STEP ONE - Preparation

Activity 1 - Reflection and Research

Before looking at the rest of the unit, look at the following questions and write down (or discuss if you are working in a group) what you think.

        • Firstly, find out what languages are/ were widely spoken in these states.
            1. Switzerland, Spain, India, Malaysia, South Africa, Mali
            2. The Roman Empire, The Mogul Empire, The Ottoman Empire, 18th Century France.
        • Now consider the following question: Are Multilingual societies a recent phenomenon? Or has multilingualism been commonplace for most of history and in most of the world?
            • Decide what the correct answer is:
              1. Multilingual societies are the norm.
              2. Monolingual societies are the norm.
              3. Not sure.


And now check your answer by listening to and then reading these short extracts from talks by Professor Joseph LoBianco, the well-known Australian sociolinguist.


Professor LoBianco is even more explicit in this transcript of an extract from a later presentation in London (LSE 2014)

National Monolingualism A Recent Phenomenon

It is easy to forget that multilingualism is historically the norm and that national monolingualism has been of relatively short historical duration in certain parts of the world only: the reason we talk about multilingualism … as though it is disrupting something is because we have normalised the idea of that ‘something’ being the national state.