the Aotearoa/New Zealand model had major flaws in terms of its execution. In addition, the systems of the Andes were considered as the most egregious overuse of the language-as-resource model, highlighting its inherent flaws; the recurring one being that Indigenous languages were used as a means to better teach Spanish. In the absence of economic opportunity for bilingual or monolingual Quechua speakers in many of these countries, the parents of Indigenous children were ensnared in an ideology that subordinated their language to that of the dominant Hispanic culture. Finally, the work of various scholars around the time of Nunavut’s major reforms in 2008 was discussed. In large part, the discourse has not moved forward, and there remains gaps in this discussion, especially in the area of policy analysis. Ultimately, it is policy—the ideological expression of the powerful within a society—that influences how people behave under this very apparatus.


Aylward, M. L. (2009). Culturally relevant schooling in Nunavut: Views of secondary school educators. Inuit Studies, 33(1–2), 77–93.

Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of Theory and Research for the Sociology of Education (pp. 15–29). New York: Greenwood Press.

Cancel, C. (2009). Minorité franco-nunavoise et majorité inuit : tensions et coopération dans les débats sur l’éducation. Inuit Studies, 33(1–2), 153–171.

de Jong, E. J., Li, Z., Zafar, A. M., & Wu, C.-H. (2016). Language policy in multilingual contexts: Revisiting Ruíz’s “language-as-resource” orientation. Bilingual Research Journal, 39(3–4), 200–212.

Department of Finance (2017). Towards a representative public service. Government of Nunavut. Retrieved from: https://www.gov.nu.ca/sites/default/files/trps_2017-2018_q3_english.pdf

Doerr, N. M. (2009). Laughing at mistakes: Language politics, counter-hegemonic actions, and bilingual education in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 8(2–3), 124–143.

Gale, T. (2001). Critical policy sociology: Historiography, archaeology and genealogy as methods of policy analysis. Journal of Education Policy, 16(5), 379–393.

Giroux, H. A., & Purpel, D. E. (1983). The hidden curriculum and moral education: Deception or discovery? Berkeley, California: McCutchan PubCorp.

Government of Canada, Office of the Auditor General of Canada (2013, November 19). Education in Nunavut. Retrieved October 8, 2017, from http://www.oag-bvg.gc.ca/internet/English/nun_201311_e_38772.html#hd5d

Harrison, B. (1998). Te Wharekura o Rakaumangamanga: The development of an Indigenous language immersion school. Bilingual Research Journal, 22(2–4), 297–316.

Hill, R. (2011). Rethinking English in Māori-medium education. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 14(6), 719–732.

Hill, R. (2016). Transitioning from Māori-medium to English-medium education: Emerging findings of a pilot study. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 19(3), 249–265.

Hornberger, N. H. (2002). Multilingual language policies and the continua of biliteracy: An ecological approach. Language Policy, 1(1), 27–51.

King, K. A., & Haboud, M. (2002). Language planning and policy in Ecuador. Current Issues in Language Planning, 3(4), 359–424.

Klapwijk, N., & Van der Walt, C. (2016). English-plus multilingualism as the new linguistic capital? Implications of university students’ attitudes towards languages of instruction in a multilingual environment. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 15(2), 67-82.

Kovach, M. (2009). Indigenous methodologies characteristics, conversations and contexts. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Laugrand, F., & Oosten, J. (2009). Transfer of Inuit qaujimajatuqangit in modern Inuit society. Inuit Studies, 33(1–2), 115–152.

Legislative Assembly of Nunavut (2008a). Education Act. Iqaluit, NU: Territorial Printer.

Legislative Assembly of Nunavut (2008b). Inuit language protection act. Retrieved from http://langcom.nu.ca/node/40

Legislative Assembly of Nunavut. (2017). Bill 37: An act to amend the education act and the Inuit language protection act. Retrieved from http://www.assembly.nu.ca/bill-37-0

Milner, H. R. (2008). Critical race theory and interest convergence as analytic tools in teacher education policies and practices. Journal of Teacher Education, 59(4), 332–346.

Rindstedt, C., & Aronsson, K. (2002). Growing up monolingual in a bilingual community: The Quichua revitalization paradox. Language in Society, 31(5), 721–742.

Ruíz, R. (1984). Orientations in language planning. NABE: The Journal for the National Association for Bilingual Education, 8(2), 15-34.

Smith, L. T. (2012). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples (2nd ed.). London; New York: Zed Book : Distributed in the USA exclusively by Palgrave Macmillan.

Tulloch, S., Metuq, L., Hainnu, J., Pitsiulak, S., Flaherty, E., Lee, C., & Walton, F. (2016). Inuit principals and the changing context of bilingual education in Nunavut. Inuit Studies, 40(1), 189–209.

Tulloch, S., Pilakapsi, Q., Shouldice, M., Crockatt, K., Chenier, C., & Onalik, J. (2009). Inuit perspectives on sustaining bilingualism in Nunavut. Inuit Studies, 33(1–2), 133–152.

Valdiviezo, L. (2009). Bilingual intercultural education in indigenous schools: an ethnography of teacher interpretations of government policy. International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism, 12(1), 61–79.

Yosso, T. J. (2005). Whose culture has capital? A critical race theory discussion of community cultural wealth. Race Ethnicity and Education, 8(1), 69–91.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.