Multilingualism matters


    1. Сәлем! Привет! Hello! Merhaba! Bună ziua!

  • It is interesting to know how many languages one can acquire and actively use them in his daily repertoire. Didn’t you think about that? I think it is beneficial to grow up in a Post-Soviet country which maintains the knowledge of two languages. Although my family is from a Kazakh speaking medium, that did not influence the purity of my second language: Russian. English was added later on when studying at a secondary school. Whereas, Turkish was a second major language after English at the university. Fortunately, I am an active Turkish language speaker. As Kazakh and Turkish belong to Turkic language family that perhaps the reason for my success in latter. What about “Bună ziua!”!? This is Romanian, which I used to study as an “unknown language”, a part of my TESOL course. Some grammatical similarities of Romanian to Russian made my study a bit easier at that time. With this in mind, these languages are the tools which help me to achieve my aims. Therefore, I consider myself as a prudent multilingual individual.

    Let’s define the terms first. As Cenoz (2013) emphasizes, some researchers claim that bilingual is the person who speaks two languages, and multilingual is the one who actively uses two and more languages. I consider myself as a balanced multilingual in first four languages. However, my knowledge of Romanian is limited, almost close to its loss.

    So, what are the benefits of being multilingual or bilingual? Cenoz (2013) mentioned that being multilingual positively affects the cognitive development of an individual. For instance, multilingual better fulfills some metalinguistic tasks and some features of the cognitive downturn related to aging can slow down. Personally, I have experienced its benefits in various ways. First of all, education is the sector which requires the knowledge of an additional language. In our case, it is English. It is the language which I have taught at schools and used as a medium of instruction at my institution. Additionally, English was the language which I referred to when traveled and lived abroad. Kazakh, along with Russian are the languages of daily communication. However, Russian is the preferred language of the Internet. As Okal (2014) points out:

      “Multilingualism is a big resource” (p.226).

    It opens doors for the creativity, communication, access and many more. The key idea that I want to emphasize is that bilingual can use the knowledge of his languages to learn additional ones (Cenoz, 2013), which I do up to these days. As mentioned above, I have used Russian to learn Romanian, and Kazakh to acquire Turkish. I guess, it is the time to apply it to English.

    So, to your mind, what are the privileges of learning additional languages for you? Would you agree that by being bilingual you make a less effort to acquire another language?

    Photo credit:


    Cenoz, J. (2013). Introduction to Multilingualism.  Annual Review of Applied Linguistics                     33, 3–18.

    Okal, B. O. (2014). Benefits of Multilingualism in Education. Universal Journal Of                                     Educational Research, 2(3), 223-229.


4 thoughts on “Multilingualism matters

  1. Shakhrizat, it is a very interesting blog which is directly connected to our specialty. Thanks for it.
    From my point of view, it is advantageous being bilingual than monolingual before you start learning another language. Because, as we have learned from our “Foundation of Multilingual Education” classes, people who speak more than one language have a higher academic achievement comparing with those who speak only one language. So, possessing an excellent academic performance is beneficial on the way of gaining knowledge, including learning new languages as well.


    1. I definitely think that the languages you already know help to learn further languages. For a lot of Kazakh people who know Kazakh, Russian and English, which are completely different languages, there are more chances to learn other languages. I once did an online course in Spanish through English which was quite a success (until I gave it up). However, it would be a mistake to think you can learn other languages without hard work and practice just because you already know some.


  2. I totally agree with your statement on benefits of multilingualism. It’s a well-known fact that multilingualism positively affects person’s academic achievement and advances his/her professional and social mobility. Numerous scholars support mentioned affirmation, including Cenoz and conducted tons of scientific works confirming it. In addition, through the knowledge of two or more languages person acquires such linguistic skill as a metalinguistic awareness and other linguistic practices (as translation, code-switching, etc.) which definitely contributes to individual’s intellectual development. You may remember the heroes of Russian Classic Literature, who were taught several European languages from early childhood as this clearly depicts language ideologies during czarism in Russian Empire where knowledge of languages was a distinct feature of aristocracy and decent education.
    However, I have another view on your claim on the role of languagues’ affinity in effective language learning based on my linguistic experience. I am only trilingual, but in those languages that I am not fluent while in communication with FL speaker, for instance, Spanish, I tried to rely on my English language knowledge and conveyed my ideas to an interlocutor and conversation was executed successfully through the use of relative words and, of course, gestures. In the same fashion, communication with Turkish, Kyrgyz language speakers went quite effective as through the use of Kazakh and similar phrases and words we were able to understand each other and get main information. But in these cases communication was effective mainly at first meetings when ultimate goals were determined and precise objectives were shaped at first seconds. These instances clearly illustrate that probably similarities in particular languages encourage learning a foreign language but only at the beginning stage. It is obvious that effective foreign language acquisition is gained through much effort and practice.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Nice post here. For me, the central message is that we should value multilingualism because of these advantages. You don’t mention the other side of the coin, which is the argument that multilingualism is elitist or is harmful to certain language groups. I know the rising nationalist populism growing in the US and Europe doesn’t hold multilingualism (or probably more specifically multiculturalism) in very high esteem, instead worrying about protecting one group from the threat of another. I’d love to see your next post dig a bit deeper into the significance and implications of these statements that multilingualism “is a big resource” or “learning one language helps you learn another”… why should we care?

    Your writing is well organized and developed and largely free of mistakes.


    Liked by 1 person

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