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Becoming Multilingual

Language Learning and Language Policy between Attitudes and Identities


Edited By Konrad Bergmeister and Cecilia Varcasia

Research into the complex phenomenon of multilingualism is rapidly increasing. This book looks at multilingualism through its interfaces with language policies, language attitudes and issues of language awareness and identity. The aim is to examine the dynamic processes that lead or hinder the development of such phenomena. One of the scopes of the volume is to represent the complexity of the multilingual speaker by shedding light on different multilingual settings in the world. The chapters of this volume tackle the topic from a sociolinguistic perspective by showing how multilingualism is dynamically constructed. They provide empirical research on language learning in different multilingual environments in the world as well as practical suggestions for the investigation of multilingualism and the improvement of its education.


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CECILIA VARCASIA - Introduction - 7


CECILIA VARCASIA Introduction This volume presents research that fits in with a range of studies over the past decade that respond to the widespread phenomenon of multi- lingualism1. Multilingualism has become an increasingly common phenomenon around the world due to many factors, including issues concerning the maintenance and promotion of regional and minority languages, and the ever emergent need for people to know other lan- guages than their own so as to be competitive internationally in the globalized business world. In 2004 Clyne claimed that multilingual- ism, rather than bilingualism, would become the desirable cooperative goal of all nations. Multilingualism maintenance, development and spread, according to him, would be “related to other issues in lan- guage policy, including school language choice, university language offerings, and the linguistic effects of the internationalization of uni- versities” (Clyne 2004: 19). If one looks at the current world’s lingui- stic situation, there are around 7,000 languages and about 200 inde- pendent countries altogether, as reported in Ethnologue (Lewis 2009). The number of speakers of the different languages is unevenly distri- buted, and 40% of the world’s population has one of the most com- mon eight languages as a first language: Mandarin, Hindi, Spanish, English, Bengali, Portuguese, Arabic and Russian (Gordon 2005). More than 4,000 of the world’s languages are spoken by less than 2% of the world’s population and 516 of these languages are nearly ex- tinct. The most multilingual continents are Asia and Africa (see also Cenoz 2009: 1). Such a...

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