There are many similarities between bilinguals and polyglots; there are also a number of benefits when compared to being monolingual. Take, for instance, the brain.
According to the Mayo Clinic, learning or understanding more than one language, may give the brain an advantage over Alzheimer’s.
“Some researchers believe being bilingual or multilingual helps develop your brain’s cognitive reserve in the same way that engaging in other mentally and socially stimulating activities does.” – Ronald Petersen, M.D.
Polyglots and bilinguals are also able to appreciate cultures other than their own. By knowing a second or third language (or more), there’s an in-depth appreciation that monolinguals can only grasp artificially.
One final similarity between polyglot and bilingual is commitment. While polyglots may put forth more effort (based on the number of languages they know), both types of language learners must have the desire to keep up their skills in all of their languages. Depending on the situation, multilinguals must be committed to maintaining other language skills, while monolinguals spend their time and efforts elsewhere.
But just as multilinguals differ from monolinguals, there are also differences between bilinguals and polyglots.
First, let’s start with the easiest one: how many languages do either know?
Bilinguals know two languages fluently, which were either learned concurrently, or one was learned later in life. Polyglots, on the other hand, aren’t defined by a specific number of languages learned, but simply know ‘multiple’ languages. While that technically makes bilinguals, or diglots, polyglots, the term is typically reserved for language learners that know more than two languages.
As you can imagine, this makes polyglots somewhat rare in the larger perspective. Just about 4 percent of the world’s populace knows 4 languages fluently, according to ilanguages, and less than one person out of every thousand speak more than 5 languages.
ilanguages also states that bilinguals make up about 43 percent of the world’s populace, which is, surprisingly, 3 percent MORE than all monolinguals.
So, let’s all put on our thinking caps and learn another language!