List of multilingual countries and regions
This is an incomplete list of areas with either multilingualism at the community level or at the personal level.
There is a distinction between social and personal bilingualism. Many countries, such as Belgium, which are officially multilingual, may have many monolinguals in their population. Officially monolingual countries, on the other hand, such as France, can have sizable multilingual populations.
- a majority of the population in sub-Saharan Africa is multilingual.
- Under its 1996 Constitution, South Africa has 11 official languages including Zulu, Xhosa, Afrikaans and English.
- In Kenya, educated people will typically speak a minimum of three languages: a tribal language (such as Bukusu), the national language – Swahili, and English, which is the medium used in teaching all over the country.
- Mauritius, children are taught Mauritian Creole, French, and English.
- Canada is officially bilingual under the Official Languages Act and the Constitution of Canada that require the federal government to deliver services in both official languages. As well, minority language rights are guaranteed where numbers warrant. Approximately 25% of Canadians speak French with 18% speaking both English and French. See Bilingualism in Canada
- The Canadian province of New Brunswick, with a large Acadian population (35% French-speaking), is the only province in Canada with two official languages.
- The Canadian province of Quebec, (10% English-speaking) Note: Although there is a relatively sizable English-speaking population in Quebec, French is the only official language.
- There are also significant French language minorities in the provinces of Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Prince Edward Island. Though those provinces are not officially bilingual they do provide a number of services in French.
- Nunavut is a Canadian territory with a population that is 85% Inuit. Its official languages are the Inuit dialects of Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun as well as English and French.
- In many of Canada's First Nations communities in the more isolated regions, aboriginal languages are retained. English and French are accepted in the community at the community elders discretion.
- In the 2006 Canadian census, information and questions are available in sixty-two languages, including eighteen First Nation languages.
- Paraguay, 48% of its population is bilingual in Guaraní and Spanish, of whom 37% speak only Guaraní and 8% only Spanish but the latter increases with the use of Jopará.
- USA. Three US states are officially bilingual: Louisiana (English and French), New Mexico (English and Spanish), and Hawai'i (English and Hawaiian).
- Three US territories are also bilingual: American Samoa (Samoan and English), Guam (English and Chamorro), and Puerto Rico (Spanish and English). One US territory is trilingual: Northern Marianas Islands (English, Chamorro, and Carolinian)
- In China, Putonghua is the official language, yet local dialects of spoken variants of Chinese, such as Standard Cantonese (Cantonese) or the Shanghai dialect (Wu), are spoken in daily life. In the autonomous regions, minority languages are widely used (such as Tibetan in Tibet or Mongolian in Inner Mongolia).
- In Hong Kong, both English and Chinese are official languages. While Cantonese is the dominant Chinese language, and Putonghua is also spoken. These three languages are taught in schools, and are mandatory subjects.
- In Macau, bnoth Chinese and Portuguese are official languages. While Cantonese is the dominant Chinese language, and Putonghua is also spoken. Chinese is taught in all schools, while Portuguese is mainly taught in government schools. In addition, English is also taught in many schools.
- India: Eighteen official languages. The largest, Hindi, is spoken natively by 18% of the population and is largely understood by educated Indians. English is also widely understood, although mainly in urban parts of the country. An Indian with a high-school education would generally be trilingual - speaking his own native language, in addition to Hindi and English, with varying fluency, both the languages being compulsorily taught in most schools and colleges. For more information, see Indian languages.
- Most people in Indonesia are bilingual at an early age. They speak a local native language with their families whereas the official language Indonesian which is used to communicate with people from other regions and is taught in schools as a compulsory subject. Indonesia has over two hundred native languages.
- Many people in Malaysia are bilingual while Malaysians of Chinese and Indian descent may be trilingual. Malay, the official language of the country, is a compulsory subject learnt in all public schools, and English is the language of instruction for Science and Math. Tamil and several Chinese dialects can also be heard. The indigenious peoples of Sabah and Sarawak speak their ancestral languages (Dayak etc). Multilinguilism is common in Malaysia, most notably among the Chinese and Indian communities.
- Many Koreans living in Japan speak both Korean and Japanese
- Philippines: Filipino and English are official languages in the constitution. People in native Tagalog areas are usually bilingual, while in non-Tagalog speaking areas it's common to be trilingual in the native language, Filipino and English.
- Singapore: English, Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil are all official languages. As English links the different races, a group with diverse races communicate using English. In addition to English, individuals speak their ethnic language, a dialect, and usually have some proficiency with a third language.
- Sri Lanka. Sinhala and Tamil are official language.
- Brussels, the bilingual capital of Belgium (15% Dutch-speaking)
- Finland (5.5% Finland-Swedish, Åland unilingually Swedish). Most Finns are also fluent in English.
- Ireland, where three languages have some form of official status. In the Republic of Ireland, Irish (one of the Goidelic languages) is the first official language while English is the second. Approximately 1.5 million Irish citizens are either fluent or semi-fluent in Irish, making it by far the most commonly spoken Goidelic language. However English is far more commonly used as less than 3% speak Irish as their 1st language and they are all located in the remote Gaeltacht regions. Ulster Scots, a variety of Lowland Scots, is spoken by some in northern regions, but again English is far more commonly used and Ulster Scots is less actively used in media. Irish and Ulster Scots now both have official status in the Northern Ireland as part of the 1998 Belfast Agreement.
- Luxembourg is a rare example of a truly trilingual society, in that it not only has three official languages, Luxembourgish, French and German, but has a trilingual education system. For the first four years, Luxembourgish is the medium of instruction, before giving way to German, which in turn gives way to French. (In addition, children learn English and another European language, usually Spanish or Italian.) Similarly in the country's parliament, debates are conducted in Luxembourgish, draft legislation is drafted in German, while the statute laws are in French.
- ex-Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries: many people fluently speak Russian, especially in Slavic countries within the area of the former USSR (typically in Belarus, Ukraine. However few Poles, Slovaks and Czech people speak Russian, despite huge expenditure in the past)
- Republics of Russia. The language of titular nation is also official in those republics. Chuvash, Bashkir and Mari residents of Tatarstan also use to speak 3 language: own, Russian and Tatar.
- Abkhazia. Elder generation of Abkhaz spoke Georgian, Russian and Abkhaz language
- Parts of Lower Silesia vovoidship of Poland, where live many people for which German is mother tongue
- certain cantons of Switzerland
- Spain, where many regions have more than one official language: Euskadi and Navarra (Basque-Spanish), Galicia (Galego-Spanish), Valencia, Balearic Islands and Catalonia (Catalan-Spanish), but especially in Catalonia, where Spanish and Catalan both enjoy great social esteem and are both used in almost every social situation)
- Sweden. Tornedalen and Haparanda in North Bothnia, Finnish-speaking. Most Swedes are also fluent in English.
- Wales, and to a lesser extent other Celtic-speaking regions of the UK, and London
- In most countries of Former Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian is understood by all three groups (see Serbo-Croatian)
- On the Netherlands Antilles and Aruba, where Dutch is the official language, but most inhabitants of Curaçao, Aruba and Bonaire are multilingual and speak Papiamentu, Dutch, English and Spanish.
- In New Zealand, approximately 10% of the population has some reasonable degree of bilingualism with English and Maori, mostly among the Maori themselves, few are fully fluent in Maori.
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