Living in a multilingual & multicultural society

The world is plurilingual. As a result of globalisation and migration, societies witness an increasing amount of linguistic and cultural diversity. Individuals use different languages, language varieties and language registers in everyday life.

What you will learn in this section

The aims of this part are:

  • to recognize that globalisation, migration and diversity are characteristics of modern societies and to relate this fact to the own living environment;
  • to recognize that linguistic diversity is a given reality in daily life worldwide;
  • to identify and reflect on attitudes of individuals and in society concerning the value of languages and varieties as well as cultural ways of living;
  • to develop linguistic and cultural awareness. 



Discovering linguistic diversity in the world

Have a look at the questions in this quiz. Discuss the questions in smaller groups. In what ways are your experiences and opinions similar or different?
If you want to know more about the languages in the world, you can find a global linguistic map on the Ethnologue website. The website also contains maps by country if you want to take a closer look at certain regions/your region or country.
There are lots of interesting things to learn about languages. Do you know the answer to any of these questions, which are taken from the Ethnologue website?

  • How many language families are there?
  • What are the 10 most spoken languages in the world?
  • Which language is spoken in the most countries?
  • Which countries have the most languages?
  • How many languages in the world are unwritten? 


Reflecting the use of language(s)

How we all use languages and repertoires in daily life

In everyday life we all have to deal with multilingual / multicultural environments and plurilingual / pluricultural identities. What are your experiences in this area?

Have a look at the following questions and discuss the answers:

  • What languages do you speak – always, often, sometimes, rarely – in everyday life?
  • How do you use your linguistic resources differently according to contexts?

Analyse how you use your language repertoire. For your reflections you can use the questionnaire and see some examples.

What living environments tell us about attitudes towards languages

Our living environment shows linguistic diversity in many ways. Linguistic landscapes are one way to look at this diversity and this diversity can be documented by using mapping. Such mapping can raise awareness of the linguistic diversity in everyday life. Carry out some research and try to collect documents on the linguistic diversity in your life.

  • What languages can be found in your environment (at school/at home/at work/in your region)?
  • Where are the different languages and repertoires? In what formats and contexts do they exist?
  • What do your findings tell you?

Present your results (as a written text, a series of photos, a drawing, an audio/podcast, a video, etc.) to your colleagues.

As an example of linguistic landscape research, you can find photographic documentation of the city of Graz on the Multilingual Graz website.

If you want to know more about linguistic landscapes, here are some texts.


Header image based on "The World according to Cloud Gate" by Kevin Dooley (CC BY 2.0).