The media in Anglophone countries regularly engage in a bit of a bragfest about the linguistic diversity of their cities. In Sydney, where I live, the local paper only recently boasted: ‘From Afrikaans to Telugu, Hebrew to Wu, the depth and diversity of languages in Sydney rivals some of the world’s largest cities.’ Not to be outdone, Melbourne – Sydney’s eternal rival for urban preeminence in Australia – quickly followed suit and declared itself ‘justifiably proud of its linguistic diversity’ because ‘more languages are spoken in Melbourne than there are countries in the world.’ These two Australian cities are not alone in their rivalry over the greater number of languages spoken in their communities. Across the Pacific, Canadian media, too, tally the linguistic diversity of Canadian cities and find ‘Toronto leading the pack in language diversity, followed by Vancouver and Montreal.’ Similarly, the media of Canada’s southern neighbor suggest that US cities, too, compete in some kind of multilingualism championship: ‘New York remains the most multilingual city in the country, with 47% of its massive population speaking at least two languages.’ Continuing our journey east across the Atlantic, British media play the same game and we learn that Manchester has been ‘revealed as most linguistically diverse city in western Europe’ while London is celebrated as the ‘multilingual capital of the world.’
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- 200401 applied linguistics and educational linguistics
- 200405 language in culture and society (sociolinguistics)