Which "bilingual" countries are actually bilingual?

Hakro

Senior Member
Finnish - Finland
I don't think Finland is bilingual except for a few small areas.
Finland is officially bilingual and for certain official jobs one has to prove the ability to speak both Finnish and Swedish. About 5 % of the people speak Swedish as mother tongue but most of them understand and speak Finnish without problems. On the other hand, only higher educated Finns speak fluently Swedish. Nowadays it's easier to find a Finn who speaks English than one who speaks Swedish.
 
  • Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,
    I'm wondering which multilingual countries and regions are actually multilingual?

    Most Black African students I have met so far (roughly from the 'triangle 'Senegal - Kenya - Mozambique) speak at least two languages, quite often three: a very local language, a supraregional language and one of the (ex-colonial but still) official languages, such as French, English or Portuguese.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Chipiron

    Senior Member
    Spain Spanish & Gallego
    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....
    Hi!!

    In Spain as a country there is one “common” official language, (the Spanish/Castilian), but in some “Autonomias” (regions) there are 2 official languages (or a language and a dialect) that coexist.

    Gallego, Vasco and Catalán are consider languages, whereas Bable (asturian), Mallorquin and Valenciá are considered dialects.**
    The governments of these regions promote and stimulate the use of their local language.

    I think that Pais Vasco is the less bilingual region because of the difficulty of the language. (Whilst Spanish, Catalan and gallego… are Latin languages, Vasco is a completely different language without any similarity to Spanish wich makes it more difficult to learn.)

    In Cataluña the use of Catalán is widespread and also in Galicia. The difference is that Gallego is less used in cities (but most of the people from rural and seaside areas speak gallego (or a gallego – castellano mix))

    I think that Valenciá and Mallorquin are quite used but I´m not sure.

    Cheers,


    ** These classification is a bit controversial. There are people that consider Mallorquín and Valenciá a language, but I´ve followed the classification of RAE:

    gallego, ga. Del lat. Gallaecus).
    7. m. Lengua de los gallegos.
    catalán, na.
    3. m. Lengua romance vernácula que se habla en Cataluña y en otros dominios de la antigua Corona de Aragón.
    vasco, ca. 4. m. euskera.
    2. m. Lengua hablada por parte de los naturales del País Vasco español, francés y de la comunidad de Navarra
    bable.
    1.m. Dialecto de los asturianos.
    valenciano, na.
    5. m. Variedad del catalán, que se usa en gran parte del antiguo reino de Valencia y se siente allí comúnmente como lengua propia.
    mallorquín, na.
    3. m. Variedad de la lengua catalana que se habla en la isla de Mallorca.

    P.S. Correct my mistakes.
     

    Samaruc

    Senior Member
    Valencià/Català, Castellano
    ...Gallego, Vasco and Catalán are consider languages, whereas Bable (asturian), Mallorquin and Valenciá are considered dialects...

    ...These classification is a bit controversial. There are people that consider Mallorquín and Valenciá a language, but I´ve followed the classification of RAE...

    Hi Chipirón,

    The Catalan language has two official names: "Català" in Catalonia and the Balearic Islands and "Valencià" in Valencia. Two official names but just one language.

    What is spoken in the Balearic Islands and Valencia is as Catalan/Valencian as what is spoken in Catalonia and what is spoken in Catalonia is as dialectal within the Catalan/Valencian language as what is spoken in the Balearic Islands and Valencia.

    Sorry, I know it has been off-topic...

    Have a nice weekend!
     

    Outsider

    Senior Member
    Portuguese (Portugal)
    As far as I know, Aragonese, Astur-Leonese, and Extremaduran are not officially recognized as languages. For all practical purposes, they are treated as dialects of Spanish.
    However, in recent years there has been growing interest in these language varieties, though they now have few speakers.
     

    Dale Buttigieg

    New Member
    Gibraltar, English, Spanish, Llanito
    I know four languages English, Spanish, Maltese and Llanito. In Gibraltar most people know Spanish, English, and Llanito (mix of Spanish, English, Genoese Italian, Maltese, Hebrew and Portuguese) . We mix the Spanish and the English in such a way, that people can't believe it. We can be thinking in English and speaking in Spanish and vice versa. I can be arguing with my brother in Spanish and he is answering back in English.
     

    Brioche

    Senior Member
    Australia English
    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).

    ...... Chinese- speakers don't get credit for any bilingualism they exhibit.

    The differenciation between a language and a dialect is often political.

    It suits the rulers of China to define things in such a way that the Chinese people all speak Chinese. One people, one lanaguage, one country - and, of course, - one Pary.
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    I'd say Paraguay is the most bilingual country in the world. Where else can you see such an emphasis on the indiginous language, Guarani, and the colonial language, Spanish? I hope other multilingual states can achieve something comparable one day.
     

    Layzie

    Member
    English, Spanish.
    In Arabic countries people speak their colloqial dialect and anyone who reads/watches tv/ listens to the radio also has to know Modern Standard.
     

    Gvcc1girl

    New Member
    USA, English
    Well, as many have stated, I'm sure qualifying as a truly bilingual country is near impossible, but having visited many countries, I have to give Japan my vote.

    I lived in Japan for 4 and a half years. As I was told by many Japanese friends, virtually all Japanese study English in school and if you are speaking to a Japanese person and they don't appear to understand your English, ask for a pen and write down what you're trying to say because most Japanese, if not understanding spoken English, will understand written English.

    I tested this on more than one occasion and found this to be absolutely true, with the exception being instances in very rural villages.

    After having lived there and functioning rather well with minimal Japanese language skills, I have to say that it would not be difficult for an English-speaker to know virtually no Japanese and live in Japan... especially in bigger towns-- and without a doubt, in Tokyo!
     

    taikuri

    New Member
    Finnish
    Re: Which "bilingual" countries are actually bilingual?
    What about Finland?
    I think they talk both Finnish and Swedish.

    Well we do have a lot of Swedish-speaking Finns in here but I really can't say that these two languages are equal here. Swedish is an obligatory subject in our schools and I personally love to learn and speak it. Even though, Finnish is our primary language. Ofcourse, you can have service in Swedish in civil service departments and most offices and there are some towns and areas were people speak only Swedish (mostly in Southern and Western Finland). I live in the Southern Finland near Helsinki and I have few friends who speak Swedish at home with their parents.

    Aaargh I think I had something smart to say but I just ended up blathering... Maybe someone who knows more of this should tell ya. But my point was (I quess) that despite the image we're trying to give, these two languages aren't equal in Finland.

    Thank you :D
     

    TrentinaNE

    Senior Member
    USA
    English (American)
    In Italy there is a region, Trentino Alto Adige, where people speak both German and Italian.
    Ciao, Time. :) German is really not spoken in Trentino, except for the Mocheni dialect in one valley, but it is an official language in Alto Adige (Sud Tirol). I have cousins who live in Bolzano/Bozen who speak only Italian, and I'm told that there are separate Italian-langugage and German-language schools, often virtually side-by-side. The wiki article, however, notes that:
    Public jobs are assigned by ethnic quotas, and require proficiency in both Italian and German, with the effect of protecting the local labour market from immigration.

    Elisabetta
     
    Re: Which "bilingual" countries are actually bilingual?
    Well we do have a lot of Swedish-speaking Finns in here
    If 6% of the population is a lot... :)
    I really can't say that these two languages are equal here. Swedish is an obligatory subject in our schools and I personally love to learn and speak it.
    Yeah, I also have a positive stance for Swedish, unlike most of my friends. Swedish isn't probably popular here due to the geographical location of my city; there's not much just Swedish-speaking settlement this north.
    But my point was (I quess) that despite the image we're trying to give, these two languages aren't equal in Finland.
    That'd me my point too. The inequality is clear, mostly because, as I stated above, Swedish-speakers are a minority. Also the fact that Swedish as an obligatory subject was dropped from the matriculation exams contributes to that.
     

    Hakro

    Senior Member
    Finnish - Finland
    In Finland there are three Sami languages spoken (and they don't understand each other!) but practically all Sami people (there's six or seven thousand of them) speak Finnish without any problem. On the other hand, very very few Finns speak Sami.
    For about fifteen years Sami has been an official language in the areas where Sami people live. People there can get education and basic service (in hospitals etc.) in Sami.
     

    taikuri

    New Member
    Finnish
    If 6% of the population is a lot... :)

    I may have exaggerated it a bit... :D But you know, I live in the Southern Finland and as I'm doing my part-time job in a local pharmacy it sometimes feels like every other customer speaks Swedish :D Maybe they're just sick all the time?

    Yeah, I also have a positive stance for Swedish, unlike most of my friends. Swedish isn't probably popular here due to the geographical location of my city; there's not much just Swedish-speaking settlement this north.

    Same thing here: on the 9th grade, there were at least 50 guys in our school studying the A-Swedish. And now when I'm in the senior high there are about 40... And this is one of the ten biggest senior highs in Finland! I think it's kind of alarming... :(
     

    keladry

    New Member
    english, US
    What about the Philippines? Everyone can speak the official languages (Filipino and English) and their own dialect such as Tagalog, Cebuano, etc.
     

    choppy seas

    Banned
    malayalam/india
    Heres a brain-teaser for all of you.Talking of the Phillipines,I have an even more complex case to pose.
    In India we are officially bilingual, with the two official languages being Hindi and English.But in all, there are over twenty-seven or twenty-eight major languages, many of which have a greater number of speakers than the major European languages! Additionally they all have written scripts and are quite developed as languages.Would you call the country bilingual or multi-lingual?!
     

    vince

    Senior Member
    English
    Heres a brain-teaser for all of you.Talking of the Phillipines,I have an even more complex case to pose.
    In India we are officially bilingual, with the two official languages being Hindi and English.But in all, there are over twenty-seven or twenty-eight major languages, many of which have a greater number of speakers than the major European languages! Additionally they all have written scripts and are quite developed as languages.Would you call the country bilingual or multi-lingual?!

    India, like China, is multilingual as a whole, with dozens of languages with tens of millions of native speakers being spoken thoughout the whole country. But we are talking about whether the country is truly bilingual/multilingual: i.e. do most people in most areas speak two or more languages?

    i.e. do most people in your area also speak fluent Hindi and English?
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    Well, I can comment from where my family is from. In the capital, New Delhi, most Hindi speakers are also fluent in English. And Panjabi, Bengali, etc are also fluent in English and Hindi. In Chandhigarh, the capital of Panjab, I'd say most people are fluent in both Hindi and Panjabi, and only some with English. I do believe there are some monolingual Panjabi speakers who may not even understand Hindi very well...I'll pay better attention when I go back to visit.
     

    choppy seas

    Banned
    malayalam/india
    India, like China, is multilingual as a whole, with dozens of languages with tens of millions of native speakers being spoken thoughout the whole country. But we are talking about whether the country is truly bilingual/multilingual: i.e. do most people in most areas speak two or more languages?

    i.e. do most people in your area also speak fluent Hindi and English?
    Well that is a more complex question than you realise! People have varying levels of proficiency.For example you may study in a particular medium but be more fluent in another medium. People are first of all fluent in their local languages and then with Hindi. The comfort level with English is low, except ofcourse the elite, most of whom who are thoroughly anglicised...This is despite the fact that virtually all major national news networks, newspapers and books are in English! This paradox often creates serious communication blocks, and maybe one reason that the potential of the country has not been realised! Things are however now slowly changing with the greater emphasis put on vernacular languages by state governments...
     

    Ludito

    Senior Member
    French, Belgium
    A few more precisions about Belgium:

    1. The Northern Part is called Flanders (Vlaanderen). There people officially speak Dutch. The term 'Flemish' refers to an important difference of accent and vocabulary with Dutch. Whilst Dutch is spoken on TV and understood by everyone there, there are people who speak it differently, and they like to name their language "Vlaams" (Flemish)

    In Flanders, many people used to speak French (since it used to be the only official language of Belgium, and since it is a fact that french is a more powerful language). Yet less and less Flemish (want to) speak French. The majority of Flemish can speak English -very well- as it has become a very important influence on TV (films are not dubbed) and in the society in general.


    2. the Southern Part is called Wallonia (Wallonie). In this region, people speak French. I insist that they do not speak Walloon (!)
    Wallon used to be a very common dialect there and is VERY different from French. Whilst people in Flanders carry on speaking Flemish, people from Wallonia don´t.

    In this Southern part, people are becoming concious that they should learn Dutch (as it is spoken by more than half the country's inhabitants, and as Flanders is definitely more dominant and strong in term of economy and industry). French-speakers in Belgium do learn English, but they do not seem too concerned about it (unlike Flemish people).

    3. The Eastern part of Belgium is a territory given as a present from Germany to Belgium, after the war. In this very small region, people officially speak German. However, it is considered as a 'facility' region, in which French is commonly used too.

    4. The Brussels DC region is officially bilingual. There all official signs and notice boards are in both French and Dutch. It does not mean that people speak both languages. However, they are very encouraged to speak the second language (strong language programmes in education for instance) and it is a fact that people in Brussels are more likely to speak both languages than people from other parts. Following the development of Brussels as a European district -and thus the arrival of many other Europeans-, people feel that learning English is a necessity and they are also more open to other languages.

    This is my view, as a French-speaker (and language teacher) who lived in Belgium until last month and studied in Wallonia, Brussels and Flanders.
     

    Frank06

    Senior Member
    Nederlands / Dutch (Belgium)
    Hi,

    2. the Southern Part is called Wallonia (Wallonie). In this region, people speak French. I insist that they do not speak Walloon (!) Wallon used to be a very common dialect there and is VERY different from French. Whilst people in Flanders carry on speaking Flemish, people from Wallonia don´t.

    Oh, I heard them talk that :) I even heard people (still) talk Letzburgisch in the Belgian province of Luxemburg, near the border with the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.

    One small correction: people in Flanders don't talk 'Flemish'. They only do so in the province of West-Flanders (and partially east-Flanders). More information on the word 'Flemish' can be found here (in Dutch) and here (in English). This overview from ethnologue.com might also be of interest.

    Groetjes,

    Frank
     

    Ludito

    Senior Member
    French, Belgium
    Hi,



    Oh, I heard them talk that :) I even heard people (still) talk Letzburgisch in the Belgian province of Luxemburg, near the border with the Grand Duchy of Luxemburg.

    One small correction: people in Flanders don't talk 'Flemish'. They only do so in the province of West-Flanders (and partially east-Flanders). More information on the word 'Flemish' can be found here (in Dutch) and here (in English). This overview from ethnologue.com might also be of interest.


    Thanks for your precisions. I may have generalised Flemish too much. However people in Antwerp often use other words, that may be the reason why I said that.

    I still disagree about people talking Walloon.
    There might still be (very old or very very very isolated :p ) people who can speak it but hardly none would use it. I personally only understand a few words when I see it writen since it is a Roman dialect. That is it.

    There was also something I wanted to underline. Often French people think that French-speaking Belgians speak a very different French than them. There are a few differences, but very minor (70 : septante, 90. nonante, for instance) just like differences we can notice between French from the Midi, or from Alsace. Basically it is really the same language.

    As for Letzburgisch, it is more and more used in Luxembourg. It is actually compulsory in the Education (I could not go and teach there because I did not speak the language). I think it is very normal that you may have heard Letzburgisch in the very South of Belgium. It is simply very close to the boarder (as you mentioned) which is thus a logical phenomenon.
     

    lupecita

    New Member
    EEUU/USA, English
    I know that in the case of the country of Ecuador, a very, very large percentage of the population speaks both Quichua (the local dialect/variant of Quechua) and Spanish fluently.
    Country-wide I would estimate it at around 30%, but in the mountains and the selva (two of the three main geographical regions of the country, with the coast being the third), there are many more indigineous communities and so I would probably estimate about 50% of the population there to be fluent in both Spanish and Quichua. A large number of Quichua words have also been adopted into the everyday Spanish of monolingual speakers, and lots of Spanish words have also been adopted into Quichua. There are courses in Quichua at many local universities, but I think lots of mestizos still attach a stigma to speaking Quichua, and I would say the number of monolingual Quichua speakers is very small and probably only limited to older members of the community.
     

    chics

    Senior Member
    Catalan - Spanish
    Spain has 44 milion of inhabitants, and almost half of them are bilingual. A great area of around 13 milion peope is bilingual Catalan&Spanish, 3 milion are bilingual Galician (and some, Portuguese, too) and Spanish, at least a milion of Euskera & Spanish... and sum up all the "fronter regions", the "small" areas (Aran Valley, etc. ), bilingual people of not-official languajes.
     

    PABLO DE SOTO

    Senior Member
    Spain Spanish
    I think the original question of this thread is Which officially bilingual country is really a bilingual country?.
    In Spain ,as it's been said,there are important autonomous regions that are officially bilingual,but real bilinguilalism is not the same in every area.
    Catalonia can be considered a real bilingual region where Catalan and Castilian/Spanish are spoken and understood by the most people.
    In Barcelona suburbs Spanish is more widely spoken than in inner Catalonia where Catalan is the prevailing language.
    Barcelona is a real bilingual city where you can hear both languages in the streets,although because of political reasons,public signs are only in Catalan.
    Basque Country is also bilingual,but Basque disappeared in half of the area during former centuries.
    There is a strong nationalist feeling in the Basque Country and people,even those whose mother language is only Spanish,support the language politics that want to spread the Basque throughout the whole area.
    Some rural areas and small towns are really bilingual,but in Bilbao or Vitoria you will hardly hear a conversation in Basque.
    Galicia,although galician is known by the majority,the language is more spoken in rural areas in small towns than in the bigger towns as Vigo or Corunna.
    Valencia,the regional variety of Catalan is official in this region,but you won't hear much Valenciano in Valencia or Alicante streets.
    The language is alive in rural areas,northern province and in mid size towns like Alcoy or Gandía.
    Balearic Islands,I don' know much about the real language situation on these islands,but I believe Catalan is widely spoken in rural areas and islands as Minorca.
    Navarra,Basque is official in the northwestern part of the region but you won't hear much Basque in Pamplona and other areas of the region.
     

    ham_let

    Member
    Canada / English
    Interesting. The only country that I can think of where almost ALL of the population can speak the same 2 languages is Paraguay.

    Sure a lot of countries have multiple languages for various regions, but people from other regions won't know how to speak those languages... IMO, the need for a 'bilingual' country isn't really important, because once you have a single language that can be understood by everyone, there's no more need for people to learn the other languages of the country. For example, Catalans, Basques, and Galicians all understand Spanish (by Spanish i mean 'Castilian' of course), but most Castilians, Basques, and Galicians aren't fluent in Catalan, since they can already talk to a Catalan in Spanish.
     

    space2006

    Senior Member
    Spanish and Galician - Galicia, Spain
    Here in Galicia we have two languages: Spanish and Galician. I would say that everybody can understand both of them, and most people can speak them too. However, Spanish is more spoken in the big cities, whereas Galician is more spoken in rural areas.

    At school, some of the subjects are in Galician and some others in Spanish.
     

    AkErBeLtZ

    Member
    Euskara; Euskal Herria
    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.
    Hi, KateNicole.
    I don't know where did you go when you came to the Basque Country, but if you only went to big cities it's normal that you didn't hear people speaking Basque. It's sad, but in big towns (such as Bilbao, Basauri, Barakaldo, Getxo, Portugalete...), specially from Biscaye or Araba, no one speaks Basque. They do know it because they learn it at school (and they could speak with fluency because I've tried to speak in Basque with people that never uses it and the result wasn't too bad), but they just prefer Spanish, I don't know... If you really want to hear people speaking Basque, you should move away from the big cities, and better if in the north.
    I myself live in a small town called Zaratamo (it's only 10 minutes from Bilbao) and you can perfectly hear people (specially children) speaking Basque.
     

    panjabigator

    Senior Member
    Am. English
    Hi, KateNicole.
    I don't know where did you go when you came to the Basque Country, but if you only went to big cities it's normal that you didn't hear people speaking Basque. It's sad, but in big towns (such as Bilbao, Basauri, Barakaldo, Getxo, Portugalete...), specially from Biscaye or Araba, no one speaks Basque. They do know it because they learn it at school (and they could speak with fluency because I've tried to speak in Basque with people that never uses it and the result wasn't too bad), but they just prefer Spanish, I don't know... If you really want to hear people speaking Basque, you should move away from the big cities, and better if in the north.
    I myself live in a small town called Zaratamo (it's only 10 minutes from Bilbao) and you can perfectly hear people (specially children) speaking Basque.

    Y estás de acuerdo que tanta la gente castellanoparlante que la vascoparlante quiere hablar y aprender el idioma vasco como ha sugerido Pablo de Soto?
    Basque Country is also bilingual,but Basque disappeared in half of the area during former centuries.
    There is a strong nationalist feeling in the Basque Country and people,even those whose mother language is only Spanish,support the language politics that want to spread the Basque throughout the whole area.
    Some rural areas and small towns are really bilingual,but in Bilbao or Vitoria you will hardly hear a conversation in Basque.
    Si voy a una pequeña tienda en el País Vasco en una ciudad grande como Bilbao, tendré éxito usando el idioma vasco con los dependientes o piensas que el castellano me serviría mejor? ¿Qué escoges tú?
     

    AkErBeLtZ

    Member
    Euskara; Euskal Herria
    Y estás de acuerdo que tanta la gente castellanoparlante que la vascoparlante quiere hablar y aprender el idioma vasco como ha sugerido Pablo de Soto?
    Sí, he conocido a mucha gente de Araba y Nafarroa que lo quieren aprender. A pesar de que su idioma principal sea el castellano y en su entorno se hable principalmente en castellano, les gustaría aprenderlo hablando con un vascoparlante de verdad. No digo que ésto sea siempre así porque no lo sé, pero sí que hay gente.
    Si voy a una pequeña tienda en el País Vasco en una ciudad grande como Bilbao, tendré éxito usando el idioma vasco con los dependientes o piensas que el castellano me serviría mejor? ¿Qué escoges tú?
    Siempre que voy a alguna tienda de Bilbao procuro dirigirme al dependiente en euskera, y no siempre me dicen que sólo hablan castellano. En muchos sitios, la gente no tiene ningún problema para hablarte en euskera.
     

    PABLO DE SOTO

    Senior Member
    Spain Spanish
    Y estás de acuerdo que tanta la gente castellanoparlante que la vascoparlante quiere hablar y aprender el idioma vasco como ha sugerido Pablo de Soto?
    Si voy a una pequeña tienda en el País Vasco en una ciudad grande como Bilbao, tendré éxito usando el idioma vasco con los dependientes o piensas que el castellano me serviría mejor? ¿Qué escoges tú?


    Sin duda el castellano te serviría mejor porque lo hablan todos, mientras que no es seguro que todos hablen vasco.De hecho es normal que los mayores no lo hablen.
    La gente joven lo ha estudiado y lo sabe pero lo normal con desconocidos es hablar castellano.
    Ahora bien, si tú te diriges en vasco, muchos vascos van a apreciar ese gesto y les agradará la idea de que un foráneo se dirija en la lengua autóctona.
    Por otra parte, es normal que muchos castellanoparlantes ,por no decir todos, deseen que sus hijos aprendan el euskera aun sin ser nacionalistas vascos, debido a que se lo van exigir por ejemplo para trabajar en la administración o en las empresas privadas y van a tener muchas más oportunidades laborales y sociales.
     
    Well, as many have stated, I'm sure qualifying as a truly bilingual country is near impossible, but having visited many countries, I have to give Japan my vote.

    I lived in Japan for 4 and a half years. As I was told by many Japanese friends, virtually all Japanese study English in school and if you are speaking to a Japanese person and they don't appear to understand your English, ask for a pen and write down what you're trying to say because most Japanese, if not understanding spoken English, will understand written English.

    I tested this on more than one occasion and found this to be absolutely true, with the exception being instances in very rural villages.

    After having lived there and functioning rather well with minimal Japanese language skills, I have to say that it would not be difficult for an English-speaker to know virtually no Japanese and live in Japan... especially in bigger towns-- and without a doubt, in Tokyo!


    I am sorry but Japan would be my last choice as a bilingual country...in europe and in many other countries around the world, all students take english classes but we can't consider all of these countries as "bilingual"
     

    cennet

    New Member
    luxemburgish
    In Luxemburg we have three official language: luxemburgish, german and french.
    The mother tongue of every native Luxemburger is Luxemburgish but also German.
    There are very few books and only one tv programm written or broadcastet in Luxemburgish so every child learns German from a very young age.
    The language spoken in school classes is Luxemburgish but the school books are written in German and for the last 4 school years in French.
    As far as everyday life is concerned you usually speak all three languages daily cause there are many so called ''frontaliën''( people who live in germany, france or belgium but work in Luxemburg.)
    So you usually don't leave your house to go shopping or to the cinema or whatever without having spoken at least two of those languages :)
    greetings
     

    domangelo

    Senior Member
    United States English
    If you find a truly bilingual country, please tell us. The biggest obstacle is that inevitably one of the official languages will have more prestige than the other(s), and thus, many native speakers of the lower prestige languages will be bilingual, but the native speakers of the high prestige language will not even consider it. This is the case in Canada (with high prestige English) Belgium (with high prestige French) and Switzerland (with high prestige French and German in their cantons and low prestige Italian). The list can go on and on.
     

    iaf

    Senior Member
    castellano
    Interesting. The only country that I can think of where almost ALL of the population can speak the same 2 languages is Paraguay.

    That's true, Paraguay has two official languages, spanish and guaraní. Mostly everybody understands and talks both of them, except for some people of the higher classes and specially the jounger ones between them. Both languages are touhgt in school.
    Even in the north of Argentina and due to the regional influence, it is not uncommon to find people understanding and even talking guaraní.
     

    sabbathically

    Senior Member
    Chile-Spanish
    I truly do not know of any country where ALL of it's people speak 2 or more languages.
    In the case of my country, Chile, even though the official language is Spanish (castellano) some people speak other regional languages (besides castellano). Also, in the south of Chile many people speak German, Swetish, and Italian (due to the high European immigration during the world wars) however, this languages are increasingly "dying off" since they do not receive "govt. support". The same thing happens with the regional languages such as "Mapudungu" (spoken by Mapuche indians) and "Rapa-nui" (mostly speaken in the Easter Island). But the govt. of Chile does not recognised these languages either (very sad)
    anyway,
    very interesting topic!
     

    nicolioncelle

    Member
    French - France
    No one mentionned all former Soviet bloc state : Georgia, Ukraine, Kazhastan, the Prebaltics etc.
    Most of them speak Russian like natives (maybe less so for the younger generation ?) in addition to their country's traditional language (Georgian, Ukrainian etc.).
    At least one good thing about the USSR...

    Nicolas
     

    Laztana

    Senior Member
    Spain, Spanish and Basque
    Sin duda el castellano te serviría mejor porque lo hablan todos, mientras que no es seguro que todos hablen vasco.De hecho es normal que los mayores no lo hablen.
    La gente joven lo ha estudiado y lo sabe pero lo normal con desconocidos es hablar castellano.
    Hola,
    la verdad es que no estoy del todo de acuerdo. De hecho Los padres y especialmente los abuelos de muchos de mis amigos crecieron hablando casi exclusivamente euskera pero debido a la desafortunada prohibición de hablarlo, mis amigos no llegaron a aprenderlo en casa. Lo que te quiero decir es que mucha gente mayor sabe hablarlo pero no lo hace.
    Por otro lado, si bien es cierto que lo más fácil en un sitio como Bilbao es dirigirte en castellano, también es verdad que la situación está cambiando y en algunas tiendas y en muchos bares del casco viejo te atienden inicialmente en euskera.
    Saludos
     

    Fernando

    Senior Member
    Spain, Spanish
    I think it is a good example. I doubt any Andorran could NOT speak in (at least) Catalan, Spanish and French at a conversational level. Ditto for other tiny countries, such as Luxemburg.
     
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