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Multilingualism: Switzerland and Belgium

Like others, David Heap quotes the case of Switzerland to prove that linguistic unity is not necessary for political stability and Central America to prove that linguistic unity does not guarantee it. Political stability is largely the result of tradition. The US with its democratic heritage is stable, Central America, with its authoritarian heritage is not. The case of Switzerland is special. There are four languages, and most people do not learn the other three. The result is a growing tendency to use English for correspondence between the various areas. English may become its de facto national language. Something similar is happening in Belgium. Both Switzerland and Belgium are stable, but the tensions among the regions are very real. The cost of four national languages and the legal problems presented by agreeing on texts is expensive and frustrating.

Ronald Hilton - 11/27/02