Question
Asked 25th Feb, 2016

What is the percentage of bilingual people in the world?

Although I can find everywhere on the internet that most people in the world are bilinguals (always citing Grosjean), I cannot find world percentages, only European percentages.
Where should I look for it? Can you help me?
Cheers

Most recent answer

22nd Oct, 2021
Chris Genovesi
Universidad del País Vasco / Euskal Herriko Unibertsitatea
Many people have mentioned UNESCO, but I cannot find precisely where these stats are on the website. Does anyone have links?

Popular Answers (1)

26th Feb, 2016
McLoddy R Kadyamusuma
Illinois State University
It depends on the source, but most research articles mention over 50%.
Ansaldo, A. I., Marcotte, K., Scherer, L., & Raboyeau, G. (2008). Language therapy and bilingual aphasia: Clinical Implications of psycholinguistic and neuroimaging research. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 21, 539-557.
De Bot, K. (1992). A bilingual production model: Levelt’s ‘speaking’ model adapted. Applied Linguistics, 13 (1), 1-24.
Paradis and many others
7 Recommendations

All Answers (23)

25th Feb, 2016
Catarina M. Azevedo
ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
João, but where did you find it? What is the source?
cheers
1 Recommendation
26th Feb, 2016
McLoddy R Kadyamusuma
Illinois State University
It depends on the source, but most research articles mention over 50%.
Ansaldo, A. I., Marcotte, K., Scherer, L., & Raboyeau, G. (2008). Language therapy and bilingual aphasia: Clinical Implications of psycholinguistic and neuroimaging research. Journal of Neurolinguistics, 21, 539-557.
De Bot, K. (1992). A bilingual production model: Levelt’s ‘speaking’ model adapted. Applied Linguistics, 13 (1), 1-24.
Paradis and many others
7 Recommendations
27th Feb, 2016
José Torregrosa-Azor
University of Barcelona
I agree with R Kadyamusuma. It depends on the source and I would like to add that sources are not reliable.
Around the world are there very few countries, that are monolingual and this is another question to take into account when making calculation.
Another question refers to what we consider as bilingual and as language? When people communicate each other, they normally use different registers or non recognised dialects by the country Administration, although it is within a monolingual country, e.g. France.
1 Recommendation
27th Feb, 2016
Kiran Grover
Dayanand Anglo-Vedic College, Abohar
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.
1st Mar, 2016
siri charan lakshmi Kota
Sreenidhi Institute of Science & Technology
 Catarina
More than half of the world's population is bilingual.
I agree with kiran and R Kadyamusuma.
To be more precise,
Monolingual (speaking only one language) - 40%,
Bilingual (ability to speak two languages) - 43%,
Trilingual (speaking three languages fluently) - 13%,
Multilingual( speaking four languages) - 3% and
Polyglots ( a person who can speak five or several languages) - just 1%.
Hope this helps.
2 Recommendations
5th Mar, 2016
Adriana Ghoul
Arab American University
As a matter of fact, statistics say that approximately half of the world's population speaks one or more languages. 
8th Mar, 2016
Abdelrahim Hamid Mugaddam
Jouf University
I think it is extremely difficult to talk about accurate statistics regarding bilinguals across the world. This is because many language communities are yet to be studied .
8th Mar, 2016
Catarina M. Azevedo
ISCTE-Instituto Universitário de Lisboa
Hello everyone,
Thank you so much for your replies. I think the problem, as Abdelrahim said, is that there are still no world statistics. In Europe, you have statistics of the European Comission,a  reliable source (see http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_386_en.pdf).
The sentence we are used to read "more than half of the world's population speaks one or more languages", never mentions the source, and one cannot be sure whether it is based in actual statistics.
I will continue to search for it.
Thank you so much for your attention
Catarina Azevedo
1 Recommendation
17th Apr, 2016
Lucia Palugyay
siri charan lakshmi Kota please do you have a source of your facts? It would help me a lot. Thank you.
21st Dec, 2016
Susana A. Eisenchlas
Griffith University
Hi Catarina,
Part of the problem is that the term 'bilingualism' is not clear cut. Some people expect bilinguals to be perfectly balanced in the two languages, others have a wider conceptualisation of bilingualism as the ability to speak two languages to different degrees of competence. Hence the difficulty of determining a percentage that researchers would agree upon.
1 Recommendation
25th Mar, 2017
Issidoros Sarinopoulos
Michigan Public Health Institute
Bialystok, et al in their Trends in Cognitive Sciences article cite U. S. Census Bureau:
"It is generally believed that more than half of the world’s population is bilingual [1]"
1 U. S. Census Bureau (2010) The 2011 Statistical Abstract. Languages Spoken at
Home by Language: 2008, Table 53. Retrieved August 4, 2011 from http://www.census.
gov/compendia/statab/cats/population/ancestry_language_spoken_at_home.html
1 Recommendation
8th Jan, 2019
Anna Ilina
Complutense University of Madrid
Where did you find the European percentages? The Barometers measure people's ability to "maintain a conversation in an L2", which does not indicate that those people are bilingual. And then lots of data on foreign language learning. If you have statistics on bilingual people in Europe, please share it, that's what I'm desperately looking for.
3rd Apr, 2019
Gabriel Alfaro
King Juan Carlos University
Anna Ilina... Eurydice on EU commission website might be helpful..I use the data to present to my students for lectures when I talk about USA language policies and need comparative EU data. Also, David Crystal might be helpful- you could just send him an email. He usually replies to emails, www.davidcrystal.com
26th May, 2020
Abdelkader Mohamed Abdelkader Elsayed
Benha University & Dhofar University
Nice Contribution Anna Ilina
29th Jun, 2020
Chris Dixon
University of Leeds
I think others raise good points about the validity of statistics on bilingualism here, especially issues in how it's measured (I think Colin Baker deals with the problems of language census data in Foundations of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism). However, I do find it annoying that so many confident blanket statements are made in the literature WITHOUT being backed up by any statistics at all. I think it's best to avoid blanket statements about global trends and just focus on the extent of bilingualism in the population you're studying.
26th Jul, 2020
Kiran Tufail
University of Central Punjab
I think most of the people are bilingual in the world. I am pakistani there arw many languages spoken in pakistan like punjabi, urdu, sindhi, pashto, saraiki etc. People are mostly multilingual pashto people can speak urdu pashto and english.
12th Nov, 2020
Farid Minaei
Kharazmi University
according to statistics, 40 percent of the world population are monolinguals, 43 percent are bilinguals, and the reset speak more than two languages fluently. bilingualism is a norm in the world.
1st Dec, 2020
Fokou Mukum Sandy Fomundam
University of Yaounde I
Going by the definition of bilingualism , it is the ability to speak two languages fluently and indifferently without any problems.I think just 10 % of the world's population could be described as being bilingual. Let me use Cameroon as a case where two languages that is English and French are used as official languages, but unfortunately only less than 25% of the population can practice code switching using both languages without any problems. I believed that there are just 15% of people who are purely bilingual that is can speak two languages indifferently without any problems and who have a firm mastery of the grammatical and syntatical rules governing both languages.

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