Bilingualism in Europe*



In Europe, throughout history and throughout individual countries and the Continent as a whole, two or more languages have been in contact. Therefore the term bilingualism is taken here in its broadest sense as a cover term for all situations, bilingual and multilingual. It would nevertheless be wrong to pretend that monolingual people are not found in Europe: they are numerous indeed, but they always live in societies and groups where different languages are present in their written and/or oral forms.

The 1999 census of the population of France provides a pertinent example of the intricate picture of multilingual Europe. A large subsample (380,000 people, out of a general population of 60 million) were asked what language(s) they had been exposed to during their childhood, had passed on to their own children at the same age, and currently had the opportunity to use on different social occasions (Héran, Filhon, and Deprez 2002). In spite of the increasing proportion of monolingual Francophones (70% of the population of France), 6,400 names of languages were registered and about 400 languages were identified according to the repertoire of the Summer Institute of Linguistics. Half of the bilingual instances are linked to the use of immigrant languages, the other half to the use of regional languages. The flow of immigrants coming from various other European countries and other continents, and the existence of regional ...

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