Bilingualism: What Is Your Definition?

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BILINGUALISM: WHAT IS YOUR DEFINITION?

I had lived one of the biggest shocks in my life when I learn that I am not considered as a bilingual. I used to think that if you are studying a language and if you have perfected your knowledge and ability in all aspects of that language, it is inevitable that you become a bilingual. However, I learned to my greatest grief that that is not the case and I have learned English as a foreign language throughout all these years. I have been studying English almost for 12 now and I verily believe that I am very competent and fluent in English. So it is quite understandable if I call myself a bilingual. When one analyzes the word “bilingual”, there will be seen no problem with calling myself one. Nevertheless, I have learned that to be called a bilingual, one should begin to learn that language simultaneously with the native tongue. But I have begun to learn English at about 8 years old and in a classroom environment. So, it is next to impossible for me to be called as a bilingual. English is considered as my foreign language according to the definition of bilingualism. Even so, I do not believe in this definition. In my opinion, if you want to be considered as a bilingual, you need to have an equal ability to communicate in two languages. This is adequate. You don’t need to grow up with that language. If you try hard and maintain a native like competence and fluency, this makes you a bilingual. I believe in the fact that there should be different types of bilingualism to account for those who grow up with two languages, those who have two different spoken languages in their country and for those who begin to learn the language after a certain age. All in all, I do not believe the former description of bilingualism and now the new definition of it is more reasonable. Methinks, all people who have native like fluency and competence in another language should be called bilingual.
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