Multilingualism as Cultural Capital?
Study of Studies
Donna L. Confere
• To determine if there is a
correlation between multilingualism
and cognitive ability.
• To determine if multilingualism
translates into higher grades and
greater academic achievement.
• To determine if the number of
languages in which a person has
achieved proficiency impacts their
economic advancement, stability,
• Pierre Bourdieu (1986) The Forms of Capital:
• Cultural capital can exist in three forms: in the embodied state, i.e., in the form of long-
lasting dispositions of the mind and body; in the objectified state, in the form of cultural
goods (pictures, books, dictionaries, instruments, machines, etc.), which are the trace or
realization of theories or critiques of these theories, problematics, etc.; and in
the institutionalized state, a form of objectification which must be set apart because, as
will be seen in the case of educational qualifications, it confers entirely original properties
on the cultural capital which it is presumed to guarantee (241-258).
Shift in research in the 1960s to 1980s:
Multilingual strengths in childhood:
• Good at substitution
• Use of semantic cues
• Metalinguistic awareness
• Making corrections
Multilingual strengths in adulthood:
• Comparison of language rules
• Cognitive reserve
• Abstract thinking
• Greater attention
• Multilingualism accepted
• Job market
• Promotes self-efficacy
• Minority and tribal languages
• Impact on elderly, poor and
• Dialect and “high” form of a
Multilingualism as Cultural Capital
• Language immersion programs
• Focus on literacy
• Multilingualism and multicultural
• Political power of particular
• Immigration and prejudice
• Lack of focused curriculum on
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