Plurilingual vs Multilingual


The terms multilingualism and plurilingualism are sometimes used as (quasi-)synonyms, but they are not…

– Every person who has competence in more than two languages, can switch between using multiple languages depending on the situation for ease of communication is a plurilingual.

– The term multilingual is used to describe situations wherein multiple languages exist side-by-side in a society but are utilized separately. For example, Switzerland is a multilingual country, with 4 national languages and many local dialects and regional variants.

Plurilingualism does not necessarily mean a person is fluent in multiple languages, it means that a person can interchange more than one language with each other when a situation calls for it.

A person is considered competent in plurilingualism when they can speak in one language while understanding another; and can switch between languages when appropriate and/or necessary.[6]

According to the Council of Europe, plurilingualism can also be used to mediate conflict between those with no common language.[6]

Researchers have even gone so far as to say that being able to understand different dialects and/or regional versions of one language opens the door for someone to be plurilingual.[2]

People who are plurilingual tend to have better communicative sensitivity, creativity, and metalinguistic awareness.[7]

The knowledge of multiple languages as well as the understanding of different cultures allows for the improved communicative skills. The advantages of plurilingualism seem to become greater the more languages someone learns.[7]

(Wikipedia Plurilingualism)

Plurilingualism is a life-long activity, a process of learning languages of home, society and other peoples; it acknowledges the partial nature of the knowledge anyone can have of one language, be it their mother tongue or not.

Therefore, plurilingualism removes the ideal of the native speaker as the ultimate achievement and replaces it with the aim of an effective pluralistic communicator who draws on his/her varied repertoire of linguistic and cultural knowledge in a flexible, creative and individual way (as proposed by the Council of Europe).

As such, the concept of plurilingualism provides a true qualitative leap in terms of our understanding of language. (The Healthy Linguistic Diet)