#IMLD: Best books about bilingualism for parents

You can not open a book without learning something.

– Confucius

If you are looking for resources to help on your journey to bilingualism with your children it may sometimes feel overwhelming. A simple search will turn up dozens, if not hundreds of books, some obviously aimed at parents, other at academics. To help you wade through the choices, here are my top 5 bilingualism books for parents:

1. Always at number one, A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism. This is a fantastic book, both practical and full of great theory, all in a Q&A format which makes it easy to use. No need to read it from cover-to-cover, just dip in as you have a question and read a couple of pages. This is also the best “sharing” book; the short sections mean that you can copy a couple of pages and pass them on to a teacher, family member, pediatrician… anyone who is giving you poor advice or questioning your choice for bilingualism. Really, a must-have for any bilingual family.

2. An Introduction to Bilingual Development is actually a basic textbook on bilingual language acquisition. But it is well-written and short, and gives a great overview of “bilingualism from birth”. Good resource for parents raising bilingual babies who want to know more about the technical details.

3. Bilingual Siblings is a book that does what it says it will, and more. It’s the first book that really delves into the role that sibling language choice plays in successful bilingualism, and into other issues such as place in family, twins, adoption, to name a few. This is not the first thing you should read about raising bilingual children, but it a good book to deepen your knowledge and explore more complex situations and issues.

4. Growing up with Three Languages is another book that is for more advanced knowledge about multilingualism. You need to go into this book knowing the basics already, and what this book will give you is a well-rounded view of how three (or more) languages are different than two – parents often believe that kids can handle any number of languages and be as easily fluent in three or more, and this is simply not true. Three or more languages is possible, with an understanding that you need to be realistic about expectations and that careful planning is important.

5. Language Strategies for Trilingual Families is a book I like for its format. It clearly divides families into different situations, so you can see yourself reflected, for example, in “Monolingual Parents living abroad” or “One or both parents are trilingual”. This often helps families envision what a successful plan would look like for their family, when they don’t see their complex situations reflected in some of the books that focus more on “bilingualism” than multiple languages.

6 thoughts on “#IMLD: Best books about bilingualism for parents

  1. Jonathan says:

    This looks like a great selection of books. I remember reading ‘A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism’ when my wife was pregnant with our now 21 month old son. It’s full of so many useful tips and really opened my eyes to a whole range of different aspects of bilingualism.

    • eacrisfield says:

      I am always amazed at how much information is packed into this one, fairly small, book. And yet it’s completely not overwhelming, because it is structured so well.

  2. francescawalls says:

    Reblogged this on Multilingual Families in Barcelona: A Researcher's Fieldnotes and commented:
    Work is well underway on my family language questionnaire and it’s all stations go here to get it finished and launched as soon as possible – hopefully within the next week or so! Until that’s ready, Eowyn Crisfield has kindly agreed for me to share this recent post from her blog entitled “On Raising Bilingual Children” (https://onraisingbilingualchildren.com/blog/). There is some great literature available on bi-/multilingualism. Have any of you read any other books that you would recommend? Feel free to comment below!

  3. Judy says:

    Are there any resources aimed at this particularly unusual situation — an internationally adopted child (age 5) who needs to learn the language of his adopted family but is also soon transported to another culture where another language is spoken.

    • eacrisfield says:

      HI Judy, I”ve actually tried to find research before about this topic – there is very little out there, and each child and situation is so unique. There is some information about adopted children in Baker’s “A Parents’ and Teachers” Guide to Bilingualism” but it is not specific to your situation, What we do know is that it is best, if at all possible (given the age of the child) to continue to support the first language while he is in the process of learning the family language. Although it can be hard to provide, it supports their cognitive and language development to continue to use their strong language while learning the new language.


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