Dealing with facts & myths

The purpose of this section is twofold. Firstly, it is to examine local and national statistical data and verify their significance. Secondly, it is to analyse opinions about plurilingualism in order to discuss myths and to build demonstrable knowledge of the subject.

What you will learn in this section

The aims of this section are to:

  • understand globalisation and diversity as characteristics of societies in general and of the society in which you are living;
  • learn more about the official statistical data that are relevant to your own region/country and to reflect on their value;
  • learn more about underlying myths relating to language acquisition and plurilingual competences, and reflect on these myths and replace them with facts.



Reflecting on statistical data

Demographic changes are documented in statistical data. When dealing with linguistic diversity, there are some important factors that could be taken into account: nationality, languages, use of languages, migrant background, plurilingualism, etc.

1. Conduct some research into official statistics that reflect the demographic development of your region/country.

  • Consider the three aspects: languages, nationality and migrant background.
  • What kind of relevant data can be found easily? What are they relevant to?
  • Do these data help to explain school policies or language-learning programmes?
  • What do these statistics tell us? What don’t they tell us?

Example: you can find relevant statistical data and analysis on the Nordrhein-Westfahlen region in Germany in the Country Report of the EUCIM-TE, page 6-7, entitled 3. Relevant statistical data in NRW.

2. Conduct some research on relevant statistical data on everyday life at school: nationalities, family languages, pedagogical opportunities to study different first languages (referring to the different family languages of the students), cooperation within special opportunities for learners of the language of schooling as a second language (e.g. Finnish in Finland or French in France for students with other family languages), etc.

Here are some official national statistics websites:


Reflecting on myths about plurilingualism

What do you think about this statement which summarizes the results of research on challenges in teacher training?

"... second language learning is an issue recently considered by the scientific community and has gained importance and visibility in the political and public discourses in the course of the last two years. However, this discussion is still dominated by ignorance and conflicting unfounded “myths” and is not comprehensive but rather dependent on individual initiatives or projects which find no connection to the outside community."

(Report on Teacher education Needs Analysis - NRW (p. 26) within the project  European Core Curriculum for Mainstreamed Second Language Teacher Education)

There are a lot of myths about bilingualism and language learning. What do you think about the following statements? Are they right or wrong?

1. Bilingualism delays language acquisition in children.
2. Bilingual people have double or split personalities.
3. Bilingual people are also bicultural.
4. Mixing languages is a sign of laziness in bilingual people.
5. If parents want their children to grow up bilingual, they should use the one-
    person, one-language approach.
6. Bilingual people are born translators.

Choose two of the statements and give some reasons why they are wrong or right.

Compare your perspective with the statements of Grosjean.

Write down five reasons why plurilingualism should be supported. 
This video example may be helpful:


Header image based on "Scales of Justice - Frankfurt Version" by Michael Coghlan (CC BY-SA 2.0).