What are some examples of monolingual countries

Multilingualism as an opportunity
It's all a question of communication

There are several official languages ​​in many countries | Photo (detail): © Primalux / Fotolia

There are several official languages ​​in many countries. That is not always an advantage for the political climate. But it is the citizens in particular who benefit from their multilingualism.

One country, one language - that is the norm for many people in Europe. Monolingualism is the absolute exception worldwide: 163 of 195 nations are officially bilingual or even trilingual. In India, 21 languages ​​are recognized as official and regional languages ​​in the constitution; in Nigeria more than 400 languages ​​are used in everyday life. The European Union (EU) also officially recommends that every citizen should speak two other languages ​​in addition to his or her mother tongue.
Scientists today assume that humans are naturally multilingual. For example, people who grow up with only one language are actually under-challenged, says Jürgen Meisel, linguist at the Canadian University of Calgary. When it comes to territorial multilingualism, science distinguishes between three types: firstly, multilingual states with a territorial principle - i.e. countries in which different languages ​​are spoken in different regions, such as Switzerland and Belgium. On the other hand, there are multilingual states with individual multilingualism, where people throughout the country speak several languages, such as in Luxembourg or Namibia, and thirdly, monolingual states with minority regions, such as Germany or Austria.

Mutual understanding has priority

For Switzerland, the coexistence of the four national languages ​​German, French, Italian and Romansh is a fundamental characteristic. In a 2014 study, almost two thirds of the population said they regularly use more than one language. The cohesion of such a multilingual society also depends on how well its members can communicate with one another despite the linguistic differences. A national research program from 2010 came to the conclusion that the exchange across the internal linguistic borders of Switzerland works especially when there is a common goal or a problem to be solved, such as communication in the army or understanding at the police emergency number.
But there is currently a heated political debate in the country about whether the cantons, which are responsible for school policy, should be obliged to start teaching a second national language in primary school. Currently, the Language Act of 2010 only stipulates that “at the end of compulsory schooling, students must have competencies in at least one second national language and one additional foreign language”. The main reason for the debate is the increasing dominance of English, which is pushing the other major Swiss national languages ​​into the background at school and in everyday life.
In addition, more and more Swiss people have a non-national language as their mother tongue. On the homepage of the Swiss Federal Chancellery, it is stated that through migration, “the traditional quadrilingualism has long since become multilingual”. In this context, there is both controversy as to how important it is to promote the language of origin of children with a migration background and to what extent knowledge of the Swiss national languages ​​should be a prerequisite for permits under immigration law and for Swiss citizenship.

Speak several languages ​​every day

In Luxembourg, where the three official languages ​​Luxembourgish, German and French are not assigned to any region, most people speak several languages ​​every day. During the entire school career, French and German are compulsory subjects, with English being added in secondary education. As in Switzerland, Luxembourg's linguistic diversity poses special challenges for children with a migration background. Therefore, the start of compulsory schooling has been reduced from five to four years. In addition, early education, although not compulsory, was introduced. Here and in the first two years of school, the teachers speak Luxembourgish as much as possible. All children should be encouraged to develop their language skills. In addition, there have been integrated courses in the mother tongue since 1983. Immigrant children can develop their mother tongue here and thus maintain contact with their culture of origin.
In Belgium there is still a politically explosive dispute over equality between the Flemish and French-speaking regions. Unlike in Switzerland, the internal borders between languages, member states and economic power run parallel here. The linguist Claudia Riehl from the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich explains that language is often used as a means by a certain social or cultural group to represent their political and economic interests. "National languages ​​and 'leading cultures' serve as the constitution of one's own national identity." Riehl says it is a myth that children are overwhelmed with multiple languages. “Every other language is easier to learn. So if you already speak three languages, you can easily learn the fourth. ”Multilingualism then offers not only professional, but also cognitive advantages up to and including later onset of dementia. And: “Multilingual people have a more differentiated view of the world. You get to know other points of view through the lens of the other language and are therefore more flexible in your actions. "
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