Language and nation


Individual bilingualism, although, much more widespread than the average English speaker might suspect, is by no means universal. But societal multilingualism is a very widespread phenomenon indeed. On a word scale, the multilingual situation is the rule rather than the exception. The vast majority of the nation-states of the world have more than one language spoken indigenously within their frontiers. In some cases, such as Cameroon or Papua, the number of languages may rise into the hundreds.

Multilingual nations exist in all parts of the world, and very many examples could be cited. Difficulties only arise when one attempts to locate a country that is genuinely monolingual. There appear to be very few. Even in Europe there are not many true examples, although we are accustomed to thinking of most European nations as monolingual. Most people would accept s true statements to the effect that Germans speak German, Frenchmen speak French, and so on. There are good reasons for this, but the reality of the matter is somewhat different. Nearly all European countries contain linguistic minorities groups of speakers who have as their native variety a language .other than that which is the official, dominant or major language in the country where they live. In some cases, where the minorities are relatively large, the nation-state usually has more than one official language. Examples are Belgium (Dutch often known as Flemish in Belgium and French); Switzerland (German, French, Italian and Romansch); Czechoslovakia (Czech and Slovak); and Yugoslavia. German is also spoken in both Belgium and Czechoslovakia, but does not have national official status in these countries.

Where the minority is smaller or less influential, the minority language or languages are unlikely to have official status, and their speakers, often out of sheer practical necessity, will tend to be bilingual. This last factor is what helps to give Eu-rope its outwardly monolingual appearance. The overwhelming majority of French citizens can speak French, in spite of the fact that for a number of them it is a second language. The same sort of situation applies in the United Kingdom. This country also gives every appearance of being monolingual, and visitors certainly need to learn no other language than English. Even this appearance, though, is somewhat deceptive. It is true that England has not had an indigenous linguistic minority since Cornish became extinct in the eighteenth or nineteenth century (accounts vary), but there are today sizeable groups of speakers of languages from the northern Indian subcontinent, such as Punjabi, living in the country (and there are also some grounds for arguing that the first language of many British people of West Indian origin is not English, although it is very similar). Welsh, moreover, is the first language of about a quarter of the population of Wales, while Scots Gaelic is spoken natively by about 80,000 people largely in the West Highlands and Hebridean Islands of Scotland (1961 census figures). Irish Gaelic, too, is still spoken by small numbers of speakers in parts of Northern Ireland.

The extent of national multilingualism in Europe is illustrated in the following lists. The first list gives some idea of the extent to which languages that, while dominant official national languages in particular countries, are spoken by linguistic minorities elsewhere. (Languages spoken only in the USSH are not included).


Language Spoken by Linguistic Minority in:
German Denmark, Belgium, Prance, Italy, Yugoslavia, Rumania, USSR, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Poland
Turkish Greece, Yugoslavia, Bulgaria, Rumania, USSR
Greek Italy, Yugoslavia, Albania, Rumania, USSR
Albanian Greece, Yugoslavia, Italy
Hungarian Austria, Yugoslavia, Rumania
Finnish Sweden, USSR
Swedish Finland, USSR
French Italy, Luxemburg
Polish USSR, Czechoslovakia
Bulgarian Rumania, USSR
Danish West Germany
Dutch France
Russian Rumania


In addition to these, a number of languages which have official status in certain provinces or parts of particular countries are also minority languages elsewhere.


Language Official in: Minority Language in:
Ukrainian USSR Rumania, Czechoslovakia
Slovak Czechoslovakia Hungary, Rumania
Czech Czechoslovakia Poland, Rumania
Slovene Yugoslavia Austria, Italy
Serbo-Croat Yugoslavia Rumania, Austria
Macedonian Yugoslavia Bulgaria, Greece


Finally, there are a number of languages which are everywhere minority languages. Some of these are the following:


Language Spoken in:
Lappish Norway, Sweden, Finland, USSR
Frisian Denmark, Germany, Holland
Basque Spain, France
Catalan Spain, France
Breton France
Sorbian East Germany
Kashubian Poland
Welsh UK
Gaelic UK


In addition to these, Yiddish and Romany (Gypsy) are quite widely spoken as minority languages in different parts of the continent. (The unusual case of Irish Gaelic will be discussed below).

So, nearly all European nations are multilingual to a certain extent. Perhaps the most multilingual of all the countries in Europe, apart from the USSH (most of which is in Asia anyway, of course) is Rumania. About 85 percent, of the population have Rumania as their mother tongue, but at. least fourteen other languages are spoken natively in the country.

Multilingualism on this scale clearly brings problems for governments and others concerned with national organizations of various kinds. Multilingualism on any scale, though, also brings with it problems for individuals and groups of individuals, especially those who are members of linguistic minorities. Unlike members of the majority-language group, they have to acquire proficiency in at least two languages before they can function as full members of the national community in which they live. Perhaps the biggest problem they have to face is educational. The educational problems that may be encountered by children who have to learn to read and write in a dialect which is radically different from their own. The problems of children from linguistic minorities who have to learn to read and write in an entirely different language are perhaps of the same type but, obviously, considerably greater. In very many instances in different parts of the world children are faced with precisely this difficulty. In some cases the problem will not, perhaps, be too severe, because the two languages involved may not be particularly different. Frisian children learning Dutch are presented with nothing like the difficulty of Lapp children learning Swedish, since Frisian and Dutch are quite closely related languages. Or it may be that the educational policy of the country concerned is reasonably sophisticated linguistically, and the children learn to read and write in and are taught through the medium of their native language in the initial stages of their schooling, with the majority language being introduced later on. This approach has been adopted, in many parts of Wales, as well as in Rumania and many other places. Its aims are that the children should acquire an ability to read, write and speak both their native language and the majority language, and has clear parallels with the bidialectalism approach to non-standard dialects of English. In both cases the two linguistic varieties involved are considered as respectable linguistic systems in themselves, and the child is encouraged to use both.

In other cases the minority child may be faced with very considerable difficulty. This may occur where the two languages involved are not closely related and also, more importantly, where the educational policy of a particular nation-state is to discourage, or simply to ignore or not to encourage, minority languages. In extreme cases the minority language may be forbidden or disapproved of in school, and children punished or actively discouraged from using it there. This was formerly both of Welsh in Wales and Gaelic in Scotland at one time a law was in force that actually made the speaking of Gaelic illegal. This approach to minority languages has distinct parallels with the 'elimination of non-standard speech' approach towards non-standard dialects discussed earlier. In both cases the language variety to be eliminated or discouraged is regarded as inferior. (This is in all cases a social judgment. 'The Welsh language is inferior to English has absolutely no basis in linguistic tact.) And in both cases the psychological, social, and pedagogical consequences are serious. But where Welsh, Gaelic and other minority languages are concerned, the effects of the attempted imposition of an alien standard such as English may be much more serious. The attempted replacement of one language by another entails an effort (which may be well-intentioned of course) to obliterate whole cultures; it is indicative of illogical ethnic attitudes ('The Welsh are inferior to the English'); and it can very seriously impair the educational progress of a child who has to learn, a new language before he can understand what the teacher is saying, let alone read and write.

This approach was for many years official policy in the United States where it may have been at least partly responsible, together with the broader social attitudes to minority languages that went with it, for the widespread and rapid assimilation of minority language groups to the English-speaking majority. Generally, children of parents born outside America who spoke languages such s Chinese, Yiddish, Italian, Greek, Polish, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, and many more, have not retained more than a passive knowledge of their parents languages. Today provision is made for some groups, notably Spanish-speakers in the South-West and some American Indians, to be educated in their own language, and certain other steps have also been taken: public notices in New York City, for example, are posted in Spanish as well as English, to cater for the large Puerto Rican community now living there. However, even the larger, more rural linguistic minorities such as those consisting of speakers of French (in the North-East and in Louisiana) and Pennsylvania Dutch (a form of German) are rapidly declining in size. In 1960, the ten largest linguistic minorities in the US were as follows:


Italian 3.7 million Yiddish 1.0 million
Spanish 3.3 Russian 0.5
German 3.1 Swedish 0.4
Polish 2.1 Hungarian 0.4
French 1.0 Norwegian 0.3


In all, about 20 million Americans currently have a mother-tongue other than English.

Happily, this approach and the attitudes associated with it have almost disappeared from the educational scene in the United Kingdom, although there are still many Welsh and Gaelic speakers who are very unhappy about the status of their languages in this country. Gaelic has been allowed in school in Gaelic-speaking Scottish areas since 1918, although it was not really until 1958 that it began to be used extensively as a medium of instruction, and then mainly for younger children in primary schools. For most older children, particularly in secondary schools, English is still the normal medium, partly as a consequence of the centralization of secondary education which has meant that many Gaelic speakers go to schools where there are also large numbers of non-Gaelic-speaking children.

The position of Welsh in the UK is considerably more healthy than of Gaelic. It has far more speakers, and fairly considerable amounts of time are given to radio and V broadcasts in Welsh (although not as much as some would like). As in the case of Gaelic, the effects of the older educational approach linger on. Many older people today, while being fluent speakers of Welsh, have never learned to write it. They have to write even the most intimate of letters in a foreign language, English, and very often find it difficult to read standard Welsh. Today the situation is much improved, and especially since the early 1930s there, has been a change in emphasis. At around that time Welsh began to be taught seriously in many primary schools in Welsh-speaking areas, although its role in secondary schools was very minor. Subsequently, in 1953, a report was published which received Ministry of Education approval: it suggested that all children in Wales should be taught both Welsh and English. This bilingual policy has been widely adopted today, although the actual situation is rather complex since policy is decided on an area basis by local education authorities. Generally, however, one can say that in most parts of Wales, whether anglicized or not, one can find some schools at both primary and secondary level where Welsh is taught only as a subject, others where it is used as a medium along with English, and others where Welsh is the only medium and English is taught as a

subject. Another interesting development is the institution of nursery schools which are solely Welsh-speaking but to which many English-speaking parents are sending their children in order that they should grow up bilingual. Like, apparently, many Irish people, some of these Welsh parents feel that by adopting the English language they or their ancestors have in some way been untrue to their cultural traditions, and hope that their children will be able to rectify this state of affairs. The schools appear to work very well, and suggest that there may well be an increase in the number of fluent Welsh speakers in the next generation. Nevertheless, the future of the Celtic languages in Britain is still very precarious. There has been a decline in the number of Gaelic speakers in Scotland from 136,000 in 1831 to 81,000 in 1931, and a decline in the number of Welsh speakers over the same period from 902,000 to 656,000.

The teaching of minority languages in this way is obviously of benefit to minority-group children, not only in the learning of reading and writing but in other subjects s well. It also has the effect of recognizing the childs social and cultural identity and integrity and encourages the development and growth of minority cultures. At the same time, it does not deny the child access to the majority language which is likely to be essential for upward social mobility. Gaelic and Welsh speakers who know English can more readily function s members of the wider national community, if they wish to.

The position of other European minority languages in education varies considerably. Those languages, like German, which are majority languages elsewhere have a clear practical advantage over languages like Gaelic and Lappish for which there is a scarcity of teaching materials and reading matter. On the other hand, they may be at a political disadvantage. German receives very little encouragement in Prance, while Macedonian in Greece and German in Italy are actually discouraged.

Frisian is given some encouragement in Holland, while some attempts have been made to promote Lapp education in Scandinavia, in spite of many parents' objections that their children 'learn Lappish at home'. (Their concern is clearly that their children's language should not be a barrier to their social advancement, and parallels some of the objections to the 'appreciation of dialect differences' approach).

We have already seen that the other two approaches to non-standard dialects have their parallels in attitudes to linguistic minorities, so what of this third approach, the 'appreciation of dialect differences' - are there any parallels here? In a way, there are. This view states that there is no need for a child to learn a new dialect because there is nothing wrong with the one already has. To translate this into equivalent, linguistic-minority terms would b to say something like, 'There is no need for Spanish Basques to learn Spanish, because Basque is itself a perfectly good language'. The parallel does not quite work, because clearly there is a need for Basques to learn Spanish, since they live in Spain and have to function as part of Spanish society. The argument, therefore, has to be taken one stage further: there would be no need for Basques to learn Spanish if, as Basque nationalists advocate, they did not live in Spain, but were given their political independence and could form a nation-state of their own. This is the type of argument that minority groups are able to use in their campaigns for independence. Their solution to the problem is to convert linguistic minorities, through political autonomy, into linguistic majorities. Some governments have responded to this sort of pressure by granting partial independence, as in the establishment of the autonomous Albanian-speaking area of Yugoslavia, and the autonomous Hungarian regions of Yugoslavia and Rumania.

Where language is a defining characteristic of a minority ethnic group wanting independence, particularly where other (for example physical) characteristics are not significant (as in the case of Welsh), linguistic factors are likely to play an important role in any separatist movement they might undertake. This is partly in response to practical problems, as outlined in the argument above, but mainly a result of the fact that language acts as an important symbol of group consciousness and solidarity. The extent to which this is true is revealed in the part played by linguistic groupings in the development of new independent nations in Europe after the breakdown of the older, multilingual empires. As national consciousness grew, languages: like Czech, Serbo-Croat and several others, developed a literature, underwent standardization, and emerged as national languages of fairly monoglot areas when independence was achieved.

The rapid increase in the number of independent European nation-states in the past hundred years or so has therefore been paralleled by a rapid growth in the number of autonomous, national, and official languages. During the nineteenth century the number rose from sixteen to thirty, and since that time has risen to over fifty (if we include the USSR). It is interesting to plot some of the stages of this development, particularly since the movement has not been entirely in one direction. During the Middle Ages, for example, some languages like Provencal and Arabic - ceased to function (the latter in Europe alone) as standardized official languages, while others - like English and Norwegian - became submerged, only to reappear later. By 1800, the following had come to be operating as national languages in Europe (excluding Russian): Icelandic, Swedish, Danish, German, Dutch, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Polish, Hungarian, Greek, and Turkish. By 1900 the following had also made an appearance (or reappearance) as standardized national, official or written languages: Norwegian, Finnish, Welsh, Rumanian, and the Slav languages: Czech, Slovak, Slovene, Serbo-Croat, and Bulgarian. And during the rest of this-century Irish Gaelic, Scots Gaelic, Breton, Catalan, Romansch, Albanian and Basque have all undergone revival or expansion. (Ireland, Norway, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Albania have all achieved independence or nationhood in the present century, and in many cases even where minorities have not won independence, greater recognition has been afforded their languages, as in the case of Gaelic and Welsh).

The problems of the multilingual situation for the individual, therefore, can be overcome or minimized either through, political independence or semi-independence, or, less drastically, through adequate educational programmes and policies. What, however, of the problems of multilingualism for national governments? As we have seen, many governments regard as a problem the fact that language can act s a focus of discontent for minorities wanting more power, independence, or annexation by a neighbouring state. Where governments do not regard this as threatening or undesirable, they may well regard linguistic minorities benevolently (or simply ignore them). It does not appear, for example, that the British government is seriously concerned about Gaelic speakers. (On the other hand, punitive action has on occasions been taken against some Welsh speakers who think that Welsh still has inferior social status and have wished to draw attention to this fact, and it has been reliably reported in recent years that Welsh-speaking people remanded in custody have been forbidden to speak to visitors in their native language - which is in fact a violation of the Declaration of Human Rights). Scandinavian governments, similarly, clearly believe they have nothing to fear from Lapps. The government of the Republic of Ireland, too, gives active support to the minority language (something between 1 and 3 per cent of the population speak Irish natively), and have made it a compulsory subject in schools. This, of course, is because Irish was formerly the language of all Irishmen and as such symbolizes national culture and identity rather than dissidence of any kind.

On the other hand, in cases where governments regard linguistic minorities as potentially 'subversive', they may react very differently. Their fears, from their own point of view, may often be justified: language loyalty can be a powerful weapon, and has often been manipulated to political advantage. In many cases repressed or discouraged minority language is also the language of a possibly antagonistic neighbouring state - this has been true of Macedonian in Greece, or German in France and Italy - and the fear is that language loyalty may prove to be stronger than national loyalty. In other cases disfavoured minority languages may simply have acted as catalysts of discontent, because minority groups have had one additional reason to be dissatisfied with their lot.

The same sort of motives were clearly also present in the case of the, British government which prohibited Scots Gaelic in the aftermath of the 1745 rebellion. Similar factors have influenced the actions of those anti-communist Greek governments which have carried out a policy of hellenization in northern Greece by proscribing the usage of Macedonian in that area.

A further example of government intervention in the affairs of linguistic minorities for what are ultimately political purposes comes from the Soviet Union.

This country has about 200 different languages spoken within its frontiers. The languages fall linguistically into six main genetic groups. The Paleoasiatic languages are spoken mainly in Siberia, many of them by technologically non-advanced groups of nomads or settlers. They are possibly related to Eskimo, and may include Ainu, which is also spoken in Japan. The Uralic languages, which are related to Finnish, include Lappish and Estonian, while the Altaic languages include Turkish, Manchurian, Mongolian and Tartar. The Soviet Union also has North Caucasian and South Caucasian languages (including Georgian), and Indo-European languages. The latter comprise Armenian, a number of Iranian languages, the Baltic languages Latvian and Lithuanian, the Germanic languages German and Yiddish, and the Slavonic languages Ukrainian, Polish and Byelorussian as well as Russian itself.

After the 1917 revolution Soviet policy was to encourage each ethnic group to develop its own language, and to promote the Latin alphabet s being international.

Under Stalin, however, there was a sharp reversal. The policy became one of impressing uniformity on the country, and the status of minority languages was greatly decreased. It was decreed, for example, that all new technical words introduced into minority languages should be borrowed from Russian, and the Latin alphabet was declared to be 'undesirable' (Russian is written in the Cyrillic alphabet). Some languages remained relatively privileged, like Georgian (Stalin's native language) and languages of large or influential groups such as Ukrainian and Armenian, while others, including Yiddish and the Paleoasiatic languages, were very much discouraged. Today, generally speaking, a number of pressures of various types are exercised in favour of Russian and against the maintenance of minority languages.

Russian, for example, is officially praised as a 'second native language' and as an 'unfailing source of enrichment' of minority languages. Opposition to the introduction of Russian load-words or the compulsory study of Russian is labelled 'bourgeois nationalist'. Parents who opt for Russian as the school medium in areas where choice is possible are officially praised, and it is becoming increasingly necessary to know Russian for social advancement. About sixty of the 200-odd languages are actually used in primary education, although this number is falling. (Before the war, for example, twenty-two languages were used in primary education in Uzbekistan, whereas now only seven are employed.) The situation in schools varies from place to place, and may depend on parental choice. Many children are taught in their minority language throughout the primary school, but others are not: children who are native speakers of Ossetic (an Iranian language) receive all their education in Russian apart from one hour a week in ssetic. In secondary schools Russian is widespread, and, apart from Armenian and Georgian, it is universal in higher education, with the exception of a number of language, literature and education faculties. We should also note that factors outside the educational situation can also help to effect linguistic russuanization. In Kazakhstan, for instance, only 30 per cent of the population are now native Kazakh speakers, because of the influx of Russian-speaking officials and other immigrants, who generally make no attempt to learn the indigenous language.

The activities, of the governments we have been discussing so far can be described s instances of language planning. In very many ses activities of this kind, unlike many of those we have just described, can be regarded s both necessary and commendable - for example in countries which are faced with the problem of having to select a national language or languages and, subsequently, of developing and standardizing it. We have already noted some of the problems resulting from multilingualism in Europe. In many areas of the world the problems are considerably more complex. Sub-Saharan Africa, for example, is a very multilingual area where language problems have been exacerbated because colonial powers have drawn national frontiers without regard for the geographical distribution of ethnic or linguistic groups.

However, communication problems in areas like these are not necessarily so serious as one might think. People were able to communicate with each other quite easily, in spite of the fact that they did not know each other's languages, because they were also familiar with other languages capable of functioning as a lingua franca. A lingua franca is a language which is used as a means of communication among people who have no native language in common. Some of the languages which are used in this way in Africa, like English and French, are not indigenous to the area in question and are often learned through formal education. Many African lingua francas, though, are indigenous, and may have come to be used as such because of the political dominance of their native speakers, like Luganda, or because they were prominent traders in the area, like Swahili. In West Africa one of the most important lingua francas which is still used for predominantly trading purposes is Hausa. Hausa is an Afro-Asiatic language spoken originally in the region of Lake Chad in north-central Africa, but it has become so widely known that it is used for trading and others purposes by many millions of speakers in areas such as Ghana, Nigeria and Dahomey. Many languages have spread as lingua francas in the same kind of way, only to contract again later for reasons of economics or politics. Greek, for example, became a lingua franca in the ancient world s a result, initially, of Alexander's military conquests, and was at one time used widely from Turkey to Portugal. Latin was later used as a lingua franca in the western world, mainly as a result of the expansion of the Roman empire, and later survived as such, in spite of the fact that it had no native speakers, for many centuries. The original 'lingua franca, from which the term (which actually means French language is derived, was a form of Provencal that was used as a lingua franca by the multilingual crusaders.

When governments are presented with the problem, s many 'new' nations have been, of selecting a national language or languages, lingua francas of this type are obviously very useful. There are clear advantages to be gained from the selection of a language which many people already understand. In some cases, though, complications may arise because competing or alternative lingua frans are available. In India, Hindi is used as a lingua franca in much of the northern part of the country. It has the advantage of being an indigenous rather than an originally colonial language, like English, but it also has the disadvantage of benefiting native speakers to the detriment of others who have to learn it as a second language. English, on the other hand, operates as a lingua franca throughout the country, but tends to be used only by relatively educated speakers: the sociolinguistic picture is further complicated by the languages which are used as the medium of instruction in schools.

A further solution has sometimes been advocated for problems of multilingual ism - that an artificial languages such as Esperanto should be adopted as a lingua franca. At present it seems unlikely that any nation-state will adopt Esperanto as its official language because of the practical problems involved, and also because, being a neutral language, it is not national in any way. However, supporters of Esperanto are much more concerned to see it used as a world-wide lingua franca in order to solve problems of international multilingualism. In multilingual, multinational communities, like the European Common Market, disputes can often arise as to which language or languages are to be used officially. Advocates of Esperanto would suggest that, if it were made the official language of the Common Market, disputes of this kind would not arise. Unlike English or French, Esperanto is the native language of no n, and therefore give nobody an unfair advantage, just as English in India is in many ways a fairer choice s a lingua franca than Hindi. This argument would probably not hold, however, for larger international organizations like the United Nations. This is because Esperanto, although it is easier to learn than natural languages, is quite clearly a European-type language, and would therefore benefit native speakers of languages originally from this area. In any case, there are s yet no real signs of Esperanto, or any other similar language, making very great headway on the international scene.

Often the role of a national government does not stop at selecting a national language. Once selected, the language may have to be established, developed and standardized. The government, for example, may play a part in developing a suitable orthography, or in deciding whether a particular dialect of the language or some set of compromise forms should be selected. English, of course, developed a standard variety by relatively 'natural' means, over the centuries, out of a kind of consensus, due to various social factors. For many 'newer' countries, though, the development of a standard language has had to take place fairly rapidly, and government intervention has therefore been necessary. Standardization, it is argued, is necessary in order to facilitate communications, to make possible the establishment of an agreed orthography, and to provide a uniform form for school books. (It is, of course, an open question as to how much, if any, standardization is really required. It can be argued quite reasonably that there is no real point in standardizing to the extent where, as is often the case in English-speaking communities, children spend many hours learning to spell in an exactly uniform manner, where any spelling mistake is the subject of opprobrium or ridicule, and where deviations from the standard are interpreted as incontrovertible evidence of ignorance).




Six small children sit in a school corridor in Broadford on the Isle of Skye reading and chatting in Gaelic. They are the last of a dying tribe, the northern remnant of what was once a glorious Celtic culture stretching far across the European continent. In their time the Celts produced fine ballads and outstanding art, keeping the light of Christian culture burning while the rest of Britain languished in the Dark Ages.

Now the Gaelic children of Skye are reading translations of Biff and Chip's Birthday Party and Pip and the Little Monkey in their native tongue. The teaching materials are all improvised. Only a few years ago the Gaelic language was proscribed in school and it is not long since any child who spoke it in the classroom was severely beaten. Only 473 Scots children under five still speak Gaelic according to the last census, in 1981.

Yet Skye was once thought of as the heart of the Gaeltachd, the land of the Gaels. The only large concentration of Gaelic-speakers still left on the island live on the north-east tip, the Staffin peninusla. This parish is one of the last redoubts of the northern Gaels. All around the Gaelic culture may be dying, but in Staffin the traditional community survives.

Mairi Ross, who lives in Staffin, commutes daily to Portree to work in the Caledonian Café. According to her, all the children in Staffin know Gaelic but seldom use it now. They dropped it when they went to school in Portree. At the Portree high school the other children teased the Gaelic speakers, calling them teuchtars - that is, bumpkins (uneducated people of the land).

"It doesn't bother me", says Mairi, "but some of the other Staffin kids get very upset. I now feel comfier speaking in English, Gaelic will probably die out. It's a shame but people just aren't bothering".

The older crofters are little more enthusiastic. "It's a good language", says John Mackenzie, a crofter whose brother runs the village shop in Staffin. "But I'm not sure it's a hundred per cent necessary. And the young people are not very keen: the new comers seem far more interested than the locals".

"The Gaelic pressure groups are full of London newcomers", said one of the teachers at Broadford. "They stick a tuft of heather in each ear, dress up in kilts and start learning Gaelic. But the young people here arent interested. Gaelic is presented as something that's one million years old. They think it doesnt get you anywhere; you just stay on your croft and stay poor. As far as they're concerned, it's better to learn English and head south".




1. Consult available sources and explain the following terms:


native language/mother tongue

official language

national language

second language

minority language - majority language

linguistic minority

standard language - non-standard dialect

linguistic variety

lingua franca

2. Read the expressions listed below. See that you can use them correctly speaking about the text:

a) to tend to be bilingual
to become extinct

to be spoken natively

to acquire proficiency in (a language)

to be taught through the medium of (a language)

to adopt an approach to (language, issue)

to eliminate (non-standard speech)

to obliterate (language/culture)

to impare educational process

to cater for smb

to be at (a political) disadvantage


b) language spoken indigenously
genuinely monolingual countries

outwardly monolingual appearance

sizable groups of speakers

linguistically sophisticated policy

bidialectalism approach

illogical ethnic attitudes

separatist movement

monoglot area

group consciousness

language loyalty

disfavoured minority



I.Look through the row of synonyms and exclude the odd one out.

1. hinder/promote/obstract/prevent

2. injurious/harsh/commendable/unpleasant

3. detriment/contribution/addition/donation

4. bumpkin/professor/tutor/scientist

5. to reduce/to dwindle/to exacerbate/to diminish


II.Form necessary part of speech using the given one.


V N Adj
to exacerbate    
to solve    
to tease    
to proscribe    



III.Match the word combinations


1. educational 2. indigenous 3. formal 4. trading 5. multilingual 6. clear 7. native 8. international 9. standard 10. social 11. government a) education b) speaker c) crusader d) variety e) situation f) purpose g) intervention h) organization i) factor j) language k) advantage


IV.Match the words with their definitions


1. medium 2. centralization 3. policy 4. ancestor 5. discontent 6. violetion 7. identity 8. subversive 9. integrity 10. solidarity a) who or what a particular person or thing is b) loyal agreement of interests, aims or principles among the froup c) a state of being whole and undivided; completeness d) a method for giving information e) disregard or action against f) trying or likely to destroy established ideas and take power away from those at present in control, esp. secretly g) lack of satisfaction; restless unhappiness h) the process of bringing smth under central control i) a person from whom one is descended, esp. one who lived a long time ago j) a course of action for dealing with a particular matter or situation, esp. as chosen by a political government, business company


V.Fill the gaps

1. After the revolution, Soviet policy was to _____ the Latin alphabet as being international (contribute, promote, encourage, help).

2. Parents who _____ for Russian as the school medium in ares, where choice is possible are officially praised (select, choose, opt, pick up).

3. In countries which are ______ with the problem of having to select a national language or languages of developing and standardizing it (faced, opposed, eyed to eye, confronted).

4. An ______ language such as Esperanto should be adopted as a lingua franca (insencere, unnatural, artificial, pretended).

5. The role of a national government doesnt ______ at selecting a national language (stop, finish, discontinue, interrupt).

6. There are clear advantages to be ______ from the selection of a language which people understand (achieved, gained, acquired, got).

7. Any nation-state will ______ Esperanto as its official language because of the practical problems and being a neutral language (adopt, accept, assume, choose).

8. The government may play in ______ a suitable orthography (advancing, progressing, expanding, developing).

9. _____ problems in areas are not serious as one might think (communication, connection, information, correspondence).

10. The ______ became one of impressing uniformity on the country (rule, action, policy, quideline).


VI.Substitute the underlined words with the synonyms from the text

1. The vast majority of the nation-states of the world have more than one language spoken natively within their frontiers.

2. Another interesting development is the institution of nursery schools which are only Welsh speaking but to which many English parents are sending their children

3. Many Irish people hope that their children will be able to correct this state of affairs.

4. The future of the Celtic languages in Britain is still very non-stable.

5. Their solution to the problem is to reform linguistic minorities, through political autonomy, into linguistic majorities.

6. Many governments regard as a problem the fact that language can act as a focus of dissatisfaction for minorities

7. The latter include Armenian, a number of Iranian languages

8. Punitive action has on occasions been taken against some Welsh speakers who think that Welsh still has low social status.


VII.Say whether the statements are True or False

1. There are more monolingual countries in the world than bilingual.

2. The linguistic minorities are fiercly resisted in all countries.

3. The United Kingdom is certainly monoligual country, and visitors need to learn no other language than English.

4. Multilingualism brings problems for individuals and groups of individuals, especially those who are members of linguistic minorities.

5. The educational policy of Wales requires the children to have an ability to read, write and speak both their native language and the majority language.

6. The situation when a child who has to learn a new language before he can understand what the teacher is saying improves the education progress and mental abilities of a child greatly.

7. The official policy of the USA encourages the spread of linguistic minorities and create special schools for all of them.

8. The most popular language spoken by linguistic minorities in Europe is French.


VIII.Answer the questions

1. How widely is multilingualism spread in the world?

2. How many monolingual countries can be located?

3. Whom do we call mono-, bi- and multilingual speakers countries?

4. What does "linguistic minority" mean?

5. How common is multilingualism in Europe? In America? In Africa?

6. What problems does multilingualism bring for individuals? How
are they related to educational policy?

7. What are official approaches to linguistic minorities in the United States? the UK? Other countries?

8. How is multilingualism connected with separatist and other nationalist movements?

9. Supply examples to illustrate government involvement in linguistic minorities.

10. What is the role of lingua franca in multilingual communication?





I. Listening


Pre-listening task

You will hear a radio programme about Esperanto. Work in pairs. Make two lists.

What I know about Esperanto
Its an artificial language.  


What I would like to know
Who invented it?  


Listening for information

1. Listen to the introduction to the programme. Does it mention any of the subjects you discussed? Does it answer any of your questions?

2. Listen to the interview with Professor Nesbit, and fill in the charts.


Advantages of Esperanto as a world language


Disadvantages of Esperanto as a world language


What do you think?

1. What do you think of Zamenhofs interna ideo?

2. Would you rather be learning Espearnto than English? Why/why not?

3. Work in groups. List the disadvantages of Esperanto as a world language, and the advantages of English.

4. Take a vote in the class. Which language would the majority rather be learning?

5. Read the following article and give your opinion on the problem discussed.


: 2015-09-07; : 101.

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