It is often assumed that there are obvious and inherent disadvantages suffered by states which are linguistically heterogeneous. Linguistic heterogeneity thus becomes a ‘problem’ to which an answer must be found, whereas linguistically homogeneous states do not share this problem. How far is this in practice true? The title of this seminar ‘Social Implications of Multilingualism in East Africa’ would seem to be asking precisely this question. The intention of this paper is to examine how we may describe the extent and degree of multilingualism in a nation and the problems arising from it, taking Uganda as an example. The point made is that it is necessary to examine different levels of political and administrative organization in order to define the type and degree of multilingualism that is operating at each level. No overall statements concerning the social implications of multilingualism in a nation are possible without considering the level at which they apply. What is a problem at county or district level may cease to be one at national level, and vice versa.