“We are all (potential) plurilinguals”: Plurilingualism as an Overarching, Holistic Concept

  • Enrica Piccardo


In spite of the spark that plurilingualism has given throughout Europe and beyond to the idea that linguistic and cultural diversity is an asset rather than an obstacle, the term plurilingualism itself has not frequently been used in the English-speaking world. Beginning with an analysis of this issue, this paper aims to help readers better understand the nature of the concept of plurilingualism and reflect on its social and educational value. To do so, it firstly presents the term from a historical and comparative perspective in relation to other terms used in the English-speaking literature. It then moves on to explain the crucial difference between plurilingualism and multilingualism, thus introducing the notion of dynamic repertoire and its underlying theoretical perspective. Finally, the article introduces the descriptors for plurilingual and pluricultural competence from the newly released CEFR Companion Volume, together with the potential for these descriptors to facilitate mediation and plurilanguaging among learners and to foster a new, open, and positive attitude towards linguistic and cultural diversity in language classes.

Keywords: plurilingualism, multilingualism, plurilanguaging, CEFR, mediation