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Book: The Five-Minute Linguist

Chapter: 38. What Does it Mean to be Bilingual?

DOI: 10.1558/equinox.38158


About two-thirds of the world’s population uses two or more languages in their everyday lives: they are bi- or multi-linguals. Being bilingual offers a unique way for the creative and purposeful use of one’s language resources to ‘do’ things in social life, to express one’s linguistic and cultural identities, and to make sense of social reality. This chapter discusses what it means to be bilingual from a linguistic, socio-cultural, developmental and cognitive perspective. It aims to misspell some common misconceptions about bilinguals and their often-stigmatized language practices such as code-switching, while addressing the challenges and advantages of becoming, being and staying bilingual over the lifespan.

Chapter Contributors

  • Agnes Bolonyai ( - abolonya) 'North Carolina State University'