MULTILINGUALISM AND MULTICULTURALISM: CHALLENGES FOR EDUCATION AND SOCIALIZATION IN THE XXI CENTURY
Our paper has two goals. First we review the state of multilingualism in the world today, with a particular emphasis on Europe which was the cradle of foreign education many centuries ago and has remained the leader in this field. There is no doubt that bi- and multi-lingualism characterize successful people of the XXI century, while the confinement to one language can be seen as a personal and social handicap or a socialization problem.
We argue next, that the growing bilingual potential should be analyzed as integral part of bicultural personality of our time. Whether we speak native or second language, we participate in cultural communication. Language is not just a multilevel linguistic structure but also part and parcel of its culture, the warehouse of its meanings and history. Learning a language one acquires its culture. In this context we set research questions pertaining to the language ↔ cultural values and identity mutuality: Which and under what conditions impacts the other?
Two studies were conducted by the second author on Polish-French bilingualism and bicultural identity of Romanesque university students and immigrants of two generations in France and Belgium. Opposite to our hypotheses, there was no evidence for mutual reinforcement of linguistic proficiency and cultural identity. French language skills among Romanesque students were low but their idealistic French identity was high. Polish cultural identity was dominant, over French, among second generation immigrant youths. We explain these results referring to theories of idealized identity and nostalgia.
We conclude with recommendations, that second language teaching should not only be intertwined with general culture learning but also should convey realistic and not idealized versions of other cultural worlds. Extending learner’s identity, rather than replacing one by the other should be the goal of bilingual education.
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