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Bilingualism and Multilingualism: Home



BT Language and languages

      Languages in contact


NT Air traffic control, Bilingual

       Code switching (Linguistics)

       Education, Bilingual

       Interference (Linguistics)

       Language attrition

Bilingualism and literature  

UF Literature and bilingualism

BT Literature

Bilingualism in children  

BT Children

Bilingualism in children—Parent participation  

UF Parent involvement in bilingualism in children

Parent participation in bilingualism in children

Parental involvement in bilingualism in children

Parental participation in bilingualism in children

Bilingualism in literature  


UF Plurilingualism


BT Language and languages

NT Bilingualism

      Multilingual education

Multilingualism and literature  

UF  Literature and multilingualism

BT  Literature

Multilingualism in children  

BT  Children


Bilingualism and Multilingualism

Scope Note

Bilingualism is the ability to speak two languages. It may be acquired early by children in regions where most adults speak two languages (e.g., French and dialectal German in Alsace). Children may also become bilingual by learning languages in two different social settings; for example, British children in British India learned an Indian language from their nurses and family servants. A second language can also be acquired in school. Bilingualism can also refer to the use of two languages in teaching, especially to foster learning in students trying to learn a new language. Advocates of bilingual education in the U.S. argue that it speeds learning in all subjects for children who speak a foreign language at home and prevents them from being marginalized in English-language schools. Detractors counter that it hinders such children from mastering the language of the larger society and limits their opportunities for employment and higher education (Merriam-Webster, 2013).

Multilingualism is defined as the use of three or more languages, but this entails defining what a language is, which can be problematic.
 Researchers need to decide on the degree of proficiency and functional capability multilinguals are required to have for a language to count in their study, and weigh up the implications of psycholinguistic (eg, mutual intelligibility and psychotypological perception), cultural, political, and affective criteria, together with literacy. Researchers should specify what they mean by ‘multilingual’ (Multilingualism, 2012).

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