Here is a list of terms used on this website. It is a live document, with new terms being added regularly. Different studies and authors will have slightly varying definitions. The terms below are very broad and simplified, for easy reference across this website.


Bilingual – someone who learnt two languages from birth. Professor Annick De Houwer defines Bilingual First Language Acquisition (BFLA) as ”the development of language in young children who hear two languages spoken to them from birth” (An Introduction to Bilingual development, 2009, p. 2).

Bilingual Secondary Language Acquisition happens when a child hears a language from birth and learns a second language in the early years, for example, in a childcare setting.

Community language or Majority language – the dominant language in the country of residence, which may or may not be spoken at home, but found widely in the community and media

Lusophile – one who likes the Portuguese language or culture. The Lusophile Series of the blog aims to celebrate Portuguese language and culture, in its widest sense, to include arts, food, traditions, history and geography.

Minority Language at Home (MLAH) – everyone speaks the minority or target language at home (even if this language is not the native language of both parents). For example, the family lives in an English speaking country, and both parents speak French at home.

Mother Tongue – the language a person has grown up speaking from birth and into the early years. Also referred to as ‘first language’ or ‘native language’. It is a language that a child has been exposed to from birth through the early years (up to 5 years old). Children brought up speaking more than one language can have more than one native language, and be bilingual or multilingual. Some people may not be fluent in one of their mother tongues.

One Person­ – One Language strategy (OPOL) – common method where, in a family setting, each parent or caregiver speaks only one language to the child. For example, the family lives in an English speaking country, the father speaks English, the mother speaks German at home.

Second Language – a language acquired in addition to one’s first language, after the early years.

Target Language or Minority language – the second language parents are aiming to develop. Ability in this second, or non dominant language, may be passive (understanding but not using the language) or active (actively speaking the language). Fluent competency means that the individual can understand, speak, read and write in that language.