The challenge of bilingualism in a multilingual society: The Bolivian Case

Live Drange Danbolt (1)
(1) NLA, School of Religion, Education and Intercultural Studies, Bergen, Norway, Norway


Bolivia is a multilingual society recognising as many as 36 different ethnic groups with more or less different languages. The attitude towards bilingualism is based on experiences acquired over centuries through a history characterized by a minority ruling the majority. As in the other Latin American countries the ruling elite of Spanish descent has systematically neglected the culture and languages of the indigenous peoples. The Educational Reform of 1994 represented a significant shift in language and education policy, promoting bilingual primary education in areas dominated by indigenous people and replacing French with an indigenous language in secondary school. The Constitution of 2009 establishes Bolivia as a multilingual state and requires that all public employees talk at least two of the country’s official languages. It was followed by a new Education Act that promotes the process of decolonization of the education and makes it more multicultural aiming to strengthen the country’s different cultures and languages. The article examines the discussion on and attitudes towards bilingualism and evaluates the impact of the official policy aiming at changing the situation for bilinguals.

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Live Drange Danbolt (Primary Contact)
Author Biography

Live Drange Danbolt, NLA, School of Religion, Education and Intercultural Studies, Bergen, Norway

Associate professor Live Danbolt Drange is working at NLA University College, Intercultural Studies in Bergen, Norway, a private institution based in the Norwegian lay Christian movement. She has published several articles on intercultural education, literacy, and subjects related to indigenous cosmology and conversion from Catholicism to evangelical churches. Research interests include effects of indigenous migration, religion and educational themes in the Andean area, especially Bolivia and Ecuador.

Danbolt, L. D. (2011). The challenge of bilingualism in a multilingual society: The Bolivian Case. Journal of Intercultural Communication, 11(3), 1–15.

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