by JILL KUSHNER BISHOP, Multilingual Connections
You may recall the old joke:
What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual.
Two languages? Bilingual.
One language? American.
The study of world languages among Americans lags far behind that of many other countries, with less than seven percent of American college students enrolled in language courses. Among adults who studied a second language in school, less than one percent claim to be proficient.
Despite the sad state of world language education in the US, that old joke applies less and less all the time. The American Community Survey of 2013 study found that one in five US residents—almost 62 million people—speaks a language other than English at home, with 41% speaking English “less than very well”.
When research brings you to multilingual communities—whether in the US or globally—it’s essential to consider the linguistic and cultural preferences of your target audience. Assuming you’re doing work in their language of choice,...