Multilingualism -- the Unspoken Facts
El Penski, March 2010

In the heat of nonsensical partisan debate, many simple facts about multilingualism are forgotten. From 1776, throughout United States history, many hundreds of languages have been spoken here by immigrants, but in a few years these great assets are typically lost resulting in their children or grandchildren speaking only English. While multilingualism has proven not to be a threat in the U.S.A., it is a loss of valuable resources.

It is estimated that hundreds of languages are presently used in the U.S.A., and it is likely that from 3,000 to 10,000 languages are spoken in the World. It is believed that one has to learn from 40,000 to 150,000 words and idioms to be well educated in a language, but universities only teach about 2,000 new words per year in foreign language courses.

Thus, just being proficient in one's native language is a huge obstacle for most of our citizens. Except for a few very gifted and dedicated people, being highly skilled in two languages is nearly impossible for most of us. Knowing a little bit of two languages is not serving anyone very well unless you cherish being a dumb tourist, expanding your mind, or impressing your friends in a bar over a few beers. In this very complex world, most people do not have time for such foolishness and need to concentrate on only one language. Even so, with growing world trade, diplomacy, scientific international cooperation and threats from distant foreign lands; truly talented bilingual people are an enormous asset and essential to our nation and mankind. In the military, science, business, diplomacy, and legal worlds; translations need to be very accurate.

Ever since WWII, English has been becoming the universal scientific language. Having such a common language is a very strong uniting force among peoples and an economic advantage for everyone on earth. Thus, the teaching of English to people living in an English speaking nation should be a top priority. Only those, who have the ability and determination to learn a second language very well, should be encouraged to tackle a second language. For those who are interested in helping humanity and promoting peace, promoting the teaching of English is worthwhile goal. At the present, the only language with a chance of becoming a universal language is English. Everyone in the world benefits if gifted people need to only learn one foreign language not several.

  • Davidson, J., Raises Sought for Bilingual Federal Workers, Washington Post, Washington D.C., April 6, 2010.
  • Erad, M., English as She Will be Spoken, New Scientist , March 29, 2008,, page 28.
  • Bastardas-Boada, A., World language policy in the era of globalization: Diversity and intercommunication from the perspective of 'complexity', Noves SL. Revista de Sociolingüística, 2002 (Summer).

Home to El's Research Studies