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  Linguistics experts reserve the term bilingualism for people who are proficient in two languages, and it is estimated that more than half of the world\'s population is bilingual to some extent. Most bilinguals have a preferred language in particular contexts; for example, they may use one language principally in the home, the second in the work place. The contexts in which the two languages are deployed can have far-reaching consequences on the degree and types of expertise achieved in each language. Certainly, the balanced bilingual (equally capable in both languages) is rarely encountered. Although many people learn a second language relatively late in life, the most intense focus of research interest has always been on the natural bilingual, who has acquired both languages spontaneously in the course of growing up. Bilinguals generally have no difficulty in keeping their two languages apart, but a common occurrence is the deliberate mixing of the two languages. While conversing mainly in one language, the speaker might insert one or two words (usually nouns) from the other language into the discourse. This ‘code mixing’ contrasts with ‘code switching’, in which entire phrases or sentences are intermingled throughout the conversation. MS

Further reading S. Romaine, Bilingualism.



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