Bilingual: Life and Reality was recommended by Dr Madeleine Beveridge

As part of the Ragged Library, Dr Madeleine Beveridge, Research Coordinator for Bilingualism Matters at the University of Edinburgh suggested ‘Bilingual: Life and Reality′ by François Grosjean (Cambridge, MA :Harvard University Press, 2010)…

I would like to recommend “Bilingual: Life and Reality” to anyone who is interested in languages and how we learn them. François Grosjean is a huge name in bilingualism research. In this book, he explores what it means to be bilingual. In particular, he argues that bilingualism is not about speaking two langauges with perfect fluency, but about using more than one language – whether or not you sound like a native speaker.

Bilingual Life

I didn’t learn any language other than English until, at high school, I was taught French for two hours per week by a teacher who mostly spoke English. Although I went on to study French at University and lived in France for several years, I never considered myself bilingual, because I hadn’t learnt French as a small child. Grosjean’s inclusive vision of bilingualism was a complete revelation to me. Bilingualism is not the province of a select elite, unattainable to all save those who were gifted a perfectly balanced multilingual environment since birth. Anyone can become bilingual! Realising that bilingualism is inclusive, not exclusive, is especially important in the UK where many people, like me, become disheartened that they will never be “real” bilinguals, and so give up trying to learn another language at all.

The book covers a wide range of topics, including:

  • Growing up with two cultures
  • Personality and dreaming
  • Attitudes towards bilingualism
  • Family strategies and support
  • Switching between languages

This is by far the most accessible book I have found on the topic. In fact, when I was appointed as Research Coordinator for Bilingualism Matters, this book was the first thing I read to brush up my knowledge. There is no unnecessary jargon, and it doesn’t feel like slogging through a textbook. The short chapters make it easily digestable for even the busiest people. And most importantly of all: it is very, very readable.

Madeleine coorinates the Bilingualism Matters project which is dedicated to encouraging and supporting children learning more than one language so that they gain the benefits of this for a healthy brain and a happy rich life:

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