THE WORLD’S MOST MULTILINGUAL CITIES
(P2) According to data from Ethnologue, a reference work documenting the world’s living languages, the countries with the largest number of spoken languages include Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Nigeria, and India, all with more than 300 unique tongues spoken within their borders.
(P3) To understand how that language diversity impacts daily life, we sought out locals and expats in their most populous cities – where residents are most likely be exposed to a number of languages on a daily basis – and asked them what it’s like to live in a place where so many cultures and communities COINCIDE everyday.
(P4) Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea
(P5) Papua New Guinea (PNG) has the world’s highest number of spoken languages (more than 800). The diversity springs from the country’s geography of difficult TERRAIN, which kept hundreds of customary societies and clans separate for centuries.
(P6) As the capital and largest city in PNG, Port Moresby has drawn people from many of these small villages to find work, while a recent MINING BOOM has attracted a SIZEABLE expat community, making the city an increasingly diverse place to live. Safety is a top concern here, however, and PRECAUTIONS like not driving alone must be taken to avoid GANG violence and ORGANISED CRIME.
(P7) Still, that shouldn’t DETER people from experiencing life in PNG, said expat Clara Raven, who moved from London nearly two years ago. “What you get exposed to here is life changing,” she said. “It’s such a unique place to be.”
(P8) It’s easy to get around the city as an English speaker, since the country’s business language is English and many expats are Australian. You will also commonly hear Tok Pisen, Raven said, which is a PIDGIN English and one of the country’s four official national languages (which also include English, Hiri Motu, and Papuan New Guinean sign language).
(P9) Jakarta, Indonesia
(P10) The most POPULOUS city in Southeast Asia, with 11 million residents, Jakarta attracts expats from throughout the region for its economic opportunities. As such, it’s common to hear a number of the more than 700 languages spoken in Indonesia. The country has a similar geographic diversity to PNG, and is made up of more than 17,000 islands.
(P11) “It’s REFRESHING; you get to meet people who are not of the same BACKGROUND as you,” said Jakarta native Peter Richie Putra. “A lot of cultures are mixed with one another and that’s a good thing.”
(P12) To make friends with local Indonesians, you need to make the effort to get out of your own neighbourhood, said Brett McGuire, who moved to the city from Australia more than 10 years ago. “It’s a very VIBRANT and DYNAMIC city. If you are prepared to step out of your COMFORT ZONE, you will have a great time and be so much the better for it,” he said.
(P13) The country’s official language is Indonesian, and it helps to at least have a rough GRASP of it in order to communicate in Jakarta. “I often hear people say that Indonesian is an easy language to learn. It’s not. The truth is that Indonesians will let you BUTCHER their language in the interests of communication,” McGuire said. “The result is that you can get away with very basic Indonesian. No one is going to laugh at you or correct your grammar. Most, if not all, Indonesians will be THRILLED that you HAD A GO at their language.”
(P14) Lagos, Nigeria
(P15) More than 500 DISTINCT ethnic groups inhabit Nigeria, and each has their own language. Though many are spoken in small, rural villages, you’ll hear a large range of them in the country’s largest city and commercial capital, Lagos, especially as more rural MIGRANTS come to find work.
(P16) “It is pretty common for people to speak two or more languages in addition to English, which is the official language,” said Idowu Koyenikan, originally from Lagos and now living in the United States. After English, the major languages include Hausa, Yoruba, and Igbo.
(P17) But those who want to move here to learn another language must put some effort into it. “The more AFFLUENT the neighbourhood, the more English dominates and the less likely an expat is to experience interactions in Nigerian languages,” said Dr Laine Strutton, an American who lived throughout Nigeria during her PhD studies. “I studied Igbo for a year, and it was IMPERATIVE that I stayed in rural Igbo villages in the Niger Delta in order to be able to really practice the language.”
(P18) No matter the language, the residents of Lagos are “fun-loving people”, Koyenikan said, with the city known for its NIGHTLIFE and energy.
(P19) Delhi, India
(P20) More than 400 languages are spoken throughout India, and the capital, Delhi, hears a huge mix of them, including Hindi, English, Urdu and Punjabi. “Everywhere you go in Delhi there are people from all WALKS OF LIFE, from different states, who speak different languages,” said Sayani Ghosh. While English is the written and business language, it can be helpful to learn some Hindi and Punjabi, as they are the most widely spoken languages.
(P21) Despite its large population and crowded streets, Delhi also has a number of GREEN SPACES and parks where families CONGREGATE in the evening, and residents escape from the FRANTIC pace of daily life.
If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.
- Briefly summarize the content of the article in your own words.
- All four of these cities have problems with high levels of crime, unfortunately, especially Port Moresby and Lagos. Are there cities you would not visit because they are too dangerous?
- Are many languages commonly spoken in your country, or only one or two?
- What challenges face a country like India that has many native languages?
- Do you have experience with any languages besides your native language and English?
EXPRESSIONS TO PRACTICE:
What do the following expressions mean? Practice using each expression in a sentence; extra points if you can use it in conversation.
- Get by
- Organised crime
- Comfort zone
- Have a go
- Walk of life
- Green space