Research into multilingualism
Multilingualism research is rather recent, yet already rich because it touches on the multiple and varied aspects of this term which refers to diverse phenomena that are linked to each other but are distinct because they occur on three broad levels, i.e., individual, social and institutional, and their sublevels,
“Individual multilingualism” refers to the ability of a person to use more than two languages rather fluently—though most persons are not equally proficiency in the languages they use in their private, academic and professional lives. Individual multilingualism involves people who are able to make themselves understood in more than two languages, whether they are teenagers or adults who have learnt two or more foreign languages in addition to their mother tongue –in which case they are referred to as polyglots. They could also be children who have bilingual parents or family who speak two different languages and they grow up learning both home languages, plus the language of the community. They can also be youngsters from immigrant families who speak their home language when they are with their family, use the official language at school, and are also learning an additional foreign language there. “Societal multilingualism” signifies the linguistic diversity that can be found in a country, a region or a particular community. Societal (or social) multilingualism refers to countries or communities where languages have different functions and often a different status. It also refers to a civil society that is linguistically diverse. The social and political relations between groups largely determine how individual bilingualism and/or multilingualism is perceived and treated within the society –if it is viewed as a resource, problem, or as a part of the civil and human rights of individuals or groups. Finally, there us ‘institutional multilingualism’ referring to national or supranational establishments, organizations or educational institutions that operate in different languages.