You are on page 1of 2

Bilingualism, multilingualism, plurilingualism

The knowledge of several languages is nowadays indispensable for university


education, cultural and social life, and it often becomes the prerequisite for
employment. EU documents state that a contemporary European should be multior plurilingual. What does it actually mean? You can learn more about it from our
courses on acquisition, learning and teaching of languages.

Who is bilingual or multilingual?


A bilingual is not a person who knows two languages equally well. Such people are
rare. Bilingualism is defined asthe ability to build understandable utterances in
any of the languages known. So, language learners are also considered bilingual.
Multilingualism is theability to use several languages (not perfectly well),
assuming a mutual interaction of languages in the mind of the user, as well as the
bulk of linguistic and cultural experience of the user which add to his/her
communicative competence. Such a way of understanding multilingualism is
connected with the notion ofplurilingualism, used in EU documents.
Plurilingualism does not mean a perfect command of several languages but the
attempt to use ones linguistic knowledge and skills to communicate with others in
many different situations. In practice, it means the ability to effectively function in a
multinational and multicultural community thanks to a sensitivity to similarities and
differences between languages and cultures.

Psycholinguistics a domain on the crossroads


Can you measure and describe the acquisition of a first language by children? Can
you measure the learning of foreign languages? You will find answers to such
questions during our psycholinguistic courses. This is a domain of study on the
crossroads of psychology and linguistics which deals with the psychological bases of
linguistic functioning, i.e. how languages are acquired, processed, and used by
human beings.

So, a short test for those interested:


Is it possible that a child with normal IQ will never acquire his/her native
language?
Yes, if he/she does not start at the right moment, i.e. is isolated from language
stimuli till the age of puberty.
Do bilingual children acquiring two languages simultaneously develop
similarly to their monolingual peers?
No, in the first years of life their acquisition of both languages may be delayed.
They have a double task to do, so they need more time to learn.
Are the languages of bilinguals and multilinguals mixed in their heads?
Yes, languages are not stored in separate boxes in the mind. But bi- and
multilinguals can largely control their languages and actively inhibit the use of the
language they do not need at the time. Language mixing also has an impact on
the easiness of learning consecutive languages.

Do bi- and multilinguals differ from monolinguals?


Yes, the knowledge of languages influences the flexibility of our brain (e.g. inhibitory
processes) and our cognitive abilities.
Does bilingualism influence the way we perceive the world?
Yes, language knowledge may change the way we name objects, or perceive colours
and spatial relations.
Do we learn another language differently than the first?
It depends on our age and on the circumstances (How old are you? Are you learning
in class or in a natural setting?).
Can a Polish person learn any language with equal ease?
No, it is easier to learn languages which are typologically closer, so for us it would
be Slovak rather than Norwegian.

Interesting? Such issues are discussed during courses dealing with


psycholinguistics and language acquisition. We offer courses on:
language acquisition
learning language systems and skills
individual differences in language learning
native language influence on language acquisition
psychology of communication

Methodology of language teaching


You are bilingual or multilingual. So you can teach other languages. If you want to
know:

why there is no point in explaining grammar to children,


how to cope with a class of eight-year olds,
how to entertain teenagers,
if a good language teacher should know other languages,
where to look for materials for your lessons,
we offer numerous courses on ELT methodology dealing with:
modern methods of English language teaching
the analysis and creation of teaching materials
language testing