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What Are the Characteristics of a Multilingual Country?

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During the past several years, the debate on how best to educate the increasing number of linguistically and culturally diverse students in the United States has intensified. Second language learners in this country are not achieving grade level proficiency in English as required by current federal mandates

‘English-Only’ and ‘bilingual education’ policies have dominated the discourse of policy makers, educators and the body public as the two primary possibilities to deal with the challenges facing educators in classrooms across the U. S. at the present time.

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English has to be admitted as a vast reservoir of translation in contemporary India

It may no longer be a colonial language, but it is increasingly a conduit language. This ‘filter language’, as Khubchandani terms it, has today a certain inescapable presence. More English translating have been published in India in recent times than ever before, but our awareness of the need to ensure quality in translation has not heightened the same extent. Who should judge a translation – somebody who can read the original or somebody who cannot? A person who was able to read the language, and enjoyed the original may find no translation satisfactory, whereas someone who cannot is likely to regard readability in English is the prime requisite. It seems unarguable that the only way in which the ideology of ‘unity’ can be explored in a multilingual society like ours is by accepting both the need for, and the problems of, translation. The Sanskritised term we currently use for ‘translation’ in many Indian languages is anuvada – which literally means ‘after speech’ so it seems wrong in the first place to discuss it in an ‘Introduction’. It also stands in contrast to anukaran, which implies aping or slavish imitation, but there ought to be a more to the word than just the suggestion that it could involve creative license of a kind? Any discussion of translation leads automatically to the question: who is an ideal translator? The writer himself, or someone who has not been involved in the primary creative art? The task of the translator is to unfreeze the shapes that thought took in one language and refreeze them into another. A translator must take into account rules that are not strictly linguistic but cultural. Translators, even when trying to give us the flavor of the language, are in fact modernizing the source. As far as translators in India are concerned, most Indians who grow up in urban conditions and go to school and college tackle shifts from one language to another so often and so comfortably that translation seems second nature to them.

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In one sense, it might be thought that linguistic diversity is in decline. Some languages are dying out, some are spoken by smaller numbers of people, and there are linguists who believe that the rise of English is accelerating this trend. Despite this, however, one estimate suggests that there are still over 7,000 distinct languages spoken by substantial populations as first or mother tongues, and many more countries than is commonly known need to operate in multiple languages. At the same time, the rise in identity politics across the world appears to be supporting a renewed sense of confidence in and wish to maintain local, regional and national languages

On being Welsh ‘To be Welsh is an experience. To both be and speak Welsh is a related, more robust experience. Each time we erase one of those options from the world of human experience, we lose an incomprehensibly complex realm of knowledge. We lose a way of thinking about the world. We lose a way of being in our world. For to live with a language is to live as part of an organic, long-developed tradition and identity.’ (Conor Williams 2015). Multiculturalism is less easy to define and can be a controversial term. The children seem to have much greater English proficiency than they actually do because their spoken English has no accent and they are able to converse on a few everyday, frequently discussed subjects. Academic language is frequently lacking. Teachers actually spend very little time talking with individual children and tend to interpret a small sample of speech as evidence of full English proficiency.’ (Vincent 1996: 195).

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By and large, in the USA, multilingualism is extremely important issue, as there are many immigrants from other countries. In other words, with the growing population of linguistically and culturally diverse students in the United States, the debate over whether or not multilingualism should be accepted and encouraged in school and in the society quickly becoming one of the most controversial issues. As a supporter of multilingualism, I agree that the role played by multilingualism in United States is vital. Both school and the society should encourage the spread of multilingualism, rather than requiring English-only education in school or destroying any dialects and non-standard English.

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Stoicheva, M (ed.) (2011). Language Policies. Bulgaria - Europe. Sofia: University Publishing House.

Vincent, C (1996). Singing to a star: The school meanings of second generation Salvadorean students. Doctoral
dissertation, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA

Williams, C (2015). Language, identity, Culture and Diversity, Multilingual Matters EdCentral. Retrieved from

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