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Is monolingualism more common worldwide than bilingualism?

Updated: Apr 27, 2023

No. This may come as a surprise, but 60–75% of the world's population speaks two or more languages. There are currently around 6,000 languages in the world. Of course, it is difficult to express this information exactly in percentages, since the term "bilingualism" is very multifaceted due to its different nuances. Similarly, it is always a question of definitions, for example, whether one wishes to include dialects, Creole or Pidgin in such surveys.

Nevertheless, it is very gratifying to see how societal acceptance of the topic of bilingualism and multilingualism has changed. This wasn't always the case. In particular, "the nation-state thinking of the 18th and 19th centuries was marked by phrases such as 'One nation, one language!'. The unity of the newly formed nations was to be secured or strengthened by monolingualism. Language politics is also always power politics – and has always been". Today, by contrast, linguistic diversity is seen as a cultural enrichment and opportunity.

Source: Cathomas Rico; Carigiet Werner (2008): Top-Chance Mehrsprachigkeit. Zwei- und mehrsprachige Erziehung in Familie und Schule, Bern: Schulverlag plus AG

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