Martin Luther was the first European who said that one translates satisfactorily only into his own language. Even now, in the modern era many people working in the translation industry strongly support this theory, but in the international environment in which children are raised and educated these days could this still be true? Can we only be fully proficient in just one language and therefore should discard any other?
Bilingualism and Multilingualism
David Crystal (1997) estimates that two-thirds of the world’s children grow up in a bilingual environment. The process of globalisation is unstoppable and the world as we know it is constantly changing. Parents coming from different countries, speaking different languages but living somewhere outside of their homeland, is becoming more and more common to see in the world of today.
If a child speaks one language at home and another at school does that mean that he can speak both languages the same? First of all, we have to differentiate between being fluent and proficient in one language. Proficiency, as stated in the explanation for passing the Cambridge English (CPE) exam, „means you have the level of English that’s needed to study or work in a very senior professional or academic environment, for example on a postgraduate or PhD programme.“
Fluency, on the other hand, is only related to speaking and, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is the ability to speak easily and smoothly. Of course, fluency is an important part of proficiency but not the only one, since other proficiency aspects include reading, listening and writing (including mastery of grammar and a highly developed vocabulary).
In conclusion, to become a language professional one has to acquire this skill through education and only in this case can we say that someone has native or bilingual proficiency. So it is not enough just to be fluent on a conversational level and use language at home and with relatives; to be truly bilingual or multilingual person has to make an effort and learn the language in all its aspects. This way it is possible to speak two or maybe even more languages perfectly the same, and in the end everything depends on the individual, on their will and capabilities.