A bilingual person has the ability to speak two languages fluently, either natively or by learning at some point later in life. Many people all over the world are bilingual. A multilingual person can speak more than two languages fluently. A trilingual person can speak three languages fluently.
In a narrow sense, a bilingual is someone who was surrounded by both languages throughout their childhood, and speak both languages with equal proficiency, as if having two mother tongues. As such, examples of places or circumstances in which bilinguals are mostly found include:
- most regions of southern China: usually Cantonese Chinese (native) and Mandarin Chinese (learned, official)
- ex-Soviet republics and Warsaw Pact countries: many people fluently speak Russian, especially in Slavic countries.
- certain cantons of Switzerland
- Brussels, the bilingual capital of Belgium (15% Dutch-speaking)
- Finland (6% Finland-Swedish, Åland unilingually Swedish)
- the Quebec province in Canada (10% English-speaking)
- Spain, where many regions have more than one official language (especially in Catalonia, where Spanish and Catalan both enjoy great social esteem and are both used in almost every social situation)
- A majority of the population in sub-saharan Africa is bi- or trilingual
- In many parts of India
- Wales, and to a lesser extent other Celtic-speaking regions of the UK
- Immigrants and their descendants
- among children of ambassadors and expatriates
- border areas between two countries of mixed languages
- among children of mixed couples where the parents each speak a different language.
There are, obviously, more bilinguals using the second definition than there are using the first one.