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FIRST LANGUAGE, SECOND LANGUAGE, short forms L1, L2. Terms in APPLIED LINGUISTICS and LANGUAGE TEACHING. The first language is the language in which learners are competent when starting a new language; the second language is another language that is being learned or has been learned to an adequate level. In many countries, a specific L2 is learned, usually at school, for national or international use. English is the second language for many purposes in such countries as India, Nigeria, and Singapore. An L1 may or may not be a learner's mother tongue, because a chronologically first language may not be the functionally first language of adulthood. Under certain conditions, such as migration, an original L2 may become a person's L1 or only language. See MOTHER TONGUE, TEACHING ENGLISH.