The Imperium of the Colonial Tongue? Evidence on Language Policy Preferences in Zambia

Sub-Saharan Africa stands out as a part of the world that primarily uses, as its official languages, former colonial languages that are neither spoken at home nor in the community. In this paper, we elicit preferences for colonial versus local languages and analyze the role of perceived costs and returns to different languages. In order to do so, we elicit beliefs about the effects of hypothetical changes to Zambia’s language policy on schooling outcomes, income, and social cohesion. Our results show overwhelming support for the use of the colonial language to act as official.

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