1. Language policies, language ideologies and local language practices

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Discussing a number of examples of language practices in different Asian contexts – from a job advertisement for English teachers in Vietnam, to injunctions to speak good English in Singapore, from mission statements on a Philippine convent wall, to an article about temple elephants in India – this paper argues that it is not so much language as language ideology that is the object of language policy. While ostensibly dealing with the distribution and regulation of languages, language policies are generally about something else entirely, be it educational, ideological or cultural regulation. Local language practices, meanwhile, may appear to be subject to language policies, but since language policies are always about a different understanding of language, it is this understanding rather than the practices themselves, that are at stake. By insisting on the plannability of language, state authorities insist that a sterile and state-serving view of language is the language ideology we should adhere to. State language policies, therefore, have more to do with the regulation of language ideologies than with the regulation of local language practices, which, despite attempts to contain them, always exceed confinement.


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