Productive engagement with linguistic diversity in tension with globalised discourses in Ethiopia
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Language policy and planning tension, between concerns for ethnolinguistic self-determination and the accommodation of plurality on the one hand and participation in global discourses on the other hand, characterises the last two decades of debate in
Ethiopia. The discussion in this paper draws attention to linguistically diverse language planning processes in Ethiopia, one of the poorest countries of the world. In particular, it will demonstrate that clear policy and guidelines from above, when unfettered by an over-emphasis of Western models, and coupled with decentralised implementation, allow some degree of localised language planning, or language planning from below. Such practice may result in surprisingly swift and diverse regional responses which accommodate linguistic pluralism over a 10-15-year time frame (early 1990s to 2004/2005). Decentralisation of educational authority to 11 Regional Education Bureaus in Ethiopia has served to encourage capacity-building and increase local and regional participation in educational and language planning and development activities. However, in the absence of clearly formulated implementation plans at the federal level, a change in political leadership with a turn towards 'international' advisors and educational models demonstrates the vulnerability of regional and locally implemented policy. In the Ethiopian case, the goal of linguistic diversity has become obscured by the allure of English, and there has been a 'washback effect' of this through the system, effectively reversing earlier progressive achievements in the expansion of multilingual education throughout the country.