Book Review: Growing up with Three Languages by Xiao-Lei Wang


Raising children bilingually sounds challenging enough, but trilingually? Xiao-Lei Wang and her husband decided to teach their children their heritage languages: Chinese and French, while living in the USA. They were very serious about this project and gave their full attention and creativity to make it work for their boys who are now trilingual! Xiao-Lei Wang described their experience in the book Growing up with Three Languages. Birth to Eleven and says that one of the motives behind this publication was the lack of successful examples of multilingual upbringing practises. By writing this book Xiao-Lei Wang wanted to help parents discover the possibilities of raising multilingual children. This is not to say that the task in itself was somehow easy and without difficulty or frustration, rather it was overall an enjoyable and rewarding process.

Growing up with three languages

Growing up with Three Languages was recommended to me by a friend who is planning to raise her daughter trilingually and found some of the book’s guidelines very useful. I particularly enjoyed its style, case studies, real-life examples, friendly reader approach and long lists of resources. I would point out however that the addition of an all-in-one bibliography would have been useful.

The author highlights a number of key factors on the process of raising children trilingually. Firstly , if we are planning to raise our children multilingually, we must ask ourselves a number of questions: from our reasons and motives, practicalities and teaching methods to our children’s names (yes, that is important, too!) and then deciding whether they should be going to a supplementary school or not. Secondly, let’s make the whole process as interesting, enjoyable and also positively challenging as we can, so that it does not feel like a chore both for us and for our little ones. Thirdly, we should not forget that communication should always be the most important priority and that language learning is a life-long process (I certainly agree with this!).

I would definitely recommend this book to any parent who is planning to raise their children multilingually, and it is an undeniably helpful resource for those whose heritage languages are Chinese or French.

Written by Kinga Macalla

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