Definition of bilingual in US English:



  • 1(of a person) speaking two languages fluently.

    ‘a bilingual secretary’
    • ‘It is not enough to be bilingual teachers with extensive knowledge of bilingual theory or language instruction.’
    • ‘Fluently bilingual, Matte speaks in perfect English, while the rest of the band members are split between favouring French or English.’
    • ‘And most of the young were bilingual or trilingual (reading and/or speaking French and English as well as Arabic).’
    • ‘Now fluently bilingual, he is legal counsel for the Nunavut government in Iqaluit.’
    • ‘Christine is fluently bilingual and will be soliciting book reviews in both English and French.’
    • ‘It arrived close to sundown, after my bilingual secretary had gone home.’
    • ‘Almost half that Hispanic population is more comfortable speaking only Spanish, and 28 percent is bilingual, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center.’
    • ‘Many Angolans are bilingual, speaking Portuguese and one or several African languages.’
    • ‘Teresa is convinced he was helped by being bilingual; she has brought up all the children to speak Italian.’
    • ‘Many Brahui-speakers are bilingual, speaking Baluchi or other local languages.’
    • ‘It was in the heart of what was now considered Spanish Harlem and served the bilingual descendants of New York's Spanish speaking immigrants.’
    • ‘Fluent in both Thai and English, Wuthinan's bilingual knowledge was desperately needed manning the phones at the blood donation centre.’
    • ‘Never mind that she's superbly qualified and fluently bilingual.’
    • ‘In the mid 1960s my Aunt Alice, a retired bilingual executive secretary, had almost suddenly become unable to lift her chin off her chest.’
    • ‘Since her graduation, she has worked as a bilingual secretary in a French law firm and as a PA to the general manager of the Clarence Hotel.’
    • ‘Many of them were probably bilingual, speaking Arabic and the now-extinct variety of Spanish known as Mozarabic.’
    • ‘Personally, I'm glad I'm bilingual, but I am much more comfortable speaking Spanish than English.’
    • ‘Having a bilingual secretary in a company can add huge kudos.’
    • ‘Subsequent generations are often fluently bilingual, speaking English outside of the home and Spanish in the home.’
    • ‘A cross-sectional survey study was conducted with bilingual education teachers.’
    • ‘Encourage students to express key words or concepts in their native language, using a bilingual staff member, parent, or other student, if available, to help interpret.’
    1. 1.1 (of a text or an activity) written or conducted in two languages.
      ‘bilingual dictionaries’
      ‘bilingual education’
      • ‘Some - including the Scottish Executive - are none too keen on bilingual signs in a language that few understand and even fewer speak.’
      • ‘Language texts as well as instructional material in workbooks, bilingual texts, audiotapes, and multimedia formats have also been developed.’
      • ‘Preparation is further complicated in that not all states provide certification in bilingual education and/or ESL.’
      • ‘Her research interests include the role of metacognition in second and bilingual language learning.’
      • ‘Along with Marion and an organizer from Guatemala, she will attended the bilingual training at the AFL-CIO Organizing Institute in Los Angeles.’
      • ‘This worry is also shared by other schools, so the number of the city's primary and secondary schools that are bold enough to completely conduct bilingual education in main courses are few.’
      • ‘The summer camps are run on a Monday to Friday basis from 10 am to 3pm and feature bilingual activities such as drama, art, crafts, music, dancing and sports.’
      • ‘This book is bilingual, written in both French and English.’
      • ‘Forster cautions that future finds of bilingual texts could change the picture, but these results demonstrate the utility of his technique.’
      • ‘However, the old scorn has largely gone and there is now no social stigma to speaking Welsh; there is a bilingual television channel, road signs are in both languages, and official business can be carried out in Welsh as well as English.’
      • ‘This code was translated into English and published in a bilingual text in 1989 in the United States.’
      • ‘Blocked rules that would require federal agencies to offer bilingual assistance to non-English speaking persons.’
      • ‘A fascinating artistic account came from Leow Puay Tin who writes modular, bilingual texts on cards, to be shuffled and used in varying ways.’
      • ‘They [conference participants] swapped titles and syllabuses and tips on presenting oral and bilingual texts to their students.’
      • ‘The text is fully bilingual, and portraits adorn nearly all entries.’
      • ‘Later, he came to Boston and studied bilingual education in the University of Massachusetts where he taught science to Latino students at the high school level.’
      • ‘They are allowed to take the Regents Exam in their native language, with a bilingual dictionary, and all the time they need.’
      • ‘Are there customs and themes you hope to preserve or advance through bilingual texts?’
      • ‘This is also the first year that candidates whose first language is not English or Irish will be allowed to use bilingual translation dictionaries in certain examinations.’
      • ‘The drawings by Bulgarian children will be then included in a special bilingual edition of the book, in Bulgarian and French.’
    2. 1.2 (of a country, city, or other community) using two languages, especially officially.
      ‘the town is virtually bilingual in Dutch and German’
      • ‘A bilingual community: Most of the ALBA staff and many of the farmers speaks both English and Spanish.’
      • ‘Not everyone recognizes how lucky we are to be a bilingual nation, it's culturally extraordinary.’
      • ‘To which I responded matter-of-factly, ‘This is a bilingual country.’’
      • ‘Canada is legally a bilingual country, one moving towards multiculturalism.’
      • ‘The most reasonable scenario for the survival of endangered languages is to have bilingual communities.’
      • ‘And so the Guarani language - which is now one of the two official languages in a bilingual country - that is thanks to the Jesuits who preserved it.’
      • ‘Quebec was recognized as having a ‘distinct’ society, while all of Canada was recognized as a bilingual country.’
      • ‘The Irish Republic is officially bilingual, as are the road-signs: this allows you to become lost simultaneously in Gaelic and English.’
      • ‘It's not a French city; it's not even a bilingual city.’
      • ‘Other objectives would be to promote the Irish language to help create a ‘truly bilingual nation’.’
      • ‘But that would have implied that Belgium was a bilingual country.’
      • ‘Integration succeeds for many reasons; incredibly, the bilingual country is able to assert one identity.’
      • ‘We are a bilingual country and everybody deserves the right to be served in any language they choose.’
      • ‘As we're a bilingual nation, this should be provided,’ said Knight.’
      • ‘Other children may learn work skills, be raised in a particular religious environment and live in a bilingual community.’
      • ‘Equally at ease in English and French, Smith was very much a success story of Trudeau's vision of a bilingual country.’
      • ‘The city where the Cortez clan resides is a multicultural, bilingual community - street signs and billboards appear both in Spanish and English.’
      • ‘We are officially a bilingual nation and I think it is ludicrous that we cannot provide that facility in this Parliament.’
      • ‘Is it our official status as a bilingual country?’
      • ‘Mauritius as a bilingual country is seen as a golden opportunity for the Indian operators to exploit these markets, he says.’


  • A person fluent in two languages.

    • ‘For example, some bilinguals may prefer one of their languages to the other, which may influence its subsequent use or lack of use.’
    • ‘These factors include bilinguals' language preference, language socialization history, and the nature of the memory task presented to them.’
    • ‘Contrastive features that would yield information about potential crosslinguistic influences in the Spanish spelling of Spanish-English bilinguals were not included.’
    • ‘For instance, could language of presentation help bilinguals keep remembered events cognitively distinct?’
    • ‘These verbal exchanges suggest that the language of the event helped these bilinguals keep each event separate in memory.’
    • ‘Of course, many Cantonese-speakers learn Mandarin as a second language, so bilinguals are not rare, but it is quite unlikely that a Cantonese person who also knows Mandarin would speak Mandarin with her nieces.’
    • ‘The school, therefore, mostly served the children who were bilinguals with English as the official language and Spanish as the vernacular home language.’
    • ‘This is an area in which more research is needed to learn more about the Spanish-language background of bilinguals without schooling in their first language.’
    • ‘All participants of the present study had acquired both of their languages before the age of 3; that is, they were simultaneous bilinguals.’
    • ‘Such a finding is consistent with this model's argument that different languages engage different conceptual representations in bilinguals.’
    • ‘One might argue, for example, that the two alphabets are sufficiently distinct that our bilinguals could discover the language without identifying the letters.’
    • ‘Here we see a number of basic misconceptions about the nature of language and about what constitutes competence in a language, as they have been applied specifically to bilinguals.’
    • ‘As highly fluent bilinguals, the owners and employees can easily choose the language they will use with children on such visits.’
    • ‘Current practices for assessment of language in bilinguals frequently involve the use of tests that are translated from English to the target language and/or tests designed for and normed on monolinguals.’
    • ‘However, it seems illogical to argue that conceptual links do not exist between bilinguals' languages or that subjects could not activate such links.’
    • ‘Although there are no definite numbers that clearly identify the language abilities of each age group comprising bilinguals, roughly half of these are likely to be true bilinguals, that is, proficient and fluent in both languages.’
    • ‘Gerard and I are both aware that the younger you start with children, the more likely they are going to be instinctive bilinguals.’
    • ‘The issue of storage, with respect to bilinguals who have two languages to cognitively contend with, has been a strongly debated topic among researchers.’
    • ‘Such a mindset sees everything in terms of monolingualism as the norm, even though there are more bilinguals and multilinguals in the world than monolinguals, and in spite of our own linguistic diversity.’
    • ‘In fact, it has been argued that a monolingual bias exists in bilingual research, using monolinguals as a yardstick to assess bilinguals' cognitive abilities.’


Mid 19th century: from Latin bilinguis, from bi- ‘having two’ + lingua ‘tongue’ + -al.