Book Review | “Bilingual Life and Reality,” by François Grosjean

Be-Bilingual-Life-Reality-Francois-GrosjeanThis is one of my favorite books about bilingualism. It’s a relatively new book, published in 2010 by the Harvard University Press.

The book is about two hundred and fifty pages long, and it’s very easy to read.

Much of the information in the book comes from academic studies, but the text is simple enough that you don’t need a background in linguistics to understand it.

There are two main sections to this book. The first section deals with bilingual adults, including those who learned a second language late in life as well as adults raised bilingual.

The second section talks about bilingual children and the effects of bilingual child-rearing.

I found this book when I was looking for tools to help me raise my own children bilingual. Most of the materials I found at the time were about parenting specifically, and not about the experience of a bilingual adult.

Francois Grosjean’s book became one of my favorites because it didn’t just talk about strategies for my children. It also described experiences that were familiar to me as a bilingual adult.

So what will you find in this book?

It looks at adults first, and talks about the different kinds of bilingual or multilingual adults that are out there.

Grosjean looks at the function of language, methods of learning language, and at language development later in life. There are chapters devoted to writing bilingually, as well as to having an accent and to biculturalism as opposed to bilingualism.

There are even some examples of famous bilinguals and bilingual writers whose works you can study. In the second section, Grosjean switches to talking about children and bilingual child-rearing.

Here you get the psychology of language development in young children, as well as strategies for families that want to raise their children bilingual. Grosjean looks both at families where the parents are bilingual and families where the parents are not bilingual, but want their children to grow up bilingual.

What you won’t find in this book is a lot of instruction or teaching materials. It’s not a how-to manual for parents. It does talk about parenting, but mostly in an academic way. There are other books out there that are much more specifically designed to be instructional texts.

So don’t pick up Grosjean’s book if what you really want is a guidebook on raising your children bilingual. But it is a great book for understanding the bilingual experience, and I would recommend it to anyone who is interacting with bilingualism in his or her life.

If you travel a lot, or if you have a spouse who speaks another language, or if your family is encouraging bilingualism, this is a great book to start with.

I’m Elena Plokhuta of Bilingual Kids Rock, and this has been my video review of “Bilingual Life and Reality,” by Francois Grosjean!