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If a person can speak and understand two languages, he is bilingual. How would you describe a person who can read and write in two languages with very different forms of writing, such as Chinese and English, or Sanskrit and Korean, or what have you?

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up vote 10 down vote accepted

Biliterate is defined as:

  1. (adj) able to read and write in two languages.
  2. (noun) a person who is biliterate.

However, it appears that multiliteracy has morphed into a whole other meaning having to do with multimodal ways of communicating.

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It appears "polyliterate" is a way of extending literacy over more than two languages. – Kit Grose Mar 20 '12 at 22:49
@KitGrose: that's odd; it breaks the analogy with bilingual/multilingual. Due to the traditional idea that it's best to match Latin roots with other Latin roots, polyliterate seems a bit oddly formed. Then again, Latin and Greek roots are in practice often mixed (as seen by the use of monolingual, monocultural etc. rather than unilingual, unicultural). Anyway, this talk page on Wikipedia mentions pluriliterate as an another term for "literate in multiple languages." – sumelic Oct 2 '15 at 8:38

I don't know if there is a single word to describe this ability. But you can use the word literate with the desired languages in order to denote someone's ability to read and write the languages in question. So you can say that someone is Chinese and English literate, for example.

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I deleted my answer as it was essentially the same as yours, but I would still prefer the form literate in Chinese and English. – Daniel Mar 20 '12 at 19:25
@Danielδ: I think it boils down to stylistic preferences. I love this ability of the English language to allow you to say that you are able to read and write a language in just two words. The definition of succinctness. – Irene Mar 20 '12 at 19:33
Well, what I was looking for is a general term. If I know someone can read and write in two languages, but I don't know what those languages are, I don't see how I can use this expression. – kojiro Mar 20 '12 at 21:41

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