I’ve had this book, The Bilingual Edge (Kendall King & Alison Mackey) on my book shelf for a couple of years, but hadn’t got around to reading it. While looking for books to bring with me for the long flight to DC, it caught my eye. I’ve read it now, and thought that I would review it here.
Overall, it’s a smart little book about bilingualism, but I found it to be quite US-centred and US-biased. That’s to be expected, I suppose – both the authors are researchers in the US. However, it means that the book’s usefulness is limited for parents dealing with anything other than English-something bilingualism.
The book is divided into four sections: Why are two languages better than one?, Which language and when?, How?, and What if…? The first section is definitely “research lite”, in that they paint broad strokes about the research base in child bilingualism, but they do a very good job of dealing with many of the common misconceptions about bilingualism. For anyone dealing with family (or other) disapproval about choosing bilingualism for their children, this book is worth buying, for this section alone. The authors’ support for bilingualism comes across as solid, accessible and most of all, short and sweet. This is the chapter you give to your pediatrician who is counseling you to only speak one language to your child, to your child’s teacher when issues arise or to any other naysayers along the way.
The second section is really mostly relevant for parents who are choosing bilingualism for their children, rather than for families for whom bilingualism is a necessity. The examples (and there are many) try to include bilingual families, but the whole tone of this section and the information included is much more geared towards monolingual English-speaking parents who want to raise their children bilingually, with a heavy emphasis on a US language paradigm.
The third section is similar, in that although it does address the “How” for bilingual families (parents speak different languages), it is more useful to monolingual families seeking to include another language in their lives. However, this is certainly an important audience to reach, and although I don’t agree with all their suggestions, it does provide monolingual parents with guidance and encouragement for the possibilities they can give their children.
The final section, which deals with possible problems, is appropriate for all types of situations. The authors deal very well with the issue of bilingualism and language delays, special educational needs or other challenges. In addition, they tackle the tricky issues of family disagreements about language use, refusal of one language and a variety of other problems that can be encountered by families dealing with more than one language.
Overall, this book has some useful information, and is definitely accurate and research-based. However, the bias towards the US language landscape means that much of the book would be inapplicable to families living outside the US. And as a small aside, there were far too many exclamation points for my liking.