Multilingual People

How many languages do you speak? Are you monolingual, bilingual, trilingual, multilingual, or polyglot? After reading this article, we would appreciate sharing your experience with us, by commenting below, especially if you speak more than one language. Let’s start by looking at the definition first:

  • Monolingual: A person knowing only one language (40% of world population)
  • Bilingual: A person using or able to use two languages especially with equal fluency (43% of world population)
  • Trilingual: A person speaking three languages fluently (13% of world population)
  • Multilingual: A person who speaks more than two languages, but used often for four languages or more (3% of world population speak more than 4 languages)
  • Polyglot: Someone with a high degree of proficiency in several languages (less than 1‰ of world population speak 5 languages fluently)

A monolingual is someone who knows only one language. Statistically, that fact is usually observed in English speaking countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, based on the perception that learning a second language is of little relevance or importance, since the majority of the world already speak English as a their first or second language.

A bilingual is a person who acquired two languages, usually as a first language (mother tongue) and a second language, acquired either simultaneously or later in life. Even in the case of simultaneous bilinguals one language usually dominates over the other. This category of people is actually the most prevalent in the world (43%). It is more noticeable within the Hispanic community in the U.S (English + Spanish), French speaking countries in Africa (French + native language), and immigrants in general who migrate from their native countries to English speaking countries.

A trilingual is the same as a bilingual but speaks also a third language. You will find more trilinguals in Hong Kong (Mandarin, Cantonese, and English), Norway (Norwegian, Swedish, English), the Philippines (Tagalog, Spanish, English) and many other countries where there is more than one foreign influence.

Multilinguals and polyglots are those who speak more than 4 languages, they are obviously less common, in fact only around 3% for 4 language speakers and less than one per thousand for those who speak more than 5 languages. There are countries known to have more multilinguals and polyglots in higher percentages, such as in Switzerland (German, Italian, French, Romansh, and English), Morocco (Arabic, French, Spanish, Moroccan and English). In this category, factors such as foreign influence, diversity in the vocabulary of the native language are leading factors. For example the Moroccan dialect is rich with foreign words; it contains a mixture of Arabic, French, and Spanish words. That fact alone already gives the speaker an advantage and a head start towards multilingualism.

Here are factors that contribute to speaking more than one language:

  • If you speak one language at home and another outside with friends, at school or at work.
  • If your native language is full of foreign words.
  • If you live in a country influenced by other cultures and eventually other languages.
  • If you live in a country with open borders with other nations speaking different languages.
  • If you love languages and willing to dedicate time learning them.
  • Ability to learn and memorize a good number of new words.
  • Interest in grammar and attention to detail.

The main factor to language learning is the desire to learn. You can become a polyglot even if you only speak one language. Just take one step at a time and one language at a time. Good luck!

If you're ready to learn a new language visit our HOMEPAGE and learn more than 106 languages with audio.

Did you know? An average native person of many languages uses only a very small number of vocabulary on a daily basis. This means that you can actually speak the language to a certain acceptable level simply by visiting the above pages.

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