Many people confuse the terms bilingual, fluent and linguistics. This can be unfortunate in professional communications.
Linguistics, or the science of language, is not a part of the core curriculum so most people are not familiar with the subject unless they take a course in college. If it was that would be great because linguistics helps with learning a second language, as well as understanding the rules of grammar or syntax.
A syntax tree diagram.
- Fluent – A fluent person comprehends a foreign language at a native-level competency. It does not mean you kind of understand French because you studied abroad ten years ago. There is no middle ground or varying degree of fluency, at some point you are either fluent or you are not.
- Bilingual – A bilingual person speaks, reads and writes two languages fluently. A multilingual person speaks more than two languages fluently. This is most common in Africa where there are thousands of distinct tribal dialects, as well as Europe where there are a lot of countries close together. Bilingual people are often smarter because their brain works in two ways.
- Linguistics – Linguistics is the science of language. It is highly analytical study of the building blocks of human communication, including the sounds, parts and history of words in every language on the planet. One of the most famous linguists in the world in Noam Chompsky, Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
So if you need a translator ask for someone that is bilingual, not a linguist. A linguist is a scientist that studies languages scientifically. This is great if you want to record a dying American Indian language. Now that you know some basic terms of linguistics you will sound a lot smarter when talking about them.