Bilingual? I certainly am not

Singapore
August 15, 2008 11:51pm CST
Most people I know always say that we are bilingual. Yes I agree that most of us can communicate in two languages. however, i don't consider myself bilingual as i've always believed that being bilingual means knowing two languages very well. at last my belief has been validated. check out the following article about how Prof Kubler defines bilingual. My Mandarin is good enough to be considered a native speaker, but my English can only convince people that I was educated in a English-speaking country. Hopefully I can improve further on my English until I am as good as a native English speaker. cheers ;p Article taken from http://www.straitstimes.com.sg/: Few people are really bilingual MANY people consider themselves bilingual. But being bilingual means that one is equally good in two languages, and most would find this hard to pull off, says Professor Cornelius Kubler. 'Being bilingual means that you know the language so well that when you go to other countries, others think that you are native,' said Prof Kubler, who heads Asian Studies at Williams College. It usually means one has to start learning both languages before age 12, said Prof Kubler, who is bilingual in English and German and speaks 12 languages and dialects, including French and Hokkien. 'I'm certainly not bilingual in Chinese and English. Even though I dream in Mandarin and I speak Mandarin or German for several hours every day, I'm not. The word bilingual should be used more carefully,' he said. A more realistic goal is to develop high proficiency in languages, he said. Someone who is highly proficient in a language can use it not just for buying things for example, but also professional purposes like conducting business negotiations. But he believed that Singapore, which requires children to start learning English and their Mother Tongue from primary school, stands a good chance of producing bilingual students. Getting children to learn two languages early is good but it is crucial to make sure they learn it well. And keep at it until, say, 21 or 22 years old.
7 responses
@cupid74 (11394)
• Pakistan
16 Aug 08
Hi dear i wonder if i am bi lingual or not My mother tongue is local language , but our National Language is URDU and official language is english tooo My school is in English mediom school, it mean that from day 1st we were taught in Urdu as well in English. And in Masters,everything was in English, But does it matter if u r bilingual or not , as long as u can make other people convey ur thoughts? Take care
1 person likes this
• Singapore
17 Aug 08
i never thought i am bilingual although i can communicate in two languages. i just feel that my grasp of the english language lacking. normal communication, verbal or written, is not a problem for me. but sometimes i need to read a sentence twice to fully understand what it actually means. this is especially true for some legal documents where the english used is quite archaic. i have no such problem with mandarin as it is my mother tongue after all. it's true that it doesn't really matter if we are bilingual as long as we can communicate with others. it's just that i find the term so commonly abused that it sometimes riles me when someone tells me he/she is bilingual when they can't even express themselves properly in one language. cheers ;p
@cupid74 (11394)
• Pakistan
18 Aug 08
hi dear thanks for ur response well dont talk about legal Documents, they are really so hard to understand, they use such terms and words that u need to consult as what they meant by that. And let people enjoy by saying they are bilingual, or do u have any other word to use for that Take care
1 person likes this
• Singapore
19 Aug 08
well i wouldn't have minded if the other person can communicate fluently in one language. the problem is they could not even finish a proper sentence in one language. i've known people who uses different languages and dialects just so to express themselves. maybe they can just say that they can communicate in different languages. how would you feel if you were to talk to someone who claimed to be bilingual but totally cannot understand you when you choose to speak in one language? in my country, many claim to be bilingual i.e. english and mandarin but i couldn't speak to them in mandarin. none of them could under the terms and phrases i use. and these are commonly used in mandarin-speaking countries. :o
@mayka123 (10598)
• India
21 Aug 08
I speak four languages. But I use the English language more than the local languages here. My kids also quite effeciently speak four languages.
1 person likes this
• Singapore
21 Aug 08
good for you. it's really good to be able to speak several languages. i can only speak two languages and several mandarin dialects. it's useful when i go to china as these dialects are used in the entire city. i can understand several more languages and make simply conversations in them though i can't do extended conversations. i hope to be able to brush up on my competency in these languages. cheers ;p
@mayka123 (10598)
• India
22 Aug 08
All the best to you and happy posting.
1 person likes this
• Australia
25 Aug 08
I speak two languages fluently, i've never really considered myself bilingual but i suppose i am. I am planning to bring up my children to speak both languages, one at home and the other outside of home. I think it's easier to start as a child. I really enjoy the ability of being able to speak two or more languages as it gives me the opportunity to communicate with a lot more people. I've always been interested in languages and culture, i guess i was born with the gift. :)
1 person likes this
• Singapore
25 Aug 08
good for you, it's not easy to fully grasp two languages. most asians find english difficult to master as the basis of the language and that of their mother tongue is completely different. only the tamil language are similar to english in sentence structure. exposing children to languages since young will be great for them as they will be able to master the language faster. i agree that been able to speak different languages gives one the opportunity to communicate with a lot more people. my grasp of dialects has enabled me to understand the local cultures much better when i was in china. cheers ;p
16 Aug 08
Hi applefreak, That is a good idea to be thought onother language like in singapore, whenI was in school some classes were thought French so we had our native languagr English and French. Now they don't have language lessons in the schools anymore. Tamara
1 person likes this
• Singapore
17 Aug 08
hi tamara, it's almost necessary in our country to have another language. we have four main races here in singapore. it would be difficult to pick one language to teach most subjects in. so english was used for all subjects to ensure that none of the races feel discriminated against. i'd go as far as saying i can communicate very well in english. however, there are still terms that i find difficult especially those archaic english legal terms. cheers ;p
@Boxxxx (111)
• Philippines
16 Aug 08
I am bilingual. I'm from the Philippines and our native language would be Filipino/Tagalog. I learned english since birth, yeah, since birth. That's the reason why most Filipinos are good in both Tagalog and English.
1 person likes this
• Singapore
17 Aug 08
good for you. it's always easier to learn a language when one is still young. as we grow older, it seems that our mind start to fill with trivial information. not really important but we remember them after all. that doesn't leave much room for another language. lol. i guess all i can do is polish up on my english further so that i can be more fluent in it. cheers ;p
• United States
16 Aug 08
I wish I was. However, I am working on this. I am currently learning a couple of languages. I believe that being bilingual is a way to increase your knowledge. You have a connection with another part of the world if you think about it.
1 person likes this
• Singapore
17 Aug 08
yes i totally agree with you on this. knowing the language brings one closer to the culture of the people. it's so hard to understand many things if one is not conversant in their language. the natives will also find it difficult to explain the idea or concept behind certain practices. i am still trying to improve on my english by reading more english books and of course responding to discussions on mylot. ;p hopefully i'll be able to pick up another language when i have more time. thanks for responding to this discussion, cheers ;p
@Tanewha (69)
• Germany
16 Aug 08
Yes that is the dictionary definition for the moment but it is changing as now in this age of worldwide travel so many people can speak more than one language, usually two. I speak two languages fluently; New Zealand English is my mother tongue and German I learned as an adult. I do not speak German perfectly or accent free. However I am able to understand concepts that are exclusive to one language and cannot be explained in the other. Having a language is a way of thinking more than a way of speaking. The term polyglot is more accurate but thankfully, English is a living language and soon the word bilingual will refer to people who can communicate effectively in two languages. Trilingual, multilingual etc. will also take on this more liberal interpretation. A good thing too.
1 person likes this
• Singapore
17 Aug 08
yes i believe that many people can speak more than one language. it's especially true in this modern mobile world. there are going to be so many second generation immigrants in many countries. other than their mother tongue, they'd learn the language of the country they are born in too. like me, i'm a third generation immigrant so i can speak my mother tongue, that is mandarin. like you, i don't speak english perfectly or accent free, but i am able to understand concepts that are exclusive to english. maybe this will make me bilingual afterall. thanks for the detailed explanation. i'm sure it benefitted not just me alone on mylot. cheers ;p