Multilingualism

Multilingualism is the use of more than one language, either by an individual speaker or by a community of speakers. It is believed that multilingual speakers outnumber monolingual speakers in the world's population. More than half of all Europeans claim to speak at least one language other than their mother tongue; but many read and write in one language. Always useful to traders, multilingualism is advantageous for people wanting to participate in globalization and cultural openness. Owing to the ease of access to information facilitated by the Internet, individuals' exposure to multiple languages is becoming increasingly possible. People who speak several languages are also called polyglots.
People who know more than one language have been reported to be more adept at language learning compared to monolinguals. Bilinguals who are highly proficient in two or more languages have been reported to have enhanced executive function or even have reduced-risk for dementia. More recently, however, this claim has come under strong criticism with repeated failures to replicate. There is also a phenomenon known as distractive bilingualism or semilingualism. When acquisition of the first language is interrupted and insufficient or unstructured language input follows from the second language, as sometimes happens with immigrant children, the speaker can end up with two languages both mastered below the monolingual standard.
Because it is difficult or impossible to master many of the high-level semantic aspects of a language (including but not limited to its idioms and eponyms) without first understanding the culture and history of the region in which that language evolved, as a practical matter an in-depth familiarity with multiple cultures is a prerequisite for high-level multilingualism. This knowledge of cultures individually and comparatively, or indeed the mere fact of one's having that knowledge, often forms an important part of both what one considers one's own personal identity to be and what others consider that identity to be. Some studies have found that groups of multilingual individuals get higher average scores on tests for certain personality traits such as cultural empathy, open-mindedness and social initiative. The idea of linguistic relativity, which claims that the language people speak influences the way they see the world, can be interpreted to mean that individuals who speak multiple languages have a broader, more diverse view of the world, even when speaking only one language at a time.

 


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