The article has been automatically translated into English by Google Translate from Russian and has not been edited.

Who are bilingual?

Anya Ice



That seems to be a simple question, to which every (at least English-speaking) schoolchild should know the answer. However, on my exam, it was probably one of the most tricky questions ... How would you answer it?

Photo from the personal archive of the author.
People who speak two languages ​​are called bilinguals, three are polylinguals, and more than three are polyglots. Since language is a function of social groups, to be bilingual means to belong simultaneously to two different social groups..

The tricky question of who such bilinguals, as some of you guessed, was precisely the ambiguity of this term. My supervisor mentioned an article during the exam (I haven’t read it yet, I have to find it), which describes how the understanding of this word has changed in American linguistics over the past 50 years.

In the 1970s, bilinguals were indeed considered those who were fluent in two (or more) languages, but further research showed that it is almost impossible to be equally proficient in two languages. Even those who at first glance demonstrate such knowledge of two languages, in fact, are usually stronger in one of them. The most common situation for a bilingual is the distribution of languages ​​by spheres. For example, one language can better serve for expressing feelings, the other - for talking on professional topics (this is how mine, for example, is why I am writing here in Russian, trying to balance this matter)). Those whose languages ​​are at about the same level are called in English balanced bilinguals (whoever comes up with the best translation will receive a postcard from Los Angeles as a gift). However, there is an almost two-page list of “other kinds of bilinguals” in the bilingual handbook that I studied before the exams. However, most definitions do not talk about WHEN a person learned languages ​​and HOW they use them. Only the degree of ownership is mentioned.

Interestingly, many of those whom modern linguists would call bilinguals do not consider themselves to be such, arguing that they do not speak two languages ​​perfectly. Well, what can I say to that ... are you sure that you speak your native language perfectly? Personally, I'm not sure.

Do you consider yourself a bilingual or not? Why? The question is, of course, for those who at least to some extent know more than one language.

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