Focus Lecture 4

Language Policies and Ecology of Literacies

Maya Khemlani David
University of Malaya


Language policies have an enormous impact on language literacies. This study presents the literacies of undergraduates as cited in a number of studies in a number of post-colonial countries as the background and moves on to provide examples of a study conducted in two post-colonial countries— Malaysia and Pakistan. It compares the development of the linguistic ecology and explores respondents’ orientations towards different languages in their respective educational settings. Using the Continua of biliteracy, the study employs a mixed method. The results indicate that the literacy levels of Malaysian respondents suggest a balance between their ethnic, national and English languages, and view the teaching/learning of their ethnic languages as vital markers of their ethnolinguistic identities. In contrast in Pakistan, the respondents report considerably higher literacy levels in reading and writing in English and Urdu as compared to their mother tongues. Biliteracy is seen as a means to social mobility rather than as identity marker. In both countries exclusion of languages other than the national and official ones from schools leaves a larger number of languages at the less powerful ends of the Continua model, a sign pointing towards their endangerment. It is clear then that language policies in education have clear and tangible ramifications on the ecology of languages.


Professor Maya Khemlani David has a distinguished thirty year career in teaching language and linguistics and has written, co-written, or edited 31 books as well as published 138 scientific research papers in national and international journals. Dr David taught and tested in a number of faculties including Law and Economics and is a world-reknown expert in the field of discourse analysis, language variation in Malaysian minority communities, and the role of language in establishing and maintaining national unity within and across cultures. She received the Linguapax Award , (UNESCO BARCELONA, 2007) and is an Honorary Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists (United Kingdom), and an Honarary Member of the Foundation of Endangered Languages. Her publications include The Sindhis of Malaysia: A Sociolinguistic Account (2001, London, ASEAN) and she has co-written Writing a Research Paper (2006, Serdang: UPM). Her co-edited and edited publications include Politeness in Malaysian Family Talk (2008, Serdang: UPM), Language and Human Rights: Focus on Malaysia (2007, Serdang: UPM), National Language Planning and Language Shifts in Malaysian Minority Communities: Speaking in Many Tongues (2011, Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press). Language and the Power of the Media (2006, Frankfurt, Peter Lang), Language Choices and Discourse of Malaysian Families: Case Studies of Families in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2006, Petaling Jaya, Strategic International and Research Development Centre), Teaching of English in Second and Foreign Language Settings: Focus on Malaysia (2004, Frankfurt, Peter Lang), Developing Reading Skills (2002, Kuala Lumpur: Melta/Sasbadi). Until Recently ( April 2014) she was Professor at the Faculty of Languages and Linguistics, University of Malaya and continues to serve as Researcher, Humanities Research Cluster, University of Malaya as well as Hon. Academic Consultant with the London College of Clinical Hypnosis.

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