October 23, 2021

Multilingualism (English: Multilingualism) refers to the phenomenon that communities or individuals use two (also known as bilingual) or more than two languages. More than 90% of the people in the world are in a bilingual or multilingual society, or use multiple languages ​​daily. Multilingualism is different from the concept of polyglotism (English: Polyglotism). The latter refers to the ability to understand multiple languages ​​and the standpoint of advocating learning multiple languages. Multilingual speakers acquire and maintain at least one language during childhood, the so-called first language (L1). The first language (sometimes called mother tongue) was acquired through an unclear mechanism without formal education. Children who acquire two languages ​​from these early stages are called simultaneous bilingualism. Even when bilingualism is used at the same time, one language usually dominates.

Multilingualism in the Speech Society

Less than a quarter of the countries in the world have two or more languages ​​as official languages. But in fact, there is no real single-language country. Even in countries where most citizens speak only one language, there are a considerable number of ethnic groups that speak other languages. For example, most dialects in southern China, such as Wu, Min, Ke, and Cantonese, are still the languages ​​of people's daily life. In addition, other minority languages ​​are also popular in border areas. In the United States, about 20% of the population does not speak English as their first language. In the UK, although English is the main language, there are more than 100 different minority languages ​​in the country. In Ghana, Nigeria and other countries with a single official language in Africa, as many as 90% of the population can proficiently use two or more languages, including the languages ​​of black indigenous peoples. The majority of the multilingual population may live in a country with a single official language. Because several different language groups in most multi-official language countries live independently of each other, such as Belgium, Switzerland, and Malaysia.

The status of multilingualism around the world

Mainland China

In the People's Republic of China, Mandarin and simplified characters are the only official languages ​​and scripts. However, some dialects or other languages ​​such as Wu dialect, Xiang dialect, Gan dialect, Min dialect, Hakka dialect and Cantonese dialect are still the languages ​​used in people's daily life. In minority autonomous regions, minority languages ​​are also widely used and enjoy certain legal rights and protections, such as Tibetan in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Uyghur in the Xinjiang Autonomous Region, and Mongolian in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

Hong Kong

The official languages ​​of Hong Kong are English and Chinese, and Cantonese is the most common language spoken by Hong Kong people. In general middle schools and elementary schools, there are Putonghua subjects. Since the handover of Hong Kong's sovereignty, the number of people learning Mandarin has increased day by day. In addition to the "biliterate and trilingual" mentioned above, some Hong Kong people, especially older people who lived in mainland China in their early years, are more fluent in southern dialects such as Hakka, Teochew, and Hokkien. But the most common language learned by Hong Kong people is English.


The official languages ​​of Macau are Traditional Chinese and Portuguese. The people of Macau mainly speak Cantonese, but some residents also speak Mandarin. Unlike Hong Kong people's understanding of English, the official language of the British colonial period, few ordinary people in Macao understand Portuguese, and they mainly communicate and use it among the Macanese. In addition, civil servants of the Macau government must understand Portuguese. Chinese is a compulsory course in all schools, while Portuguese is mainly taught in some government-run schools. In addition, many primary and secondary schools also offer English courses, and English is also the most commonly studied language.


Since ancient times, Han Chinese and Austronesian peoples from different regions have migrated to live in Taiwan, so language use is inherently diverse. Japanese was the official language during Taiwan’s Japanese Occupation, and it is still used by the elderly today. Since Japanese also uses Chinese characters, some orders were issued in the early days of Japanese rule to adopt Chinese and publish the language at the same time. Newspapers (such as the Nikkei) had a Chinese version, and schools also had Chinese education. Only after the outbreak of the Second World War began the imperialism movement. Domineering Japanese, then stopped. The folks still rely mainly on their own national languages ​​(Chinese characters are in classical Chinese or written languages ​​influenced by Mandarin vernacular, etc., a few use vernacular characters, and the spoken language is mainly Taiwanese and Hakka; the aboriginal languages ​​are more oppressed by the Japanese ). The Republic of China Government Broadcasting Station

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