Monday 28 November 2016

Bilingualism has no Advantages!

It is estimated that over half of the world's population is (at least) bilingual. The majority of these people are not exceptionally intelligent, affluent or highly educated.

In many developing countries, speaking more than one language is the norm: the local dialect/language, the lingua Franca for reading and writing, and possibly a third language inherited from colonialism.

It is not unusual for a North African to speak three languages nor for an Armenian to know four idioms.

Another example is an Indian family we knew back in England. The father, from Northern India, speaks Punjabi. The mother, from the South, speaks Malayalam. They speak Hindi with each other and English to their son.

Monolingualism is fairly recent in human history. Its spread coincided with the birth of nations, to aid political, social and economic unity. Germany and France, two rather linguistically-uniform countries, used to have a large dialectal variety before the end of the 19th century.

Studies are rife extolling the benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism: better health, better jobs, better prospects overall.

But, what if the human brain evolved to be multilingual?
What if it is biologically normal for humans to speak more than one language?
Is it appropriate to talk about the advantages of bilingualism?
Instead, should we address the shortcomings of monolingualism?

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