Skip to main content Accessibility help

Who is bilingual? Snapshots across the lifespan



Building on our earlier analysis of the factorial structure of bilingualism for young adults obtained from the Language and Social Background Questionnaire (LSBQ; Anderson, Mak, Keyvani Chahi & Bialystok, 2018), we analyzed responses from 675 children and 125 older adults to a similar questionnaire. Three factors accounting for 74% of the variance emerged in the analysis of children's responses: Adult Language in the Home, Non-English use for Media, Non-English use with Siblings. There were also three factors that explained the responses of older adults that accounted for 79% of the variance: Non-English Use, Non-English Proficiency, and English Proficiency. Therefore, bilingual experience is captured by different factors at different points in the lifespan. These results are discussed in conjunction with the earlier results from young adults and the implications for understanding bilingualism across the lifespan.


Corresponding author

Address for correspondence: Ellen Bialystok, Department of Psychology, York University, 4700 Keele Street, Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3,


Hide All

*Preparation of this paper was supported by grants R01HD052523 and R21AG048431 from the US National Institutes of Health and grant A2559 from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada to EB.



Hide All
Anderson, J. A. E., Mak, L., Keyvani Chahi, A., & Bialystok, E. (2018). The language and social background questionnaire: Assessing degree of bilingualism in a diverse population. Behavior Research Methods, 50 (1), 250263.
Bedore, L. M., Peña, E. D., Summers, C. L., Boerger, K. M., Resendiz, M. D., Greene, K., Bohman, T. M., & Gillam, R. B. (2012). The measure matters: Language dominance profiles across measures in Spanish–English bilingual children. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 15 (3), 616629.
Bialystok, E. (2016). The signal and the noise. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism, 6 (5), 517534.
Cooper, R. L. (1969). Two Contextualized Measures of Degree of Bilingualism$\ast$. Modern Language Journal, 53 (3), 172178.
Gollan, T. H., Weissberger, G. H., Runnqvist, E., Montoya, R. I., & Cera, C. M. (2012). Self-ratings of spoken language dominance: A Multilingual Naming Test (MINT) and preliminary norms for young and aging Spanish–English bilinguals. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 15 (3), 594615.
Green, D. W., & Abutalebi, J. (2013). Language control in bilinguals: The adaptive control hypothesis. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25 (5), 515530.
Grosjean, F. (1998). Studying bilinguals: Methodological and conceptual issues. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 1 (2), 131149.
Hartanto, A., & Yang, H. (2016). Disparate bilingual experiences modulate task-switching advantages: A diffusion-model analysis of the effects of interactional context on switch costs. Cognition, 150, 1019.
Hatcher, L. (2005). A step-by-step approach to using the SAS system for factor analysis and structural equation modeling. SAS Institute Cary, NC.
JASP Team. (2018). JASP (Version 0.8.6)[Computer software].
Li, P., Sepanski, S., & Zhao, X. (2006). Language history questionnaire: A Web-based interface for bilingual research. Behavior Research Methods, 38 (2), 202210.
Li, P., Zhang, F., Tsai, E., & Puls, B. (2014). Language history questionnaire (LHQ 2.0): A new dynamic web-based research tool. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 17 (3), 673680.
Luk, G., & Bialystok, E. (2013). Bilingualism is not a categorical variable: Interaction between language proficiency and usage. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25 (5), 605621.
Marian, V., Blumenfeld, H. K., & Kaushanskaya, M. (2007). The Language Experience and Proficiency Questionnaire (LEAP-Q): Assessing Language Profiles in Bilinguals and Multilinguals. Journal of Speech, Language, and Hearing Research, 50 (4), 940967.
Ooi, S. H., Goh, W. D., Sorace, A., & Bak, T. H. (2018). From Bilingualism to Bilingualisms: Bilingual experience in Edinburgh and Singapore affects attentional control differently. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 113.
Paap, K. R., & Greenberg, Z. I. (2013). There is no coherent evidence for a bilingual advantage in executive processing. Cognitive Psychology, 66 (2), 232258.
Statistics Canada. (2017, August). Census in Brief: Linguistic diversity and multilingualism in Canadian homes. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-200-X2016010. Retrieved May 2, 2018, from
Surrain, S., & Luk, G. (2017). Describing bilinguals: A systematic review of labels and descriptions used in the literature between 2005–2015. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 115.
Wilson, R., & Dewaele, J.-M. (2010). The use of web questionnaires in second language acquisition and bilingualism research. Second Language Research, 26 (1), 103123.
Wu, Y. J., & Thierry, G. (2013). Fast Modulation of Executive Function by Language Context in Bilinguals. Journal of Neuroscience, 33 (33), 1353313537.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Bilingualism: Language and Cognition
  • ISSN: 1366-7289
  • EISSN: 1469-1841
  • URL: /core/journals/bilingualism-language-and-cognition
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed