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The diversity of multilingualism in education
Jasone Cenoz and Durk Gorter
Published as: Cenoz, J. & Gorter, D. (2010).The Diversity of Multilingualism in
Education. International Journal of the Sociology of Language, nr 205, pp 3753. DOI: 10.1515/IJSL.2010.038
This paper analyses diversity as related to different types of multilingual education.
Diversity in education is linked to different factors that can be classified as linguistic
(language distance, different scripts, etc.), sociolinguistic status (minority, official,
international, immigrant, etc.) and educational (school subjects, medium of instruction,
age of introduction, methodologies). Language practices can be an important part of
the make-up of language diversity among multilingual speakers at a micro level.
The paper discusses the Continua of Multilingual Education as a tool to classify and
compare different types of multilingual schools all over the world as a more efficient
way to deal with diversity in multilingual education than traditional typologies. The
advantages of the new tool can be shown by applying it to the case of multilingual
education in the Basque Country, in Spain, where Basque, Spanish, English and
sometimes French, are the languages used by different actors in the education system.
The paper also deals with diversity as linked to sustainable development and focuses on
the advantages of multilingual education.
Running head. Multilingualism in education
1. Multilingualism and education
Nowadays there are an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 languages in the world but all
these languages are spoken in approximately 200 states. Speaking different languages in
one state is therefore, a very common phenomenon and it is difficult to find a country
which is completely monolingual because multilingualism is the rule and not the
exception (see Edwards, 1994; Romaine, 2000). However, governments in many
countries give official recognition to only one (or some) of the languages spoken in the
country and in many countries only official languages and/or some foreign languages
are used at school.
Education is one of the most important institutions in society and the relation
between schools and the society in which they are located is bidirectional. Language
planning and multilingualism in education are related to the beliefs, attitudes and
discourses of society. If a language or several languages have a high status or they have
a very important symbolic value in society, it is more likely that they are an important
part of the school curriculum and that the aims of education include multilingualism and
multiliteracy in several languages. In contrast, when a single language is considered by
many people sufficient for communication both within the state and internationally, the
teaching and learning of other languages will not be very common in education. Schools
cannot be isolated from the sociolinguistic context and the society in which they are
embedded but school practices can influence the level of multilingualism and the
attitudes towards multilingualism and multiculturality of society as a whole.
When we refer to multilingualism in education we can certainly see the
bidirectionality between language and education. Schoolchildren may be multilingual
because different languages are spoken outside school in the family or by some groups
so that they bring multilingualism to school. On the other hand, the school may have the
aim of promoting multilingualism by teaching different languages that schoolchildren
can learn and use in the wider society. In many cases, multilingualism in education is
the result of the combination of the trend towards teaching more languages at school
and multilingualism in society.
Teaching different languages either as school subjects or medium of instruction
has become quite important in many countries. Some minority languages are nowadays
part of the school curriculum and are also used as media of instruction. In some regions
such as the Basque Autonomous Community and Catalonia in Spain Basque and
Catalan have become the main languages of instruction but the curriculum also includes
Spanish, English and in some cases other languages. The teaching of foreign languages
and particularly English is important in many parts of the world and English is the
language of instruction for some or all subjects in some countries. The spread of English
in education is very noticeable in university studies. Some countries include other
widely spread foreign languages in the curriculum such as German, French and Spanish
as well. In the last years languages such as Chinese and Arabic have also become more
popular in some countries. As we will see in this article there are many different
possibilities when analysing multilingualism in education but we can use the term
"multilingual education" to refer to those educational programs that aim at achieving
communicative competence in two or more languages. In multilingual education,
languages other than the dominant language are frequently used as languages of
Multilingualism in society is also common because of political, historical,
economic and social factors. The most multilingual continents are Asia and Africa but
multilingualism can be found all over the world. Some countries have taken their
language to other parts of the world as it is the case with the spread of English to many
parts of the world as one of the outcomes of the British Empire and its reinforcement
because of American influence. Historical reasons and the changes of borders of some
states can also explain some cases of multilingualism. The mobility of the population is
a very common cause of the increasing multilingualism in different societies as well.
In this article we focus on the diversity of multilingualism in education by
looking at the different sources of diversity.
2. Linguistic diversity
One of the sources of diversity in multilingual education is related to the
characteristics of the languages included in the school curriculum. The languages may
be typologically related and share aspects of their syntactic structure, phonological
system or lexis. For example, Estonian and Finnish belong to the Finno-Ugric group of
languages and their speakers can, at least to a certain extent, understand each other. This
is also the case with speakers of Swedish, Danish and Norwegian which are North
Germanic languages or Catalan, Galician and Spanish which are Romance languages.
In some cases languages have a different origin and vary at different levels
(phonological, lexical, pragmatic, syntactic) and even in their scripts. For example,
Kannada is a Dravidian language spoken mainly in the state of Karnataka (India) and
has important differences when compared to Hindi which is an Indo-European language
(see table 1).
Table 1. Sample texts in Hindi, Kannada and English
Text in Hindi
Text in Kannada
Text in English
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with
reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Source: www.omniglot.com
Some languages which are typologically different share the same script but have
important syntactic and lexical differences. In the following example we can see the
same sentence in Welsh, a Celtic language and English, a West Germanic language:
Welsh: Hoffwn i brynu pysgod
English: I would like to buy fish
So far we have seen examples of typologically related and unrelated languages
but the relationship between languages is complex and cannot be reduced to a simple
dichotomy because other factors such as language contact have to be taken into account.
Some languages that are not typologically related have been in contact with each other
for centuries and share some characteristics. For example, Basque and Spanish are
typologically unrelated. Basque is a language of unknown origin, a linguistically
isolated island in Western Europe and Spanish is a Romance language coming from
Latin. The vocabulary and syntax of Basque and Spanish are completely different but
there are few differences at the phonological and pragmatic levels. To a certain extent,
these similarities are due to the influence of the majority language (Spanish) on the
minority (Basque). This influence is also noticeable at the lexical level.
When comparing two or more languages, linguistic distance can be reflected at
the different linguistic levels: phonetic, lexical, syntactic, pragmatic or discourse. It may
be related to the origin of the language but is also influenced by the history of the
language and its contact with other languages. Taking into account these possibilities, it
may be more appropriate to think of linguistic distance as a continuum rather than as a
dichotomy (see also Cenoz, 2009).
Less distant
More distant
When looking at combinations of languages in the school curriculum we can
find examples at different positions along the continuum. If more than two languages
are part of the school curriculum, it is likely to have more diversity related to language
distance. It is interesting to see that because of the spread of English and its teaching at
school in most parts of the world, there is a trend towards including more languages in
the curriculum and to an increase in diversity as related to language distance. In fact,
English as a West Germanic language is taught at school not only in countries where a
Germanic language is spoken but also along with non-Germanic languages.
When three or more languages are taught at school we may find language
combinations that are at different positions in the continuum of language distance. An
example of languages which are ‘less distant’ from each other can be found in schools
in Friesland (the Netherlands) where Frisian, Dutch and English are included in the
curriculum (see Gorter and van der Meer, 2008). The three languages belong to the
West Germanic branch of Germanic languages and are related to each other.
An example of languages that are typologically unrelated that could be placed at
the 'more distant' end of the continuum can be found in some schools in Tajikistan
where English, Tajik and Russian are taught (see Bahry et al., 2007). These languages
have different origins and different scripts.
Many other situations can be placed between these two extremes. One example
is multilingual education in Luxembourg where Lëtzeburgesch, German, French and
English are taught at school (Baetens Beardsmore and Lebrun, 1991). Lëtzeburgesch is
a Germanic language closely related to Low German and the two languages have been
historically in contact. French is a Romance language and English a West Germanic
Linguistic distance is a source of diversity in bilingual and multilingual schools
and is also related to language learning because it is easier to learn a typologically close
language that shares many characteristics with the first language or other languages
spoken by the speaker (De Angelis, 2007). Languages that are related to each other
share many characteristics at different levels.
Language distance is the basic idea in receptive multilingualism, when
interlocutors of related languages use their own first languages in interaction but try to
understand the language spoken by their interlocutor (see Ten Thije and Zeevaert,
2007). The Euro-Com centre (www.eurocomcenter.de/) offers on-line courses for
acquiring receptive competence in different language families such as Romance
languages for German speakers.
3. Diversity and the sociolinguistic context
Apart from linguistic distance, the sociolinguistic environment in which a
bilingual or multilingual school is located is very important. As we have already seen in
the introduction to this article, multilingualism is a common phenomenon because the
number of languages in the world is much bigger than the number of countries.
Moreover, the mobility of the population and changes in state borders can explain the
use of many languages outside the state(s) in which they are the main language. One
example would be the use of German in the Bolzano area in the North of Italy.
Linguistic diversity is also increased by the use of different varieties of the same
language. In some cases it is very difficult to establish if a variety is just a dialect or
becomes a separate language. Another factor influencing multilingualism in society is
the spread of English.
There are different types of languages that may be part of the school. There are
many possibilities and we can look at them according to their role in society. Some of
the most common types of languages used and the aims of teaching these languages are
shown in the table 2.
Table 2. Diversity of languages taught at school
Types of languages and examples
Dominant national language
To achieve full competence (oral and
English in the US, German in Germany written) in the national language
Classical languages
To develop metalinguistic awareness by
Latin, Greek, Sanskrit
acquiring knowledge about the language and
studying its grammar so as to read and
translate written texts
Regional minority languages:
To achieve competence (ranging from
Catalan, Basque, Aymara
minimal to full oral and written competence)
so as to maintain these languages and extend
their use to all domains
Immigrant languages
To achieve competence (ranging from
Turkish in the Netherlands, Italian in minimal to full oral and written competence)
and develop intercultural competence
Foreign languages
To achieve full competence (oral and
English in Latin America or China
written) to be able to communicate with
people who speak other languages in other
Multilingualism in education is usually the result of the combination of teaching
and learning the dominant national language and other languages. Classical languages
such as Latin, Greek and Sanskrit are not usually taught to the whole school population
but in just some schools or to some students in higher secondary education.
According to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages
(Council of Europe, 1998) minority languages are “languages that are traditionally used
within a given territory of a state by nationals of that state who form a group numerically
smaller than the rest of the state's population and [are] different from the official
language(s) of that state”. For a long time minority languages have been neglected, or
even forbidden at school and there has been a mismatch between the school language
and the home language. In Europe, there is a growing political consensus about the
value of protection and promotion of regional minority languages and nowadays the
official discourse in European documents contains expressions such as
“Multilingualism an asset for Europe” and “the value and opportunities of the EU’s
linguistic diversity”1. However, there are important differences between countries inside
and outside Europe regarding the use of minority languages at school (see Cenoz and
Gorter, 2008).
Immigrant languages are common in many countries and the percentage of
immigrants according to Graddol (2006) reaches approximately 3% of the world
population. Immigrant languages are not very often part of the curriculum for all
children at school (Clyne, Hunt and Isaakidis, 2004; Extra and Gorter, 2008). In some
cases the Goverment of the country of origin provides classes. For example, Portuguese
is included as part of the curricular program in some pre-primary and primary Spanish
schools in areas with a large number of Portuguese students. Some programs have
focused on the development of language awareness and interculturalism so that both
Commission communication on Multingualism, 18 September 2008, COM (2008) 566 final.
immigrant and non immigrant students value and get interested in the other languages
and cultures. Research projects highlight the advantages of developing language
awareness through focusing on languages which may be spoken at home by some
children but are not part of the curriculum (see for example Kenner, 2004; Candelier,
2007; Helot and Young, 2006; Bernaus et al., 2007)
English is the most important language of international communication and it is
associated with social and economic mobility. English is seen as a resource that opens
doors for better opportunities. The interest in English is such that, as Graddol (2006)
points out, in some countries (for example, Colombia, Mongolia, Chile or South Korea)
the idea is not to learn English as a foreign language but that the country becomes
bilingual in English and the national language. The spread of English is also felt as a
threat and is seen as a reflection of globalization that may result in the loss of cultural
identity (see for example, Skutnabb-Kangas, 2000). Nowadays English is part of the
school curriculum of most countries. Other European languages such as Spanish,
German or French are also taught in many countries as second or third foreign
When looking at the different languages in the school curriculum as related to
the sociolinguistic context in which a school is located, we can find a great diversity
regarding the status and vitality of the different languages inside and outside school.
Classical languages have a very high status because they are associated with academic
studies but they are not used in everyday communication. In fact they are "dead
languages". Regional minority languages are often taught just as a school subject in
many cases only in primary school and only in some cases as a language of instruction.
There are important differences in the status and vitality of minority languages. A
comparison of minority languages in the European Union, including more than 50
language groups, is reported in the Euromosaic studies (Nelde, Strubell and Williams,
1996; Euromosaic, 2004). Some of the minority languages such as Catalan have a very
strong vitality with more than seven million speakers and more speakers than not only
other minority languages but also some European official languages such as Estonian,
Danish, Finnish or Slovak. However, the concept of a minority language is not
necessarily associated with the number of speakers of a language. In fact, Catalan or
Quechua have millions of speakers but they are minority languages in their sociodemographic context (see also Gorter and Cenoz, in press). There is a great diversity of
situations regarding minority languages when viewed from a sociolinguistic perspective
and also from the point of view of school use vis-a-vis that of other languages in the
In general terms, immigrant languages have a low status in the host country but
in some cases the vitality of the language itself may be quite high. This is the case of
Spanish in the US, where the Hispanic population was 44.3 million in 2006, 14.8% of
the total population (US Census Bureau, www.census.gov). As Spanish is also spoken
in Spain and in most Latin American countries it is also the most common foreign
language in education in American schools and universities.
Apart from the countries where English is the first language for the majority of
the population such as the US or the UK, English is used extensively in many other
countries where English is considered a second language such as India or Nigeria.
English is the most common medium of instruction in higher education in these
countries but having English as one of the languages of instruction is widely spread in
the North of Europe and becoming more common even in countries where English is
considered a foreign language such as Spain or China.
As we have seen the languages used in a specific sociolinguistic context may
have a different status and vitality. This diversity has implications for multilingualism in
education. Stronger languages are more likely to be in the school curriculum and
students may have the opportunity to use them outside school. For example, when
French is taught in a Canadian immersion school in Montreal where French is the
majority language, students have many opportunities to use French outside the school
but in a similar program in an English-speaking city such as Toronto the opportunities
to use French outside the school are very limited. In the European context, there are
important differences between learning German as a second or third language in the
European school in Frankfurt (Germany) or in the European school in Alicante (Spain).
Learners of German in Alicante will not have as many opportunities to use German
outside schools except in the cases in which German is the family language.
Apart from the diversity in the use of languages in the sociolinguistic context we
can also focus on the sociolinguistic context at the micro level looking at the social
networks students have. Social networks, defined by Hamers and Blanc (2000: 111) as
‘the sum of all the interpersonal relations one individual establishes with others over
time’ may have an important influence on the development and use of the languages at
school. In many cases, particularly in the case of immigrant families and families
speaking a weak regional minority language, a language that is weak at the macro level
may be used at the micro level in the family or with friends and neighbours. In general,
there is a relationship between the macro and the micro contexts and it is more likely
that a language is strong in the close social networks if it is also spoken by more people
and has a high status and institutional support but this is not always the case.
4. Diversity and educational factors
In regard to multilingualism in education, diversity is also related to educational
variables such as the use of the different languages as subjects and languages of
instruction, the introduction of languages at different ages, teachers’ degree of
multilingualism and specific training or use of languages in the school environment.
Following Cenoz (2009), we can distinguish four categories: subject, language of
instruction, teachers and school context.
i. ‘Subject’ . The diversity of multilingualism in education is increased when there are
more languages taught as school subjects in a school. An example is the Gymnasium, a
type of secondary school common in many European countries which prepares students
for the university. In some of the options, there is a strong presence of modern
languages (and also classical languages such as Latin and Greek) in the curriculum.
School programs that share some characteristics with the Gymnasium can be found
when minority languages are part of the curriculum and four or more languages are in
the curriculum: the national language, the minority language, English, a second foreign
language and in some cases Latin. Examples of this multilingual curriculum can be
found in Catalonia or the Basque Country.
There is also diversity regarding the simultaneous or consecutive introduction of the
languages in the school curriculum. When four languages are included in the curriculum
different possible orders can be found (see table 3).
Table 3. Different possible orders of introducing languages in the school curriculum2
1. L1.............L2.............L3..........L4
2. L1.............L2/L3...............L4.
3. L1.............L2.............L3/L4
4. L1.............L2/L3/L4
5. L1/L2...................L3...........L4
6. L1/L2...................L3/L4
7. L1/L2/L3...............L4
8. L1/L2/L3/L4
We can find eight different possibilities in this table but some are more common than
others. It is more likely that schools introduce languages consecutively than
simultaneously so the first possibility L1.............L2.............L3..........L4 is more common
than the others. It is also quite common to have two languages as languages of
instruction as in L1/L2...................L3...........L4 in bilingual programs. The situation
L1/L2/L3...............L4 also exists in some schools in which one third of the time is
devoted to each of the three languages of instruction and an additional language is
added later. Our perception of diversity is increased if we consider the language(s)
spoken at home, because the school L1 is not necessarily the child's first language.
Another source of diversity is the age in which the different languages are
introduced (see García Mayo and García Lecumberri, 2003; Muñoz, 2006). In some
regions, such as the Basque Country, children are already learning three languages by
the age of eight, while in others second and additional languages are introduced much
ii. ‘Language of instruction’. There is an important difference between studying
languages as a school subject in the curriculum or acquiring them as languages of
instruction. Using a language as the language of instruction provides more exposure to
the language and the opportunity to integrate language and content. The Canadian
immersion programs using French as the language of instruction for English-speaking
students show the advantages of these programs (Swain and Lapkin, 1982; Genesee,
1987, 2004). The use of a minority language as the language of instruction, both in
language maintenance programs for students with the minority language as their L1 and
in immersion programs for students who speak a majority language, has also been
reported as successful in different parts of the world (Cenoz and Gorter, 2008, McCarty,
2007; May, 2004; May and Hill, 2005; López and Sichra, 2007; Hamel, 2007). In
Europe CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) is an approach that is
becoming popular among teachers of English. CLIL has been defined as ‘the teaching
of subjects in a different language from the mainstream language of instruction’ (Marsh
2007:233) and the focus is both on language and content.
iii. ’Teachers’. The knowledge of different languages on part of the teachers may be a
source of diversity. There may be schools with many multilingual children coming from
homes where different languages are spoken but in many cases the teachers who are
L1, L2, L3 and L4 do not refer to the students' first, second, third and fourth languages but to the first,
second, third and fourth languages in the school curriculum. The school L1 may be a second or third
language for the student.
teaching such children are monolingual. This is often the case in English-speaking
countries such as the US and the UK in schools with many immigrant students. A
related aspect is the specific training and methodology the teacher uses when dealing
with multilingualism. Some schools and teachers may consider multilingualism as a
resource that provides opportunities to develop intercultural understanding (see Schecter
and Cummins, 2003; Kenner, 2004; Helot and Young, 2006). The diversity of
languages and cultures at school is also seen as a problem and in many cases there is
pressure for multilingual students to shift to the dominant language as soon as possible.
When the school itself aims at multilingualism there may be different practices and
attitudes when teaching different languages. Schools have traditionally created hard
boundaries between languages by having different teachers and different classrooms for
each language and establishing rules to use only the target language. This view is being
challenged nowadays by a holistic approach that aims to establish bridges between
languages. The idea is to develop metalinguistic awareness in students so that they can
use the different languages as a resource. To this end there have been proposals for an
integrated syllabus for all the languages learned at school (Elorza and Muñoa, 2008) and
for practices such as translanguaging, which use input in a language that is different
from the output expected from the students (Garcia, 2008: 44-51). Teachers may also
have different attitudes towards the languages taught at school and these attitudes may
be related to the status and vitality of languages spoken in specific contexts and may
influence teaching practices (see Lasagabaster and Huguet, 2007).
iv. ‘School context’. Diversity in multilingualism in education may also be related to the
use of languages inside the school for communication between teachers, supporting
staff, students and parents. These practices include informal conversations, meetings
and written information. Some bilingual and multilingual schools have a specific policy
to use more than one language for these purposes. The linguistic landscape inside the
classrooms and in the school in general may also be an indicator of diversity. Some
schools use different languages on announcements, posters or any other signs inside the
school while others only use the dominant language.
5. Towards understanding the diversity of multilingualism in education
In the previous sections we have looked at different factors that may influence
the diversity of multilingualism in education: linguistic, sociolinguistic and educational.
All these factors are included in the "Continua of Multilingual Education" model to
explain the different types of multilingual schools (Cenoz, 2009). The "Continua of
Multilingual Education" is based on Hornberger's idea that continua may represent "the
infinity and fluidity of movement" (Hornberger, 2007: 277) better than polar opposites
used in typologies of bilingual and multilingual education (Baker, 2006; Ytsma, 2001).
The ‘Continua of Multilingual Education’ is intended to provide a tool that can describe
as many situations of multilingual education as possible. The ‘Continua of Multilingual
Education’ presents multilingual education as a complex phenomenon and highlights
the interaction of linguistic, sociolinguistic and educational variables. The possibility of
selecting different points on the different continua allows for comparison between
different types of multilingual schools.
The diversity of multilingualism in education has a wider scope than multilingual
education. As we have already seen, multilingual education refers to schools and
programs that aim at promoting communicative competence in different languages.
These schools are very diverse regarding the linguistic, sociolinguistic and educational
variables we have discussed. The following vignettes illustrate two examples of
schoolchildren attending multilingual schools:
1. Hugo is Argentinian. He is a student at the Hölters Schule (www.hoelters.edu.ar/) in
Villa Ballester (province of Buenos Aires). He speaks Spanish at home and with his
friends but he can manage very well in German after having German as one of the
languages of instruction at school. He also studies English and plans to take some tests
at the end of the year. He hopes to have the opportunity to visit Germany on a exchange
program next year.
2. Carys is Welsh. She is a student at the Ysgol Tryfan (www.tryfan.gwynedd.sch.uk)
secondary school in Bangor in North Wales. She speaks Welsh at home and with most
of her friends. Her school is Welsh medium, but she is also highly proficient in English.
At school she has started to learn French for two hours a week. She would like to
continue to study French up until her final exams. She wants to practice her French
during the summer holidays when she will visit her aunt and uncle, who have a second
home in the south of France.
The diversity of multilingualism can also be found in many schools and programs that
cannot be considered multilingual because they only aim at developing communicative
competence in the dominant language and in some cases in a foreign language. In these
cases, the diversity of multilingualism is associated with the languages themselves and
their use in the sociolinguistic context, particularly in their close social networks. It can
be said that schoolchildren bring their multilingualism with them to school even if the
school is not aiming at multilingualism. Vignette 3 and 4 illustrate this situation:
3. Lara speaks Friulian at home. She is student at the Arturo Zardini primary school
(www.primocircoloudine.it) in the city of Udine, in the province of Friuli, in the North
East of Italy. At school the only language is Italian. She does not learn any Friulian.
She also learns English, but finds it very difficult. Some of her best friends also speak
Friulian at home, others speak Italian. She does not know anyone who speaks English
at home.
4. Harrsha’s parents come from India. They speak Hindi at home. Harrsha has also
learned to speak that language, as well as a bit to read and write the Devanagari script
which is used for Hindi. He goes to the Portsmouth Grammar School (www.pgs.org.uk)
in the south of the United Kingdom, where he only learns through the medium of
English. Later he would like to visit to India and learn better Hindi.
The differences between the situations in the more multilingual schools (vignettes 1 and
2) and the less multilingual schools (vignettes 3 and 4) are associated with the
educational variables but the specific differences between each of the four situations are
also dependent on the linguistic and sociolinguistic variables.
The combination of the different variables that can explain diversity in multilingualism
in education can be seen in Figure 1.
in society:
Diversity of
in education
Language in
Figure 1. Diversity of multilingualism in education
This figure includes the different sources of variation that can explain the diversity of
multilingualism in education and the interaction between the different variables. It can
be seen that variables related to linguistic diversity (typology, language contact), the
status and vitality of languages in society, the languages used in the social networks and
the school variables (curriculum, teachers, school context) contribute to different types
of multilingualism in education.
6. Final remarks
Multilingualism has a great diversity in education both as related to the
background of the schoolchildren, the language policy of the school and the
sociolinguistic context in which the school is located. Nowadays, diversity tends to be
considered an asset rather than a problem. The idea of sustainable development as
maintaining a balance between economic growth and the maintenance of natural
resources and ecosystems has been extended to cultural and linguistic diversity. In fact,
a parallelism has been drawn between linguistic diversity and biodiversity because in
both cases some of the species are at risk and need specific protection (Crystal, 2000,
Krauss, 1992). The European Commission (2005: 2) highlights the importance of
diversity and multilingualism:
It is this diversity that makes the European Union what it is: not a ‘melting pot’ in
which differences are rendered down, but a common home in which diversity is
celebrated, and where our many mother tongues are a source of wealth and a bridge to
greater solidarity and mutual understanding.
Multilingualism has many advantages in Europe and elsewhere in the world. Apart from
providing the possibility of mobility and career and cash advantages, multilingualism
can improve individual cognitive skills, metalinguistic awareness and cultural
awareness (see also Baker, 2000). Multilingual education can provide the opportunity to
develop proficiency in different languages and can also help to develop intercultural
understanding even for those languages that are not taught at school. In this way,
schools can contribute to the sustainable development of society by educating more
multilingual and multicultural citizens.
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