Bilingualism Tool

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Participatory Methods Tools
Dialect Mapping Tool
Bilingualism Tool
Domains of Language Use Tool
Appreciative Inquiry Tool
Cause and Effect Tree
Stakeholder Analysis
Force Field Analysis
Community Connection Tool
Traffic Light Tool
Wheel of Vitality
Church Domains Tool


The purpose of this tool is to assist speakers of the language in assessing which people are bilingual and to what degree. A secondary purpose is to have them assess the changes that are occurring in bilingualism levels and their feelings about those changes.


  • lots of rectangular slips of paper
  • bold markers for writing
  • long different coloured loops of string for each language
  • lots of plastic markers


Step # Ask/Say Do
1 What are the two languages the [L1] people speak the most? This loop will represent the [L1] people who speak [L1] well. This loop will represent the [L1] people who speak [LWC] well. Lay the circles on the ground.
2 When I overlap the two circles like this, what does this area where they overlap represent? Elicit that it represents [L1] people who speak both [L1] and LWC well.
3 Let’s think first about [L1] people who speak [LWC] well. Which types of [L1] people speak [LWC] well? Have them write each category of people on a separate paper and place in the LWC circle.
4 Which [L1] people speak [L1] well, but do not speak [LWC] well? Have them write the category names and place them in the correct location.
5 Which [L1] people speak both [L1] and [LWC] well? They may need to move some categories. They may need to refine labels they have already written. If they said that young men speak the [LWC] well, they may want to clarify that young men living in the villages speak both well and the young men who were born in the towns only speak the [LWC].
6 We have some plastic pieces that you can use to show which papers represent many people. Place one of these plastic pieces on each paper that represents many people. You may want to use another color to represent the papers that only represent very few people.
7 When we think about people in these three different categories, which category has the most [L1] people? How do you feel about that? Usually the category with the most [L1] people will be the one with the most plastic pieces in it. Let them express their feelings or you could ask “What do you think?”
8 Is one of these three groups increasing more than the others? Why is that? How do you feel about that? Let them express their feelings or thoughts.
9 Could someone please summarise our discussion?


  • In Step 3 you could ask them which group they'd like to discuss first.
  • With non-literate communities, you could have very long ropes and then ask people to role-play each of the language communities by standing inside the ropes.


  • consider whether this tool encourages the provision of expected answers from people
  • in Step 8, watch that you understand exactly what feedback you get. It may be that you are expecting attitudes and in fact elicit beliefs.
  • This tool is designed to elicit perceptions, feelings and attitudes. It does not aim to elicit reality. Take care when interpreting data that you realise this.
  • This outline only deals with 2 languages. Some communities may use 5 or more. It is not clear how this tool could be adapted to such a community.

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