This article in the New York times examines the oft-repeated claim that Americans are mostly monolingual, monolingual by choice, and fare worse in the world precisely because of it.

The claim, it seems, is the same as (or similar to) an old argument between whether literacy equals sophistication, or whether someone without (Western) education in a developing country is smart enough to correctly adjust to the complexity of the (21st century) world. There is no substantial evidence to support the “for” argument, of course, as those with brilliant, sophisticated yet uneducated grandparents will attest, but the discussion is one that underlies much of today’s governmental and social intervention in local, traditional ways of life.

I am a linguist, however, and thus will remain on the side of multilingualism – and multiculturalism – as an important, yet fascinating, catalyst of social change.

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