Monolingualism – What is the definition of being monolingual?

What is monolingualism and what is the definition of monolingual?
Is being monolingual a disadvantage?
What about bilingualism and multilingualism?

Monolingualism Definition

According to the Oxford Dictionary monolingualism is defined as:

  1. Knowing or able to use only one language; monoglot.
  2. Spoken or written in only one language.

Monolingual vs Bilingual or Multilingual

Monolingual – One language

Bilingual – Two languages

Multilingual – More than two languages

How are people defined?

Monolingual refers to someone who speaks only one language. Many people who are not brought up to be bilingual or multilingual learn bits and pieces of languages throughout their lifetime. However, being able to say hello or goodbye in a second language does not mean they are bilingual.

Although there are many ways to define someone who is bilingual or multilingual, generally they need to be able to communicated fluently in more than one language, otherwise they are considered to be monolingual.

Is being monolingual a disadvantage?

Being monolingual isn’t a disadvantage as such. In fact, there are many successful people in the world who are monolingual.

However, research suggests there are many benefits of being bilingual or multilingual, and these benefits go way beyond being able to speak multiple languages. Cognitive benefits, educational benefits are just to name a couple. You can read more in our post on the benefits of being bilingual.

To the contrary, there are others who feel that people who are bilingual or multilingual are disadvantaged, and that monolingualism has it’s advantages. Things such as the question of identity come into question. Some believe that monolinguals have an easier time identifying themselves and where they are from. This is more of a cultural issue and it doesn’t affect all bilinguals.

Monolinguals are the minority

Although it may seem that monolingualism is the norm, half of the world is bilingual or multilingual. Therefore, being monolingual means you are the minority. In some countries speaking in two different languages on a daily basis is considered normal.

It’s not too late to learn a language

If you want to learn a language it’s not too late! Although easier to learn a language as a child, you can learn a language as an adult.

If you have kids, why not give them the bilingual advantage. Check out our language resources on the Bilingual Kidspot home page, we have lessons for kids in Spanish and Chinese, with Italian, French and other languages on the way.

Even if kids don’t become bilingual, learning any language can be an advantage. Remember that monolingualism, (being monolingual) is the minority and more and more people are catching onto the bilingual benefits!

Want to raise bilingual kids?  Subscribe on our website, Follow Bilingual Kidspot on Facebook and join our Online Community Group.

Monolingualism definition - What does it mean to be a monolingual