As translators, we often are asked to do terminology research, as if translation involved only the word-for-word exchange of specialized terms. But this is a myth to discuss some other time. Let’s talk about bilingualism.
Bilingualism is the ability to speak in two languages. Knowing a few phrases in German while your native language is English or Italian does not count; you have to be able to express yourself freely and richly in two languages. Many European citizens have done this since childhood: growing up in a geography inhabited by multiple languages and dialects makes learning more than one mother tongue unavoidable. From my conversations with people from different European extractions, being a polyglot or multilingual speaker is the norm.
Some colleagues of mine tend to pooh-pooh Americans in general because they seem disinclined and disinterested in learning other languages, but this is an incorrect perception as well as a…
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