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Abstract

We examine patterns of acquiring non-native languages in a model with two languages and two populations with heterogeneous learning skills, where every individual faces a binary choice of learning the foreign language or refraining from doing so. We show that both interior and corner linguistic equilibria can emerge in our framework, and that the fraction of learners of the foreign language is higher in the country with a higher gross cost adjusted communicative benefit. It turns out that this observation is consistent with the data on language proficiency in bilingual countries such as Belgium and Canada. We also point out that linguistic equilibria can exhibit insufficient learning which opens the door for government policies that are beneficial for both populations.

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