Pub. date: 2008 | Online Pub. Date: June 25, 2008 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412963978 | Print ISBN: 9781412909280 | Online ISBN: 9781412963978| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
Luis A. Rivas
Bilingualism is defined as the ability to communicate or be fluent in two languages. Multilingualism (a related term) refers to the ability to communicate or be fluent in three or more languages. Early definitions dating back to the 1930s refer to bilingualism as having “native-like” control of two languages. Nevertheless, research in the fields of linguistics, psychology, sociology, education, neurology, and politics has expanded the concept of bilingualism far beyond the simplistic view of communicating in two languages. Current definitions are as complex as each of the languages a bilingual individual chooses to communicate in. An important distinction necessary to begin to understand the concept of bilingualism is the difference between ability (or degree of bilingualism) and use (or function of bilingualism). To communicate proficiently in a given language, an individual must possess four basic skills: listening, speaking, reading, and writing. Some have argued for the inclusion of thinking language ...