Review: Growing up with Languages by Claire Thomas

One of the problems that bilingual or multilingual families encounter quite often is isolation. They may be living in a world filled with people, work colleagues, classmates, neighbours and family, but quite often they are quite on their own when it comes to being bilingual.

Growing Up with Languages

Growing Up with Languages

Some communities are more diverse than others, and will offer the bilingual family a wealth of resources and support groups that will help them. There may even be quite a few families on the same situation. However, many families will find themselves in a foreign country, or speaking a minority language that is not the norm where they live. Some of us have also chosen to teach their children a third language, that is not a local language where we live.

This is what the book by Claire Thomas, “Growing Up with Languages“, talks about. In the words of Jean-Marc Dewaele from Bircbeck University in London, this book looks at the lives and the trajectories of multilinguals and lets them talk abut their experiences. And Xiao-lei Wang from Pace University, USA adds that the book takes a unique approach in addressing the complexity of multilingual families through the voices of multilinguals.

Growing Up with Languages is a unique tool to get an insight in one go into hundreds of lives of multilinguals. See what they experienced, bad or good, and see their results. Personally, I see it as a way of testing the waters, looking at the different approaches other people have taken and their successes and failures, so it can help me plan better form our future as a multilingual family.

The book is divided in 6 parts:
Different types of family and issues that only affect some kinds of family
Issues at home that will affect most, if not all, families at some time
Education
Language Policies and Politics
Interviewees as Adults
Overall Analysis and Recommendations

Each part also includes different chapters with a summary at the end of each one that helps to bring the ideas together and gives you a general idea of the problems and successes that every family experienced.

As bilingualism is not an exact science, all the information available on the book comes from actual interviews with members of bilingual and multilingual families.

All in all, the book makes for interesting reading material for families who are considering bilingualism or who are already doing it, but need some pointers or are looking for reassurance that they are on the right track. It’s helpful division in parts and chapters means that your time, like that of most other families with kids, is restricted, then instead of reading in order, you can start by those chapters and sections that most interest you.

Let us know if you have read or are reading this book, Growing Up with Languages, what are your ideas?

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