Which "bilingual" countries are actually bilingual?

vince

Senior Member
English
Hello all,

I'm wondering which multilingual countries and regions are actually multilingual?

There are many countries that have several official languages and officially declare themselves multilingual. Or, like in the case of the United States, there is no official language but there are regions where many languages are spoken, especially Spanish.

I'm wondering which countries and regions are truly bilingual in that
if you talk to the average citizen there, they will be able to fluently speak and write in both?

An example of a bilingual place in Canada would be the sparsely populated area in northern Ontario, a lot of people there speak both French and English fluently. Whereas if you go to Toronto, you can see gov't-sponsored bilingual road signs everywhere but you can swear profusely in French in a crowded mall and the biggest complaint you'd get from parents with children would be to keep your voice down.

I am wondering if you can do the same thing in places like, say, Zürich and Antwerpen.
 
  • Pivra

    Senior Member
    ...
    These are the countries that I think really are bilingual:
    Switzerland (3- 4 I forgot how many)
    India(uncountable)
    Spain(castellano y catalàn)
    New Mexico (do you count it as a country??)
    San Antonio, Texas
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    Spain and India are not totally bilingual.

    If you are in Sevilla, I don't think you can talk Catalan and be understood.
    Try talking Punjabi in Kolkata

    I think many areas in New Mexico and Texas are truly multilingual in that many people born and raised there for generations and who consider themselves American still speak both. But in many areas, I think only Mexican immigrants and their families speak Spanish. Hope someone will clarify this.

    I would really like to know if Switzerland is trully multilingual.
     

    Pivra

    Senior Member
    ...
    vince said:
    Spain and India are not totally bilingual.

    If you are in Sevilla, I don't think you can talk Catalan and be understood.
    Try talking Punjabi in Kolkata

    Like, I suppose everyone in Panjab or in Kolkata (or almost everyone) can understand Hindi. But people from Tamil Nadu or Bangalore might not.

    Anyone from Bharata Pradesh wants to clear up this curiosity?

    dhanyavaad
     

    Bienvenidos

    Senior Member
    USA
    English
    In Afghanistan, native Pashto speakers speak Farsi as a second language, but it's rare to find a native Farsi speaker that speaks Pashto.

    Bien
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    Lucyernaga said:
    Isn't País Vasco in Spain a bilingual territory? They actually have signs in both languages.
    The presence of signs doesn't indicate anything other than government suppport of a language.

    Here in Toronto we have a lot of French-English bilingual signs on highways and streets. But according to the census, only 1.4% of Torontonians speak French. That's less than the 2% of Torontonians who speak Spanish or the 10% who speak a Chinese language.

    What percentage of the population in Euskal Herria actually speak Basque?


    Ten to twenty years ago southern China and Taiwan were bilingual. There were, like in India today, countless languages spoken in China, each area was bilingual with Mandarin and the local language. Now most people still know some of the local language, but its usage is decreasing more and more. Eventually China and Taiwan will be unilingual Mandarin. So I am hesitant to say that China is multilingual except for regions where non-Sinitic languages like Uygur and Kazakh are spoken.
     

    MarcB

    Senior Member
    US English
    Hi Vince, Good topic!
    Some of your comments are confusing when you say bi or multilingual, it seems like you want them to be 100%. Then it seems like part of the country is ok such as a state, province etc. Your original post says regions or countries, and then you ask if a regional language is spoken in a different region of the country (Catalan)
    I agree many countries with more than one official language does not mean everyone speaks all of them. In fact I do not think anyone can make that claim even monolingual countries often do not claim everyone speaks the language.
    Switzerland; many people speak more than one language to varying degrees with many fluent in at least two some more, including English.
    The US you already mentioned but of course most people are monolingual despite thee millions who speak two or more.
    Belgium most German speakers speak a second language, several French speakers speak Flemish, quite a few Flemish speakers speak French and many of all groups speak English.
    Canada Some Anglophones speak French (many study it in school but are not functional) Most French speakers outside of Quebec speak English and many people in Quebec speak English. Many Native people speak two languages.
    Paraguay Statistics claim the majority of the population speaks Spanish and Guarani perhaps up to 75%. I will add that many people speak a mixture of both.
    You are right neither Spain nor India are completely bilingual. I mentioned the 100% already. Spain has a few regions where Spanish and another language are spoken by some not all of the population in that region.
    India is like Spain in this regard just by larger amounts.
    North Africa has many people who speak two or more languages.
    China and Taiwan are still multilingual. Whether or not all of the languages disappear in the future remains to be seen. I strongly doubt most will. Most Uighur only speak Uighur.
    And many Tibetans only speak Tibetan.
    Keep in mind that so many countries have people who are fluent in English regardless of what the national language is.
    There are none that I know of where everyone speaks more than one
    Other posters have given good examples as well.
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    I doubt there are any places that are 100% multilingual

    I guess my criteria for a place being multilingual is, can I be served at a local business in both languages? This would show that the support for both languages extends beyond government-sponsored bilingualism (like in Toronto). This doesn't necessarily mean that 90% of the population is bilingual, but that the place is bilingual enough that businesses feel the need to hire bilingual staff even for local establishments.

    In this way, Catalonia I believe is bilingual. Some old folks might be unilingual, but I believe you can be served in either Catalan or Castilian anywhere.

    I saw a linguistic map of the extreme north of France near Dunkerque and although there is an area where people are bilingual with Flemish Dutch, the map shows that it has been shrinking in the past hundred years.

    In Canada, there are very few anglophones who speak French, outside of northern Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick.

    Interesting to hear that Paraguay is bilingual. How about Bolivia, I heard that it has the highest proportion of native Americans and "mestizos/métis" in the Western Hemisphere.

    How widespread is Hindi in India? Is it spoken and understood everywhere in northern India? I once considered learning Hindi but I was hesitant because I was afraid I'd have to learn Urdu, Panjabi, Gujarati, Bangla, etc to communicate with everyone.

    About the China being multilingual thing, I think the only languages that will survive are the non-Sinitic ones, like Tibetan, Uighur, and the Tai and Miao-Yiao languages in the south. I don't know whether this argument is valid, but all of the mainland Chinese immigrants that I've seen (and I've seen many, since my college is full of them) speak exclusively in Mandarin. I've talked to one and he says that he still speaks his local language (the Gan language of southern China), but he only uses it to talk to his grandparents. Even to his parents and close friends he speaks Mandarin. I doubt the language will survive to his descendants. I've spoken to a Taiwanese immigrant and she says that she can only passively understand Minnan, and converses with her Taiwanese boyfriend in Mandarin. The only Chinese people here who speak in non-Mandarin are immigrants from Hong Kong, who speak Cantonese.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    Pivra said:
    These are the countries that I think really are bilingual:
    Switzerland (3- 4 I forgot how many)

    Switzerland has four languages, German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romansch - but not much bi- or multi-lingualism.

    22 of the 26 cantons are officially monolingual. In the 60s French speakers in Jura succeeded in getting separate cantonal status for their part of a predominantly German-speaking canton.

    Each canton in Switzerland behaves pretty much like a separate country.
     

    mansio

    Senior Member
    France/Alsace
    Pivra

    Most languages of Northern India and Pakistan are Indo-european languages deriving from Sanskrit. One of them Hindustani was used as a common language and gave birth to Hindi for Northern India, and Urdu for Pakistan.
    The languages of Southern India are a completely different family of languages (except Cinghalese which is Indo-european). So the people from that area are reluctant to use Hindi and often resort to English.
     

    Chaska Ñawi

    Senior Member
    Canadian English
    In response to your question, Vince, most Bolivians do speak both Spanish and an indigenous language - usually Quechua, Aymara or Guarani. Due to social pressures, this is slowly changing and an increasing number of people speak only Spanish.

    Now that there are university classes for Quechua as a second language in Argentina, perhaps it won't be such a Cinderella language, however.
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    Brioche said:
    Switzerland has four languages, German, French, Italian and Rhaeto-Romansch - but not much bi- or multi-lingualism.

    22 of the 26 cantons are officially monolingual. In the 60s French speakers in Jura succeeded in getting separate cantonal status for their part of a predominantly German-speaking canton.

    Each canton in Switzerland behaves pretty much like a separate country.

    Is Rhaeto-Romanisch used widely and as an official language in Switzerland? I thought it was one of endangered languages....:confused:
     

    Vespasian

    Senior Member
    Switzerland, German language
    natasha2000 said:
    Is Rhaeto-Romanisch used widely and as an official language in Switzerland? I thought it was one of endangered languages....
    Not widely. It has less native speakers than some native languages of immigrants. It is actually endangered. But the state tries to support the language. You can watch their television news show (http://www.rtr.ch/go/to?siteSect=10103) in the whole country for example.
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    Vespasian said:
    Not widely. It has less native speakers than some native languages of immigrants. It is actually endangered. But the state tries to support the language. You can watch their television news show (http://www.rtr.ch/go/to?siteSect=10103) in the whole country for example.

    Thaks for the link.:) I have never heard it before... It sounds like a mixture of Italian, French and German, when listening... Although reading it, I can understand a great part of it...
     

    aridra

    Member
    India
    Pivra said:
    Like, I suppose everyone in Panjab or in Kolkata (or almost everyone) can understand Hindi. But people from Tamil Nadu or Bangalore might not.

    Anyone from Bharata Pradesh wants to clear up this curiosity?

    dhanyavaad

    What is the criteria for being a multilingual country? If it is that each and every person must speak more than one language, I wonder if any country will make the grade!!!

    However, for all practical purposes, India is definitely a candidate for a being a multilingual country. People in the cities will definitely speak at least a bit of English in addition to whatever the local language is. In most of the northern states, Hindi will be understood in addition to the local language (in case it is different). English is more popular than Hindi in the south as a second language. Most signs at airports, stations etc will be both in the local language and in English, and sometimes Hindi as well. In most schools, one learns multiple languages. And as many people work in areas very far from their home states, they pick up the local language as well.

    I speak 5 - English (medium of education), Hindi (local language of area where I grew up and my second language at school), Tamil (mother tongue), Bengali (husband's mother tongue) and I learnt Sanskrit as a third language at school. This is not unsual.
     

    aridra

    Member
    India
    vince said:
    Spain and India are not totally bilingual.

    If you are in Sevilla, I don't think you can talk Catalan and be understood.
    Try talking Punjabi in Kolkata

    What??? Punjabi may not work in Kolkata but Hindi and English will!! If India is not multilingual by your definition, I wonder if you will find any multilingual country at all :)
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    aridra said:
    What is the criteria for being a multilingual country? If it is that each and every person must speak more than one language, I wonder if any country will make the grade!!!

    However, for all practical purposes, India is definitely a candidate for a being a multilingual country. People in the cities will definitely speak at least a bit of English in addition to whatever the local language is. In most of the northern states, Hindi will be understood in addition to the local language (in case it is different). English is more popular than Hindi in the south as a second language. Most signs at airports, stations etc will be both in the local language and in English, and sometimes Hindi as well. In most schools, one learns multiple languages. And as many people work in areas very far from their home states, they pick up the local language as well.

    I speak 5 - English (medium of education), Hindi (local language of area where I grew up and my second language at school), Tamil (mother tongue), Bengali (husband's mother tongue) and I learnt Sanskrit as a third language at school. This is not unsual.
    Well, I suppose that the "bilingual" means that one uses two languages indistinctly as their mother tongues. If not, than all the participants of the forum would be bilingual, and some of them even multilingual... I think it is important to distinguish a foreign language one speaks (it doesn't matter if one speaks it pefectly, it is not its mother tongue) and a language learnt from childhood.
    I understand Catalans as bilingual people. 99% of them don't even notice when they pass from speaking Catalan to speaking Spanish and vice versa. Today, for example, I witnissed a conversation of two young people - one speaking Spanish other one Catalan... So naturally, as if they were speaking one sole language!!! I loved it, really.:p :)
     

    KateNicole

    Senior Member
    English (USA)
    vince said:
    Or, like in the case of the United States, there is no official language but there are regions where many languages are spoken, especially Spanish.
    For all practical purposes, isn't English the official language of the United States? Aside from very extreme circumstances, it seems to me that all people that are born and raised in the US learn to speak English fluently.
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    Yes, the U.S.'s de facto official language is English.

    I don't think Finland is bilingual except for a few small areas.

    what I mean by "bilingual" is looser than natasha2000's definition. The second language may be learnt, but it must be learned to such a degree that the speaker is fluent in both their native language and the second language.

    An example of this would be Sweden, which I think is bilingual in Swedish and English despite English not being natively spoken.


    A region may be bilingual without both languages being de jure "official" e.g. southern Texas and parts of New Mexico, or Montreal (where the only official language is French).
     

    KateNicole

    Senior Member
    English (USA)
    Yes, I understood your question (and I've asked myself the same thing many times . . .) I just wasn't sure about that bit on the US.

    When I traveled to some cities in the Basque region of Spain, where all (or at least the vast majority) of the signs are bilingual, I expected the natives to be bilingual as well. I tried so hard to overhear a Basque conversation or find someone on the street or working in a store that spoke Basque, and I had absolutely no luck. Granted, I was only there for two days, but I tried very hard and came up with nothing! It seemed like hardly anyone spoke Basque at home or with friends. I'm in no way an expert of the state of the Basque language in Spain. I'm just commenting on my experience, but I think that if the case is that children only learn the given "other" language in school because the class is mandatory (and proficiency is not guaranteed . . . or common for that matter), I don't think a region should be considered bilingual.
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    I agree. That's why although English is required in Japan and French is required in English Canada, these areas are not bilingual because their quality of second-language education is too poor. (Yes, I'd rate Ontario's FSL graduates to be as good as Japanese "Engrish"-speaker's English). But Sweden is a rare example where second-language education reaches the level of fluency.
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    vince said:
    Yes, the U.S.'s de facto official language is English.

    I don't think Finland is bilingual except for a few small areas.

    what I mean by "bilingual" is looser than natasha2000's definition. The second language may be learnt, but it must be learned to such a degree that the speaker is fluent in both their native language and the second language.

    An example of this would be Sweden, which I think is bilingual in Swedish and English despite English not being natively spoken.


    A region may be bilingual without both languages being de jure "official" e.g. southern Texas and parts of New Mexico, or Montreal (where the only official language is French).

    Then, I am trilingual????:confused: This is the conclusion that I draw from your definition.
    As well as many other foreros here....
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    Yes, I guess you are trilingual then

    Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, English

    But only you as an individual, I don't think there are any regions in the world that are mostly trilingual in these languages.
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    vince said:
    Yes, I guess you are trilingual then

    Serbo-Croatian, Spanish, English

    But only you as an individual, I don't think there are any regions in the world that are mostly trilingual in these languages.

    Hmm... I really do not see the word "bilingual" "Xlingual" in this way.... But, OK. You placed the question, you make rules :) ....
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    There's a small region of Portugal where a language (or dialect) akin to Spanish, called Mirandese, is spoken in rural areas. However, everyone learns Portuguese as well, and they use Portuguese in the cities and when talking to strangers. Don't know if this counts.
     

    Kelly B

    Senior Member
    USA English
    My cousins from Egypt and Lebanon are truly bilingual - raised with Arabic, educated in French (though accented) - but they are older, and I don't know if it's still done that way.
     

    murena

    Senior Member
    Mexico / Spanish
    I think that in Hong Kong english and cantonese is widely spoken.

    Also in Fiji, english and fijian are common.

    I have not been to these places, so I may be wrong.

    Regards
     

    timebomb

    Senior Member
    Singapore, English
    I use English when I speak to my daughters but Chinese when I converse with my wife. I can also speak Malay and several dialects. In Singapore, I'm by no means unusual. Over here, almost every citizen speaks more than one language, usually English and their mother tongue.

    In schools, children are taught 2 languages, English as a first-language subject and their mother-tongue as a second-language subject. The brighter ones do both languages as first-language subjects.

    Signs here are often in 4 languages, namely, English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil. English is the official language but Chinese is more commonly spoken. Our national anthem, however, is in Malay.

    If any country qualifies for being bilingual, Singapore is it.
     

    rhian_haf

    New Member
    Welsh, Wales
    Tresley said:
    In the whole of Wales all the road signs are in Welsh and English, but only the North West part of Wales is truly bi-lingual.

    which is where i come from and im lucky enough to be bilingual... :)
     

    betulina

    Senior Member
    català - Catalunya
    As it has been said, the Catalan society is bilingual, as you can speak both Catalan and Spanish all around the country. As for Catalan people, though, I think that some of us have a "first language", which is the one we have learnt to talk with. Of course, that doesn't mean that we cannot speak the other (whichever it is) with absolute fluency (although those with Catalan as first language are more likely to speak Spanish better than vice versa). I think that really bilingual people are those who speak both languages at home and have learnt them at the same time and with "equality". I'm not sure about the proportion of that in Catalonia.

    But going back to the specific topic, I would like to point out that there is a small part of Catalonia (a "comarca") in the Pyrenees, "la Val d'Aran", in which there are three official languages and in which people can speak all three languages: Spanish, Catalan and Aranese (I think that's the name in English), which is a variant of Occitan.
     

    orion

    Member
    English UK
    I wonder if, to be considered bilingual, both "languages" you speak must have official status in the country/countries where they are spoken?

    For example, if Spain was still ruled by a fascist dictatorship and the teaching of Catalan in schools continued to be prohibited, would those who speak both Catalan and Spanish fluently be considered bilingual, or just monolingual speakers who have their own special "dialect"?

    Some people think that Scots (spoken in parts of Lowland Scotland) should be classified as a seperate language (as opposed to a dialect of English) so could they justifiably call themselves "bilingual"? (bearing in mind that they would also be fluent in English).

    It seems that bilingualism (or, moreover, multilingualism) is not so easy to define, and perhaps you could even say that there are different "degrees" of bilingualism/multilingualism depending on a number of different factors...

    For example, in my opinion, someone who can speak both Basque and Spanish fluently (obviously two very distinct languages) is much more "bilingual" than someone who can speak Catalan and Spanish (two relatively very similar languages...)

    Just tossing a few ideas around outloud, hopefully not in an off-topic manner. :)
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    orion said:
    I wonder if, to be considered bilingual, both "languages" you speak must have official status in the country/countries where they are spoken?
    I don't think so. I would say that it is enough that the language is widely used by people.

    For example, if Spain was still ruled by a fascist dictatorship and the teaching of Catalan in schools continued to be prohibited, would those who speak both Catalan and Spanish fluently be considered bilingual, or just monolingual speakers who have their own special "dialect"?

    In my opinion, if Franco were still alive, it would be like you say, for sure, but only because fascists are in power. This "opinion" would be based on politics and not on real facts. I would compare it with Hitler and his idea that Jews should be exterminated. IT was a political decision and consideration, which didn't have anything to do with the objective, real state of facts.

    It seems that bilingualism (or, moreover, multilingualism) is not so easy to define, and perhaps you could even say that there are different "degrees" of bilingualism/multilingualism depending on a number of different factors...

    For example, in my opinion, someone who can speak both Basque and Spanish fluently (obviously two very distinct languages) is much more "bilingual" than someone who can speak Catalan and Spanish (two relatively very similar languages...)
    I would disagree. According to this, then a person whose two mother tongues are, for example, Italian and Spanish, is less bilingual than a person who speaks Spanish and Hungarian. Both of them, if speak both languages indistinctively, are bilingual, because they DO SPEAK two different languages. It is not about the grade of difference or difficulty in languages, it is about the quantity of languages. And both persons speak two languages.
     

    orion

    Member
    English UK
    I don't think so. I would say that it is enough that the language is widely used by people.

    But if the "language" you speak is not officially recognised as such (as in the example of Scots) then apparently you are not bilingual, regardless of how many people may speak it or how unique it may be. Besides, many "languages" are not widely used at all, so that would not be a good way to define them...

    In my opinion, if Franco were still alive, it would be like you say, for sure, but only because fascists are in power. This "opinion" would be based on politics and not on real facts. I would compare it with Hitler and his idea that Jews should be exterminated. IT was a political decision and consideration, which didn't have anything to do with the objective, real state of facts.

    Obviously politics and language are inextricably linked: that was exactly my point. As Napoleon supposedly once said "Un idioma es un dialecto con un ejército detrás". Objectivity and real facts are what those who have political power always claim to have on their side...

    I would disagree. According to this, then a person whose two mother tongues are, for example, Italian and Spanish, is less bilingual than a person who speaks Spanish and Hungarian. Both of them, if speak both languages indistinctively, are bilingual, because they DO SPEAK two different languages. It is not about the grade of difference or difficulty in languages, it is about the quantity of languages. And both persons speak two languages.

    Again it's about how you define what is a language and who defines it (which was really what I was getting at). If I speak asturo-leonés or navarro-aragonés (as well as castellano) then I am bilingual according to those academics who consider these as different languages (and not just dialects) and not bilingual by those who don't. If I speak Basque and Spanish then my "bilingualism" is not up for debate ...although it would have been (among some) when Basque didn't have official status...
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    orion said:
    Some people think that Scots (spoken in parts of Lowland Scotland) should be classified as a seperate language (as opposed to a dialect of English) so could they justifiably call themselves "bilingual"? (bearing in mind that they would also be fluent in English).

    Where do you draw the line? Is Yorkshire a separate "language"? Large slabs of Geordie are just as incomprehensible as Lallands Scots.

    Up to the beginning of the 16th century, the Scots called their language Inglis.
     

    badgrammar

    Senior Member
    American English
    I get the feeling it is impossible to answer the original question without first establishing criteria, such as:

    Which countries define themselves as being "bilingual"?
    What percentage of the population must speak both languages fluently in order for the country to be considered "bilingual"?
    What is your definition of "bilingual"? (This is a question in and of it's own for which no satisfactory answer ever seems to exist in any debate)
    What is your definition of a "bilingual country"?

    What we are looking at here in this thread is an entirely undefined question, so that no matter what response someone gives, it can be shot down by any other poster's interpretation of all the above individual questions. We need to start with a basic premise in order to define the question.

    So in my humble opinion, the original question is utterly unanswerable without giving some explicit definition to the terms used.

    Sorry to be a party-pooper, but the question really lacks precision, and thus, pertinence...
     

    orion

    Member
    English UK
    Brioche said:
    Where do you draw the line? Is Yorkshire a separate "language"? Large slabs of Geordie are just as incomprehensible as Lallands Scots.
    Yes, I agree...that's why I'm interested in how a language is defined.
    With my average Spanish, I can understand Asturian better than Lallands Scots, yet one is supposedly just a dialect of English and the other a language in its own right..
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    Now I am confused.... Is "Asturian" actually a language apart, or is it just a dialect of Castilian (Spanish)? I've always thought it was just a dialect of Spanish, like Aragones o Andaluz. It would be nice if some Spanish forero/a could explain....
     

    french4beth

    Senior Member
    US-English
    What about Belgium? I understand that Flemish/Walloon are both official languages... but by the same token, you can't just go into a Flemish region & expect everyone to speak French, and vice versa.
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    orion said:
    I wonder if, to be considered bilingual, both "languages" you speak must have official status in the country/countries where they are spoken?

    For example, if Spain was still ruled by a fascist dictatorship and the teaching of Catalan in schools continued to be prohibited, would those who speak both Catalan and Spanish fluently be considered bilingual, or just monolingual speakers who have their own special "dialect"?

    Some people think that Scots (spoken in parts of Lowland Scotland) should be classified as a seperate language (as opposed to a dialect of English) so could they justifiably call themselves "bilingual"? (bearing in mind that they would also be fluent in English).

    It seems that bilingualism (or, moreover, multilingualism) is not so easy to define, and perhaps you could even say that there are different "degrees" of bilingualism/multilingualism depending on a number of different factors...

    For example, in my opinion, someone who can speak both Basque and Spanish fluently (obviously two very distinct languages) is much more "bilingual" than someone who can speak Catalan and Spanish (two relatively very similar languages...)

    Just tossing a few ideas around outloud, hopefully not in an off-topic manner. :)

    You bring up interesting points. As you said, a problem arises when the two languages are not universally regarded as such, i.e. there is a "language or dialect?" question going on.

    Then I guess it depends on the opinions of the laymen: Swedish people are automatically bilingual in Norwegian and Danish in the popular definition, but linguistically they are monolingual (the Scandinavian language); Swiss Germans are monolingual in the popular sense but bilingual in the linguistic sense (they speak both Standard German and Alemannisch). Then of course you've got the Chinese "dialects" - most southern Chinese people are popularly monolingual ("Chinese"-speakers) but are linguistically bilingual (Mandarin plus their local language).

    The world isn't fair, Scandinavian-speakers and Slavic speakers will always be seen as the most foreign-language-eager groups of people, and German-, Arabic- and Italian- and Chinese- speakers don't get credit for any bilingualism they exhibit.
     

    natasha2000

    Senior Member
    The most of Slavs ARE monolingual speakers, because they do have only one mother tongue - the language of their own country...

    And Scandinavian and Slavic (most of them) speakers maybe have more motivation to learn foreign languages than for example Spanish or English speaking people, because of a very simple reason: If you are English or Spanish native speaker, it is more likely to find foreigners speaking your mother tongue, than if you are for example Norwegian, or Czech, or Serbian speaker... Many foreigners speak English or Spanish, but almost no foreigner speaks Serbian.... So what am I supposed to do if I want to communicate with you, guys?:D Learn languages.
     
    aridra said:
    What is the criteria for being a multilingual country? If it is that each and every person must speak more than one language, I wonder if any country will make the grade!!!
    I have asked myself the same question. Maybe it would be best to distinguish between public and private bilingualism.

    I think there is almost always a favored language. If a bingual couple is having a verbal argument you have probably observed that they usually revert to their own favored language. This was well observed in the TV show "I Love Lucy" where Ricky always went back to Spanish when he was upset with Lucy. (Since that show was tranlated into something like 45 languages, I think that most of the world must have seen this show.) I love it when one of the mates is yelling in their language and the other is replying in another language. The only time I've seen genuine private bilingualism is when children raised in the household can argue with their parents in one language and their friends in another.

    Public bilingualism is more common, I think---and much easier to achieve. But the problem there is politics. My French is awful, yet I have tried to speak it to strangers in Belgium and in Quebec. In Brussels, I stopped a person to ask (in French) if they could direct me to a certain hotel. The person answered in Flemish. I told them I was from the US and they then began to speak perfectly in French. In Quebec, I had sort of the same situation. The speaker refused to speak ANY English until I told him I was from NY.
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    What about if you speak Malay and Bahasa Indonesian? are you Bilingual then?

    I'd say that most anywhere you go in North India, Hindi will be just fine. In the cities, English is good too. In Bengal and in East India, Bangla and the local language (But English should be fine in Bengal and some should be comfortable with Hindi). In South India, unless you're in Hyderabad or even Bangalore, English is the way to go. My father speaks four languages and my mother speaks three...an example of Indian polyglots!
     

    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I've just got back from Belgium which, as already mentioned, has a Flemish/Dutch-speaking north and a Walloon/French-speaking south. My anecdotal and unscientific impression is that the north has more 'bilingualism' than the south, both in numbers of speakers and degree of competence. French was the dominant language in the whole of Belgium until well into the 20th century, after all.

    Brussels is officially bilingual but all this means is that the local authorities are obliged to deal with the citizen in the language of his/her choice: either Flemish/Dutch or Walloon/French. On the street, French dominates.

    Just outside the Brussels city limits (and therefore in Flanders) some of the municipalities have "facilities" for French speakers. These are a bone of contention: the French speakers say they are permanent, while the Flemings say they were only ever meant to be temporary.
     

    PedroAznar

    Member
    Irlanda
    In Ireland all the roads signs are in Irish and English but only a tiny proportion of the population actually speak Irish. They're mainly concentrated on the west coast.
     
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