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What Do You Know About Bilingualism? Take This Quiz and Test Your Knowledge!

It's Quiz Time!

In my last post, Recommended Resources: “Bilingual: Life and Reality” by François Grosjean, I reviewed this fine primer on bilingualism.

This time, I thought I would create a little quiz based on the information found in Dr. Grosjean’s book. Here are 10 questions related to bilingualism. How many of them can you answer correctly?

1. How many languages are there in the world today?
a. Around 1,000
b. Around 3,000
c. Around 5,000
d. Around 7,000

Ready for the answer? Just click open this box!
d. Around 7,000 (Dr. Grosjean cites Ethnologue as his source.)

2. What percentage of the Earth’s population of 7 billion people can be considered “bilingual”?
a. At least 10%
b. At least 30%
c. At least 50%
d. At least 70%

The population continues to grow, too, with about 4 babies born worldwide every second.
c. At least 50% (Dr. Grosjean’s definition of “bilingual” is “using two or more languages, or dialects, in everyday life.”)

3. Both monolingual children and bilingual children speak their first word at what age, on average?
a. At around 9 months
b. At around 11 months
c. At around 13 months
d. At around 15 months

Bilingual children aren't any more prone to experiencing a delay in their language development.
b. At around 11 months (Remember, this is the average age—some children will speak earlier, some will speak later—but if you’re concerned about a delay or difficulty in your child’s language development, it may be wise to consult a speech-language pathologist in your area.)

4. What percentage of bilingual children are “simultaneous bilinguals” (learning two or more languages at the same time)?
a. Less than 20%
b. Less than 30%
c. Less than 40%
d. Less than 50%

Are you on a roll? Will you get this one right, too?
a. Less than 20% (Which means that most children are “successive bilinguals,” learning one language first, and then others.)

5. What is the main factor leading to a child’s language development and use?
a. The child’s age when beginning to acquire that language
b. The child’s need for that language
c. The parents’ fluency in that language
d. The parents’ knowledge of language acquisition

Yes, this lies at the heart of raising a bilingual child.
b. The child’s need for that language (For more on this crucial issue, see What to Do When Your Bilingual Child Won’t Speak Your Language.)

6. When the majority language is dominant in a child acquiring two languages simultaneously, what is the likely cause?
a. The child suffers from a language delay in the minority language.
b. The child attends school in the majority language.
c. The child is mixing the two languages.
d. The child isn’t receiving sufficient exposure in the minority language.

This is another vital concern for a successful outcome.
d. The child isn’t receiving sufficient exposure in the minority language. (For a long list of ways to increase exposure in your target language, see 96 Things You Can Do Today to Boost Your Child’s Bilingual Ability.)

7. Research has shown that the “minority language at home” approach, where both parents use the minority language, has a higher rate of success than the “one person-one language” approach, which may not provide the child with sufficient exposure in the second language. How much higher is this rate of success?
a. 10%
b. 20%
c. 30%
d. 40%

Of course, any approach can work, if it's handled effectively.
b. 20% (Dr. Grosjean cites the research of Annick De Houwer, a specialist in childhood bilingualism.)

8. Difficulties with language development affect the same percentage of children, whether monolingual or bilingual. What is that percentage?
a. 5%
b. 10%
c. 15%
d. 20%

Ready with your answer? Then click away!
b. 10% (The linguist and speech therapist Susanne Dopke is quoted: “Bilingualism does not cause any type of language disorder and retracting to just one language does not improve a language disorder.”)

9. What is the main reason that many people speak a language with an accent?
a. The age when the language was acquired
b. A lack of ability in the language
c. A lack of need for the language
d. A lack of exposure to the language

Another common reason for an accent is the acquisition of a particular dialect of that language.
a. The age when the language was acquired (As Dr. Grosjean stresses, there is no relationship between having an accent and fluency in that language.)

10. The myth that bilingualism has negative effects on the development of children can be traced back to faulty studies in this field. When did research begin to show more positive effects?
a. Toward the end of the 19th century
b. In the first half of the 20th century
c. Midway through the 20th century
d. Toward the end of the 20th century

Congratulations! You survived the quiz!
c. Midway through the 20th century (Before that, back in 1890, the educator and linguist Simon S. Laurie wrote this harsh assessment: “If it were possible for a child or boy to live in two languages at once equally well, so much the worse. His intellectual and spiritual growth would not thereby be doubled but halved.”)

Now give these two quizzes a try, too…

Another Fun Quiz on Bilingualism! Test Your Knowledge! (based on the book A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker)

Take This Quiz on Bilingual Acquisition in Children! How Many Will You Get Right? (based on the book Bilingual First Language Acquisition by Annick De Houwer)

How about you? Did you enjoy this quiz? How did you do?

7 Responses

  1. Nice quiz, Adam!
    I admit that on all the numbers questions I had to make (educated?) guesses. I hope I win that Grosjean book so I can improve my score!

  2. Nice quiz! I got 9 out of 10. I thought the number of languages in the world was closer to 5000 – so now I’ve learned something new and useful today. :)

  3. I was most interested by the answer on accent. We are saying the younger a child learns a language, the less the accent? I am thinking about my own situation where I have spoken to my children in the ml since they were little…on and off – here comes the :( . So they have heard the language since they were little and despite this, they do speak with an accent. Also, at the ml school where I work, a lot of the children (and some are from both ml parents so ml at home), they do speak with that ‘same’ accent. So it must be more to it. I would love to hear your views. Rgds.

    1. Nathalie, thanks for this interesting question. First, let me offer some general context by quoting Dr. Grosjean:

      “Researchers do not agree on an age limit distinguishing between the likelihood of not having an accent in a second language and having one. Some have proposed that a language can be ‘accentless’ if it is acquired before age six, and that the window (what some would call the sensitive period) remains open until age twelve. There are many exceptions, however, including reports of highly motivated people (language teachers, for instance) who have learned a language later but compensated for that disadvantage with intensive contact with native speakers, extended stays in the country in question, the study of phonetics and pronunciation, and so on, and who ‘pass’ as native speakers of the language.”

      As for your specific situation, because I’m not familiar with the full details (including the ages of the children), I can only speak broadly. When you say you’ve spoken the minority language to your children “on and off,” I wonder if this means that your use of the majority language has also had some impact on their language development? If a child receives extensive exposure to the majority language from an early age, and perhaps less exposure to the minority language, then, all things being equal, the odds of the child experiencing some “interference” from the majority language (in accent and otherwise) are probably higher. Be that as it may, I’ve worked with many children over the years who gradually shrugged off this “interference,” and their “non-native” accent, as time went by and their exposure to the minority language grew stronger.

      So, as Dr. Grosjean suggests, I don’t think it’s necessarily true that the younger a child begins acquiring a language, the less likely there will be an accent, but I do think this is generally true.

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Welcome to Bilingual Monkeys!

I’m Adam Beck, the founder of this blog and The Bilingual Zoo, a lively worldwide forum for parents raising bilingual or multilingual kids. I’m also the author of the popular books Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and Bilingual Success Stories Around the World. I’ve been an educator and writer in this field for 25 years as well as the parent of two bilingual children, now 19 and 16. I hope my work can help empower the success of your bilingual journey.

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