Questions for Joan Rubin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-409
Number of pages7
JournalLanguage Policy
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
bilingualism there, and what brought it to where it was. Generally, I was trying to understand and explain how Paraguay became, as I argued, the most bilingual country in the world (in terms of the same two languages being spoken by the entire population). Is that unusualness what attracted you to Paraguay? Well, that’s actually a different story. I had a course from Professor Paul Garvin at Georgetown University. He had published an article describing the unique sociolinguistic character of Paraguay, which piqued my interest. And later, in 1957, while speaking to Floyd Lounsbury, a Yale professor, when I was thinking about doing my Ph.D., he asked me what I wanted to do my thesis on, and I said, ‘‘Well, I could do it on bilingualism in Paraguay, or I could look at language planning in Turkey.’’ And he said, ‘‘Well, if you do it on Paraguay, I would be willing to be your dissertation advisor.’’ And that’s how I got to Paraguay. It certainly made a lot of sense because I had taken a lot of courses in Spanish about Latin American literature and culture. I had taught English in Brazil. I was fluent in Spanish and had a lot of Latin American connections so it made sense overall. Where did you go after Paraguay? About 1967, Joshua Fishman invited a group of scholars—myself, Björn Jernudd, and Jyoti Das Gupta—to join him in Hawaii to work on language planning at the East-West Center, though there wasn’t a great deal known about the Center or language planning at the time. Björn had a special interest in economics; Jyoti was a political scientist; Josh a sociologist, and myself, an anthropologist. During that year, we organized a small conference with language planners from all over the world and that meeting resulted in a volume edited by myself and Jernudd entitled Can Language Be Planned?, published by the East-West Center Press. At the same time, Joshua Fishman and Charles Ferguson applied for and were awarded a Ford Foundation grant to do a comparative study of language planning in four different countries. In order to make our work comparable, we began with questionnaires, like those used in comparative studies in the U.S. Yet, there were many complications arising from using similar research instruments in the highly diverse cultures we planned to work in—Indonesia, India, Israel and Malaysia. So, with the support of the Ford Foundation grant, I went off to Indonesia to begin the first of the four studies. How did you end up in Indonesia? Actually, that is an interesting story. I first did a feasibility study in the Philippines and Indonesia and the institutional support didn’t appear to be there for the study. So, in 1968, I went to Turkey because it had had such an extensive program of language planning over a relatively long period of time. I was interested at the time in what factors enabled Turkey to change its language policy so dramatically. I was particularly intrigued by the fact that Ataturk brought in some German linguists and changed the alphabet in one week. I was interested in what had happened since these major changes and how people felt about these changes. I was also interested in understanding

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