Book review: The Bilingual Family. A Handbook for Parents by Edith Harding and Philip Riley


Learning is the product of ‘motivation x opportunity’ – Edith Harding and Philip Riley

With over half of the world’s population being bilingual, as Edith Harding and Philip Riley remind us, I find the topic of bilingualism important to discuss and learn more about. The Bilingual Family by Edith Harding and Philip Riley is a practical guide to bilingualism. We can find there many useful topics being covered and issues discussed. It starts with an introduction to language and bilingualism (definition, level of fluency, simultaneous and successive acquisition). The chapter that I found really important was about the factors that influence the decision on whether to bring up children bilingually. After all, the decision on bilingualism will influence the whole family’s life, and it’s crucial to make it as informed as possible. Obviously, sometimes bilingualism is a completely natural consequence, as it was in my family’s case. I did read some books on bilingualism, but rather than thinking about pros and cons against bilingualism, I thought about how to implement it and what language plan to have for my family. Another interesting chapter is devoted to case studies. Here we find 16 different examples of bilingual families and learn how they approached bilingualism, and how their children learnt to be bilingual (to various degrees). To whet your appetite, I’ll only mention that there is also a sub-chapter on intelligence and bilingualism.

I highly recommend this publication to parents who face the decision of introducing bilingualism and don’t know how to approach it and for those who are already bilingual, but need some support or have some unanswered questions.

Are you a bilingual family? What books on bilingualism have you read and would like to recommend? Please let me know in the comments below.

Kinga Macalla

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