Friday, February 27, 2004

THE FUTURE OF BILINGUALISM

The The Toronto Star reports a recent linguistic study that indicates the world's population is becoming increasingly multilingual. The study suggests that by 2050 most of the yonger half of the world's population will speak at least two languages. The study's author David Graddol, says that while English will remain one of the most dominant languages it will not likely be the dominant language.

The idea of English becoming the world language to the exclusion of others "is past its sell-by date," Graddol said.

By 2050, he said, Chinese will continue its predominance, with Hindi-Urdu of India and Arabic climbing past English among 15 to 24 year olds and Spanish nearly equal to it. Graddol said he focused on the 15- to 24-year-old group in 2050 to give an indication of the future past that point.

A multilingual population is already the case in much of the world and is becoming more common in the United States. Indeed, the Census Bureau reported last year nearly one American in five speaks a language other than English at home, with Spanish leading, and Chinese growing fast.

I draw attention to this study because today's Globe and Mail online poll asks, 'do you believe Canada's policy of official bilingualism is a good thing?' As of this writing the results were 60%-40% answering 'NO' with just over 20,000 respondents. Now I understand its an online poll, not a representative sample etc. etc. The point is there is a significant portion of the Canadian population who are opposed to the nation's legal bilingualism. Now its quite possible that many of these people oppose official bilingualism because they don't want the government imposing a language on them. This is, at least, a reasonable position, if one I disagree with.

The country is founded on two distinct, historic linguistic groups. The nature of the country makes it an absolute necessity that the federal government be able to communicate in both those languages. But add to this the fact that multilingualism is the trend of the future. A nation that is officially bilingual can only benefit.

Posted by Matthew @ 12:38 PM