Multilingualism vs Polyglotism

To put it simply, usage of two or more languages by either a speaker or a community is called Multilingualism, while Polyglotism is the ability to master more than one language other than your native.

What is multilingualism?

The multilingual person has complete control over the language. A multilingual person is generally referred to as a polyglot on a broader basis where in Greek «poly» means many and «glot» means language. Governed by the needs of globalization and cultural openness multilingualism is becoming a social phenomenon. Courtesy the internet, a lot of people are now exposed to multiple languages thereby promoting a requirement to acquire additional languages.

Who is a Polyglot?

Someone who has an inherent interest in languages with a well developed intellect and who heightens his learning techniques with experience. Therefore, it is very easy for him to master new languages with minimum effort as compared to an average person.

Multilingualism vs Polygotism

Multilingualism is knowing more than one language while polyglot means an auto addict. A polyglot is definitely a multilingual but he is in some way self-taught and has an intrinsic need to self-learn. Again if someone is multilingual but not a polyglot might just know a few languages but is not driven to learn without some extrinsic need. Someone who is raised with multiple languages but has never studied them is multilingual and polyglot incorporates the idea of self studying for the sake of learning it.

According to some, for public perception the two words could be interchangeable but in the academic world they are not. Most successful polyglots have an efficient attitude towards learnnig a language. They can actually carry them into a native of a different culture. They themselves diagnose techniques that are suitable for their learning and don’t waste time but they also have developed an ability to notice what happens in the language. These factors of moving forward and getting absorbed and developed techniques do not apply to the multilingual but the polyglot.

Some differentiate multilingual and polyglottery not so much on the basis of process, rather they compare it to a native born and an immigrant. They both live in a city and are considered citizens, while one is born there and the other moves in and wants to live intentionally. So a polyglot is coined the term “immigrant” since he chooses to move to a different city and live there, rather being born.

Some statistics:

On a wider horizon, multilingual experts and polyglots on an average speak more than 4 languages. 3% for 4-language speakers and less than one per thousand for those who speak more than 5 languages. Switzerland (Germans, Italians, French, Romansh and English) and Morocco (Arabic, French, Spanish, Moroccan and English) have highest percentages of multilinguals and polyglots.

A few factors that go into contributing to speaking more than one language:

When your native language is full of foreign words, when your country is influenced by other cultures and languages, if you simply love learning new languages, and an inherent ability to learn and memorize new words you automatically fall into one of the groups.


Only registered users can comment.