A central argument in many contemporary accounts of multilingualism is that language research has tended to work with monolingualism as a norm and that such a construct is inappropriate because a majority of people are in fact multilingual. This argument, which celebrates the shift from monolingualism to multilingualism, does not, from the point of view of a renewed southern perspective, do enough to question the underlying premises of its own position. It underestimates the resilience of a monolingual ideology at the heart of much research on language, and the resultant idea of enumerable multilingualism does not take us far enough. Even if we accept that there has been a conceptual shift from a focus on monolingualism to multilingualism, as reflected in the discourses of much established scholarship, a problem still remains with the idea of a ‘language’, as it represents a complex interplay between contemporary and colonial interests. If, however, we grasp the full implications of the impossibility of the central concept of language, it becomes clear that we cannot, in fact, critique and then pluralize monolingualism. The next step, therefore, is to move towards an understanding of the relationships among language resources as used by certain communities (the linguistic resources that users draw on), local language practices (the use of these language resources in specific contexts), and language users’ relationship to language varieties (the social, economic, and cultural positioning of the speakers). From this point of view, we can start to move away from both mono- and multilingual orientations to language and take on board insights from outside the mainstream of language studies. Flexible notions about multilingualism may lead us to generate concepts about language that are appropriate to the Global South and, at the same time, may liberate the Global North from rigid views about language.