Book Review: The Invention of Multilingualism looks to the future

“What repertoires of meaning, knowledge and philosophical insights, spirituality, connection with our ancestors, are we going to need in [the coming] years. What preparations do we need to be doing now? And, is English going to be enough?” asked Dr. David Gramling, head of UBC department of Central, Eastern, and Northern European studies (CENES).

On Tuesday, August 17, Gramling brought together friends, family, colleagues and linguistic academics over zoom for the launch of their book The Invention of Multilingualism (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Last year, CENES hosted an online lecture series, inviting scholars from around the world to present their studies and research to the UBC CENES community. “This year,” Dr. Gramling said, “we want to turn the focus a little bit onto our own work. In this department of teachers [...] the expertise and experience goes back decades.” He said that it is his hope that in their lecture series this year, we’ll be able to hear from all of the teachers, instructors, language, literature and culture researchers that work in this department.

Hosted and moderated by Ervin Malakaj, the book launch consisted of questions for Dr. Gramling about the writing and research process, with an additional Q&A at the end, encouraging people to stay engaged.

“I think one of the exciting things about this field is that nobody can be an expert. In a setting like [the book launch] you really feel what it’s like to not be able to be the expert that you want to be,” said Dr. Gramling, reflecting back on the event.

Gramling’s book explores multilingualism across the globe and its presence and importance moving into the future. It is focused on multilingualism in daily life, academics, politics, post colonial movements, capitalist society and so much more. It also ends with an alternative to the common European framework of reference (CEFR). “It’s just a different way that people can design their own language-learning. It was just a fun element of the book that I really got a kick out of putting together,” said Dr. Gramling about the book’s ending.

When asked what they think that students at UBC – whether in the CENES department or otherwise – can learn from this book and their research, Gramling replied that “all of us need to accept the challenge of what it means to live in a multilingual world in a volatile time when there are a number of really pressing questions to ask.”

He said that he wants students to “really get a chance to answer some questions about what they think is needed to be an effective, connected citizen of an endangered planet.”

Find future CENES events, such as this one, at