Books on bilingualism

Bilingualism is a subject that has always interested me and back in 2004 I read a book called The Bilingual Family by Edith Harding-Esch, which I found extremely insightful and that I would definitely recommend.

Ahead of my daughter’s birth, I’ve recently felt the need to read more about this topic as my wife and I plan to raise her bilingually in English and Italian.

For this reason, today I’d like to share with you three books on bilingualism:

Be Bilingual - Practical Ideas for Multilingual Families
by Annika Bourgogne

This was by far my favourite book on the subject as it clearly introduces the most common approaches used when raising children to be bilingual. For each approach, the author shares both theoretical concepts and practical examples, together with potential pitfalls and tips for success. I found it very useful, even though some of the resources indicated are outdated by now.

How To Raise Children Bilingually
by Rosario Carolina Then de Lammerskötter

This is a short e-booklet and a basic introduction to bilingualism. I think I might have liked it more if commonly used terms such as ‘majority language’ and ‘minority language’ hadn’t been replaced by ‘strong language’ and ‘weak language’. ‘Weak language’ has such negative connotations and – as the speaker of what will be the ‘minority language’ in our household – I found it extremely off-putting. 

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability
by Adam Beck

I had great hopes for this book but I am not even counting it as ‘read’ since I decided to only skim read it after struggling through the first 50 pages or so. The author divides the book in two parts: theory and practice. He calls the first part ‘principles’ and the second part ‘perspectives’. I found the first part quite repetitive and the second part not that practical and a mere rephrasing of the first part. In fact, the whole book could be summarised as: read and speak a lot to your children and don’t give up. There were some examples taken from the author’s personal experience with his children but they somehow didn’t feel relevant. The only thing I liked about the book is that each chapter begins with a lovely quote and ends with a short recap, which makes the chapter itself redundant but saves the reader a lot of time.

If you have any book recommendations on the subject – or any other useful resources that you’d like to share – I will welcome them gratefully!


  1. I don't have any book recommendations as such, but I was brought up bilingual without any books like this whatsoever. My parents are both British and spoke English to me at home, we live(d) in France and I went to school in French right from the start. Being plunged into the French language with knowledge of no other word except maybe "bonjour" at two years old could seem awful and overwhelming to some parents, but I was bilingual in only a few months, because I had to learn French to understand! When you're a kid, you can learn things so easily, so it seems natural to me now at 21 that French and English are my languages, and always have been. If I had to give any advice to parents wanting to raise their children bilingual (it's what I intend to do with mine), is to not speak to them in two or more different languages at the same time and instead allot times of day or week where you only speak in one of the two languages, and vice versa the other times and not speak the other language at all, so they HAVE to speak it with you. I know it might seem horrible at first to see them not understand, but I've seen children grow up and have learning difficulties from being spoken to in 3 different languages at once when they didn't understand something. Just try to get them used to a different language for an hour a day and you'll soon see that your child is bilingual!


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