Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

This is a room for the discussion of travel plans or experiences and the culture of places you have visited or plan to visit.
User avatar
PeterMollenburg
Brown Belt
Posts: 1378
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:54 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), French (B2-certified), Dutch (High A2?), Spanish (~A1), German (long-forgotten 99%)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=784
x 2335

Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby PeterMollenburg » Mon Aug 08, 2016 2:24 am

After going off topic a little in the thread about Luxembourgish I thought I'd start a new thread as I find this topic intriguing.

Where do you know of/ have lived/ visited/ heard of where the use of more than one language is the norm/required/expected/official? I don't mean areas in which, say the population has a good level of English (eg Netherlands) through education, business and the like. English is likely the exception. I mean those areas a little more unique than that. Statistics are welcome :)

I'll introduce one to start and give some idea of the kind of 'uniqueness' I guess I find particularly interesting. Still it doesn't have to appeal to my idea of 'unique' feel free to add your own places of linguistic curiousity for whatever reason.

Llívia

It's a 12 square kilometre Spanish exclave just across the border but entirely within France (albeit only by around 4 kms apparently). For historical reasons and due to it's status as a 'town' the area was not included as part of France once the border between France and Spain had been finally settled. It was an exception. The local language is apparently Catalan, but locals reportedly speak French and Castillian as well. Intriguing indeed. There appears to be little information on the area, but I came across these two links which elaborate slightly on the situation (but not so much on the linguistic situation).

English: http://itotd.com/articles/571/llivia/

French: https://ctl1120.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/llivia-une-enclave-espagnole-dans-les-pyrenees-francaises/
2 x

anamsc
Yellow Belt
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:39 am
Location: UK
Languages: English, español, català, français, Deutsch
Learning: Malti
x 100

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby anamsc » Mon Aug 08, 2016 2:42 am

I lived in Andorra, which is officially monolingual but in practice multilingual. Everyone who grows up there speaks Catalan and Spanish (usually people have one that is stronger and may have an accent in the other, but they speak both fluently), and most have some level in French. (There's a town called Pas de la Casa that is close to France and has a lot of French tourists; I think most people are fluent in French there.) In addition, there is a large amount of Portuguese immigrants and people of Portuguese descent, many of whom have some fluency in Portuguese. Basically, Spanish and Catalan are used in daily life, while most children go through French-medium (French-Catalan bilingual or French-only) education. There are a few schools that are Catalan-only or Spanish-Catalan bilingual. One thing that's nice about Andorra for us language learners is that most people don't speak English. :) Also, if you address someone in a service position (bus driver, cashier, etc.) in Catalan, they are legally obligated to respond in Catalan (recent immigrants often speak some sort of a Romance mixture, which I think counts as close enough).

Sorry, I don't have any statistics, but I hope this is the sort of info you were looking for!

Edit: One of those links about Llívia mentioned border areas, so I wanted to add a bit. I lived in a France-Germany border area (on the German side), and was pretty disappointed by how little French there was. I believe everyone has to take it in school, and there's a lot of tourists, but there wasn't much French in day-to-day life.
3 x

User avatar
PeterMollenburg
Brown Belt
Posts: 1378
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:54 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), French (B2-certified), Dutch (High A2?), Spanish (~A1), German (long-forgotten 99%)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=784
x 2335

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby PeterMollenburg » Mon Aug 08, 2016 2:51 am

anamsc wrote:I lived in Andorra.....

Sorry, I don't have any statistics, but I hope this is the sort of info you were looking for!


Exactly the kind of thing I was after, but of course this can be an 'open discussion' ie it doesn't have to just cater to my curiosities. Such a fascinating topic and thank you for sharing your equally fascinating experience (I was just reading about Andorra this morning too, including Pas de Casa, nice to have some first hand experience shared on the linguistic situation. Statistics are nice, but even better perhaps is anecdotal first hand experience. Merci anamsc :) Did you enjoy living there?
0 x

anamsc
Yellow Belt
Posts: 51
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2015 10:39 am
Location: UK
Languages: English, español, català, français, Deutsch
Learning: Malti
x 100

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby anamsc » Mon Aug 08, 2016 2:50 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:
anamsc wrote:I lived in Andorra.....

Sorry, I don't have any statistics, but I hope this is the sort of info you were looking for!


Exactly the kind of thing I was after, but of course this can be an 'open discussion' ie it doesn't have to just cater to my curiosities. Such a fascinating topic and thank you for sharing your equally fascinating experience (I was just reading about Andorra this morning too, including Pas de Casa, nice to have some first hand experience shared on the linguistic situation. Statistics are nice, but even better perhaps is anecdotal first hand experience. Merci anamsc :) Did you enjoy living there?


De res :). Yes, I did enjoy living in Andorra -- like I said, it's ideal for a language learner, since nobody speaks English and people have to speak to you in Catalan. (And most people are very encouraging about foreigners speaking Catalan!) But it's very, very small, and unlike something like Luxembourg, it's pretty isolated (there's no trains, and the nearest airport is a 3h bus ride away, for example).
3 x

User avatar
Ogrim
Green Belt
Posts: 460
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:29 am
Location: Strasbourg, France
Languages: Norwegian (N), English (C2), French (C2), Spanish (C2), German (B2), Romansh (B2), Italian (B2), Catalan (C1 passive), Latin (B1 passive) Russian (studying), Arabic (studying)
x 1205

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby Ogrim » Mon Aug 08, 2016 3:22 pm

PeterMollenburg wrote:Llívia

It's a 12 square kilometre Spanish exclave just across the border but entirely within France (albeit only by around 4 kms apparently). For historical reasons and due to it's status as a 'town' the area was not included as part of France once the border between France and Spain had been finally settled. It was an exception. The local language is apparently Catalan, but locals reportedly speak French and Castillian as well. Intriguing indeed. There appears to be little information on the area, but I came across these two links which elaborate slightly on the situation (but not so much on the linguistic situation).

English: http://itotd.com/articles/571/llivia/

French: https://ctl1120.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/llivia-une-enclave-espagnole-dans-les-pyrenees-francaises/


Thanks for sharing this information about Llívia, I had never heard about the place before. It made me curious so I did a search and found the website of the local authorities (ajuntament in Catalan). The site is only in Catalan, so that is clearly the language of the approximately 1500 inhabitants of the town, although I am pretty sure they must know French as well.

I cannot really say that Alsace region, where I live now, is multilingual in the sense that
the use of more than one language is the norm/required/expected/official,
because French is the only official language in France. However, a third of the population are native Alsatian speakers, and another third have some knowledge of the language, so in practice many villages and towns are bilingual, and even in the capital Strasbourg you can hear Alsatian on a daily basis in the streets and shops. Furthermore, German is de facto a second language for most Alsatians, and most schools here offer a bilingual education (French and German). In addition to all that, Strasbourg is the home of several European institutions, so there are big expat-communities from e.g. Turkey, Russia, Romania, Italy and Spain.
2 x

User avatar
PeterMollenburg
Brown Belt
Posts: 1378
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:54 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), French (B2-certified), Dutch (High A2?), Spanish (~A1), German (long-forgotten 99%)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=784
x 2335

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby PeterMollenburg » Tue Aug 09, 2016 1:36 am

anamsc wrote:
PeterMollenburg wrote:Did you enjoy living there?


De res :). Yes, I did enjoy living in Andorra -- like I said, it's ideal for a language learner, since nobody speaks English and people have to speak to you in Catalan. (And most people are very encouraging about foreigners speaking Catalan!) But it's very, very small, and unlike something like Luxembourg, it's pretty isolated (there's no trains, and the nearest airport is a 3h bus ride away, for example).


I certainly like to hear about places where multiple languages are the norm and English is not readily used. I have often read up on Andorra (like many other linguistically, culturally, or geopolitical curious regions) and also saw Le Tour de France pass through there this year (malheureusement seulement comme téléspectateur). And yeah it does seem somewhat isolated and clearly due to it's geography, rather cold and possibly wet as well. Although it's not a place i'd be very keen to live long term, it would be very nice to visit or spend considerable time to take in the linguistic and cultural atmosphere. Perhaps when Catalan is added to my wanderlusting list which grows on occasion my motivation may rise considerably. Thanks for sharing!
0 x

sillygoose1
Green Belt
Posts: 263
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 6:25 pm
Location: USA
Languages: Languages:
(N) English
(C2) French
(C1) Spanish
(B2) German
(A2) Russian
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=751
x 351

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby sillygoose1 » Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:00 am

I especially like the situation in Malta where I think more than 65% of the inhabitants are trilingual in Maltese, English, and Italian. Apparently it's not uncommon for some to speak French also. From what I've read, most people prefer to use Maltese to speak to each other although Italian is pretty popular in the media/news outlets. More than 60% of Maltese's vocab comes from Sicilian/Italian, plus there's a unique code switching with Maltese and English, so I wouldn't be surprised if all three languages could easily show up in an everyday conversation.

Then there's Luxembourg who takes that to another level. Luxembourgish, English, French, and German proficiency are supposedly required for the inhabitants and since a lot of them are from immigrant backgrounds, adding Portuguese or Italian to the list isn't all that unheard of. French is for diplomatic/government concerns, German for education, and Luxembourgish for everyday life.
2 x

User avatar
PeterMollenburg
Brown Belt
Posts: 1378
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:54 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), French (B2-certified), Dutch (High A2?), Spanish (~A1), German (long-forgotten 99%)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=784
x 2335

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby PeterMollenburg » Tue Aug 09, 2016 8:50 am

Ogrim wrote:Thanks for sharing this information about Llívia, I had never heard about the place before. It made me curious so I did a search and found the website of the local authorities (ajuntament in Catalan). The site is only in Catalan, so that is clearly the language of the approximately 1500 inhabitants of the town, although I am pretty sure they must know French as well.


No problem. Yes it's a curious little area on the globe. I knew there was some info in Catalan but not being in any way proficient in Catalan I didn't attempt to find this info. I must say, although I speak/know a lot less in the way of European languages than yourself (your list and corresponding levels of European languages is very impressive btw), but it's so nice to surf the net now and read a ton of interesting information in French on such topics, even if I could readily find the same info in English. Perhaps some day, like yourself, I'll be able to find such info in more than one foreign language while reading it and understanding it just as easily as I do French now. It's such a rewarding thing, to reach such a level in another language. Llívia is in such a nice position for me personally- surrounded by French (my favourite foreign language), Spanish readily spoken (2nd or 3rd favourite language) and another new interesting language to learn which I've never studied but yet closely related to the other 2. Only thing is, for me, like Andorra, it's perhaps a little too isolated and cold there (i'm spoiled being Australian, even in the 2nd coldest state, it's warm here by EU standards).

Ogrim wrote:I cannot really say that Alsace region, where I live now, is multilingual in the sense that
the use of more than one language is the norm/required/expected/official,
because French is the only official language in France. However, a third of the population are native Alsatian speakers, and another third have some knowledge of the language, so in practice many villages and towns are bilingual, and even in the capital Strasbourg you can hear Alsatian on a daily basis in the streets and shops. Furthermore, German is de facto a second language for most Alsatians, and most schools here offer a bilingual education (French and German). In addition to all that, Strasbourg is the home of several European institutions, so there are big expat-communities from e.g. Turkey, Russia, Romania, Italy and Spain.


Doesn't have to strictly relate to my specifications, this is still the exact kind of thing I find interesting, and I'm sure others do. I did my usual thing, searched 'alsacien' found it on French wikipedia and read away. Although the statistics given in wikipedia basically grouped all dialects together as one language (Elsässisch / Elsàssisch) I found it very interesting that the numbers as as high as the are- between 600 and 700,000 speakers, which places it only behind Occitan on French territory for number of speakers for regional languages (again grouping all variations of Occitan dialects as one single language for the purpose of garnering total numbers). Cool to know about this language. And although I could've found the answer to this following question in wikipedia with a little bit of analysis, i'll ask yourself Ogrim... how close is it the Alsatian language/dialects to standard German and how different are the dialects from one extreme of the dialectal continuim to the other, in your personal experience?

And to add another interesting geopolitical note along the lines of Llívia and exclave, minus the linguistic diversity, here's one for you...

Baarle-Hertog is a Belgian exclave just inside the Dutch border. It's a very messy patchwork of borders, it's that crazy that there are pieces, yes 'pieces' of Belgium inside of the Nethelands (or exclaves) in which there are then Dutch enclaves inside of those Belgian exclaves. Search Baarle-Hertog on google maps and take a look at the lines designating the Dutch-Belgian border(s).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baarle-Hertog
1 x

User avatar
Ogrim
Green Belt
Posts: 460
Joined: Mon Jul 27, 2015 10:29 am
Location: Strasbourg, France
Languages: Norwegian (N), English (C2), French (C2), Spanish (C2), German (B2), Romansh (B2), Italian (B2), Catalan (C1 passive), Latin (B1 passive) Russian (studying), Arabic (studying)
x 1205

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby Ogrim » Tue Aug 09, 2016 2:09 pm

I've actually been in Baarle-Hertog and Barle-Nassau (which is the name Dutch town which also has enclaves within the Belgian enclaves). It is quite curious, but as there are no border controls ;) you do not notice when you leave Belgium and enter the Netherlands. You cross a street and you are in another country. And there are several houses which stand in both countries. I was told a story which I don't know if is true, but apparently a murder was committed in a house with the entrance in Belgium, but the dead body was found in a room in the part of the house that was on Dutch soil, so both Dutch and Belgian police claimed that it was for the other country's police force to investigate the murder. It created a minor diplomatic incident between the two countries, but in the end investigators from both countires agreed to cooperate.

Regarding Alsatian, it is not extremely different from standard German, but enough to make it a challenge to understand it when spoken. Alsatian dialects are part of a dialect continuum that also covers part of Switzerland (Basel dialects) and the German state of Baden-Württemberg. I am not enough of an expert to really hear the difference between the various dialects that are called Alsatian - I have never seriously studied the language.

If you want to hear how Alsatian sounds, and get an idea of how it is used in daily life in Alsatian villages today, then I recommend this series called Hopla Trio - all episodes are on YouTube. It is not the greatest TV show on earth, but one of the few out there with a lot of Alsatian spoken. The way the people in the show mix and switch back and forth between Alsatian and French is in my view quite accurate and what happens in real life as well.

3 x

User avatar
PeterMollenburg
Brown Belt
Posts: 1378
Joined: Wed Jul 22, 2015 11:54 am
Location: Australia
Languages: English (N), French (B2-certified), Dutch (High A2?), Spanish (~A1), German (long-forgotten 99%)
Language Log: viewtopic.php?f=15&t=784
x 2335

Re: Unique multilingual regions, cities, towns etc

Postby PeterMollenburg » Wed Aug 10, 2016 10:03 am

sillygoose1 wrote:I especially like the situation in Malta where I think more than 65% of the inhabitants are trilingual in Maltese, English, and Italian. Apparently it's not uncommon for some to speak French also. From what I've read, most people prefer to use Maltese to speak to each other although Italian is pretty popular in the media/news outlets. More than 60% of Maltese's vocab comes from Sicilian/Italian, plus there's a unique code switching with Maltese and English, so I wouldn't be surprised if all three languages could easily show up in an everyday conversation.

Then there's Luxembourg who takes that to another level. Luxembourgish, English, French, and German proficiency are supposedly required for the inhabitants and since a lot of them are from immigrant backgrounds, adding Portuguese or Italian to the list isn't all that unheard of. French is for diplomatic/government concerns, German for education, and Luxembourgish for everyday life.


I agree sillygoose1, these places from a linguistic perspective are very interesting (i'm assuming you find them interesting, as do I). The situation in Malta doesn't interest me as much as the situation in Luxembourg due to the languages spoken there, but that's just a personal preference. Malta has much more sun, and that is a win! I have visited Luxembourg myself many years ago now, but unfortunately didn't find the place very interesting, again, personal preference. Linguistically, it's awesome, but as a place to live, well let's face it, i'd be only choosing for linguistic reasons (edit: and potentially a good pay packet) and although that would be somewhat fun for a while, I don't think the country would hold my interest long enough outside of languages. I could be wrong of course- when I visited I knew very little in the way of languages and I'd at least find a return visit more interesting than my initial visit.

On the subject of Luxembourg and the languages spoken/taught there I opened this thread (below) many months ago now and have had some rather detailed replies, including some first hand anecdotal feedback from Chokofingrz who lived there for almost two decades:
http://forum.language-learners.org/viewtopic.php?f=14&t=1720
0 x


Return to “Travel and Culture”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest