A foreign language is originally from another country. It is also a language not spoken in the native country of the person referred to, i.e., an English speaker living in Spain can say that Spanish is a foreign language to him or her. These two characterisations do not exhaust the possible definitions, however, and the label is occasionally applied in ways that are variously misleading or factually inaccurate.

Some children learn more than one language from birth or from a very young age: they are bilingual or multilingual. These children can be said to have two, three or more mother tongues: neither language is foreign to that child, even if one language is a foreign language for the vast majority of people in the child’s birth country. For example, a child learning English from his English father and Irish at school in Ireland can speak both English and Irish, but neither is a foreign language to him. This is common in countries such as India, South Africa, or Canada due to these countries having multiple official languages.

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