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Usefulness of bi/multilingualism

Ms. Brugman wrote re "the question of whether European colonization has
contributed to multilingualism or contributed to monolingualism" that it is
"almost assuredly, both." 

I agree, and this suggests to me that we must be aware here that
multilingualism is not a good in itself; nor is monolingualism. It depends
on the context/country/community/situation. 

In places that have had a long history of monolingualism, there is today
often pressure to get the people to learn a new language that will "help
them enter the global market." In such a context the new bilingualism may
best be opposed for it is a step toward the loss of the now-native language.

In situations like Hawai'i, on the other hand, a colonized nation that is
overwhelmingly monolingual today, many Hawaiians are trying to introduce
bi-lingualism--to teach an upcoming generation to speak Hawaiian (though
98% of their parents do not.) This push toward bi-lingualism seems laudable.

I raised this issue in the first place because I am wary of the celebration
 of borderland polylingualism by borderland intellectuals. These analyses
have been too often, in my experience, mostly a celebration of a much
idealized borderland where people are imagined to be as free to move about
as are the intellectuals theorizing these places. (I guess I have Bhabha
mostly in mind.) Perhaps I am off on an irrelevant tangent.

Though perhaps there is no such thing as a tangent possible in a polytext.

Houston Wood,  Academic Coordinator for Writing
Hawaii Pacific University, Honolulu, HI 96813
808-544-1118 fax:808-544-0862 hlwood@aloha.net