Worldview

What Do You Call Someone Who’s Monolingual? American

A toddler reaches for a drawing in her Florida home where her Polish-Canadian mother speaks to her in French, her father in Italian, and her Honduran nanny in Spanish. AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee

Julian Hayda, Jerome McDonnell

The United States is one of the few countries in the world that doesn’t have a large multilingual population. 

In the past, speaking more than one language was considered unpatriotic or even outright threatening. Today, aversion to multilingualism is rooted in pseudo-scientific beliefs that children who are exposed to multiple languages end up with cognitive difficulty. 

But speaking more than one language has many proven positive effects according to Judith F. Kroll, distinguished professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside. Kroll is presenting a lecture on the consequences of bilingualism for mind, brain, and society at Northwestern University on Wednesday, and joins Worldview to discuss the benefits of learning a language other than English.