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How Many People in the World Are Bilingual?

The actual number of people who are bilingual is hard to determine, but some estimates indicate that at least half of the world’s population has the ability to speak at least two languages fluently. Many people are considered trilingual or plurilingual, meaning that they are able to converse in more than two languages. In many nations, emphasis on bilingual education is part of the common curriculum and allows newcomers additional support in mastering the predominant language of the area.

More facts about bilingualism:

  • In Canada, where French and English are the two most commonly spoken languages, almost 20 percent of the population is fluent in both languages. Canadians who were fluent in three languages account for about 5 percent of the population, and those who have a working command of four languages make up about 1 percent of the population.

  • Perfect bilinguals are people who can speak equally well in two languages. Typically, bilinguals will be more proficient with what is known as their mother tongue, or the language that they use most often.

  • Russia holds the distinction of being home to a wide range of languages that are in constant use. Estimates vary between 130 and 200 languages that are utilized in different Russian territories.

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