Daily Archives: March 1, 2010

Rethinking the “monolingual group” tag

Our thanks to a student comrade (she wishes to remain anonymous) for helping us to rethink the term “monolingual group”. We used this term quite unthinkingly in our piece,Stopwatch TEFL”. Through private correspondence, she reminds us that a relatively homogeneous linguistic group is more likely to be “bi-lingual” rather than monolingual as they have collective recourse to two languages (the target language and the shared “local” language). Conversely, a relatively heterogeneous linguistic group (Italians, Germans, and Japanesefor example) is more likely to be “monolingual” as many will be dependent for communication on one shared language, the target language.

After all, a college teaching a heterogeneous group will likely provide only monolingual dictionaries whilst a college teaching a more homogenous group will more likely provide both bi-lingual and monolingual dictionaries; if of course they provide dictionaries at all. Moreover, while we employ the term bi-lingual education in mainstream education we would never think of calling another group monolingual (even if they are).

However, to deny the linguistic diversity of the other group by calling them monolingual would equally be wrong. On reflection, the term monolingual is therefore inappropriate (insulting) and we will employ, in future, the terms bi-lingual and multi-lingual groups.

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