Books and Newsletters for Bilingual Families

Cindy's Disclaimer! I have not read all of the books named here. The fact that a resource is mentioned on this Web page is not a guarantee of quality and does not mean that I support all the views expressed in that resource!

Do you know of a book, periodical or other resource which you believe should be included on one of the lists below? Let me know!


There are several books available which give information and advice to bilingual families. As is to be expected, some are more useful than others. These reviews were written by members of the Bilingual Families mailing list, biling-fam (see above for further information). Unless otherwise noted, all books are written in English, although translations into other languages may also be available.

The Bilingual Family
by Edith Harding and Philip Riley
Cambridge University Press, 1986
ISBN 0 521 31194 2 (paperback)
ISBN 0 521 32418 1 (hardcover)

Two reviews:
"This is a very good book, in my opinion, because it deals with the subject in a very positive way. The children studied are never forced in any way but encouraged to develop their language skills at their own speed. There are no stupid rules such as, "You must speak English to your brother even when I'm not around" etc. I (from the point of view of the bilingual child) could relate to many of the situations written about. It's a good book for parents who are thinking about raising their children bilingually and you don't need to know anything about linguistics in order to read it as everything is explained very clearly."

"This is subtitled "A Handbook for Parents". "Handbook" is a good description; it's organized so that parents can find advice when questions arise. But it's also a good read, especially the case studies and some of the wonderful things the children say. Both the authors are parents of bilingual children (actually, Riley's children are trilingual) and have a very reassuring, often humorous style of writing. On the other hand, it isn't exactly "deep"; it concentrates on what parents need to know, so if you are interested in knowing more about bilingualism itself you'll have to look elsewhere."

Life with Two Languages
by Francois Grosjean
Harvard University Press, 1982
ISBN 0-674-53092-6

"This book is about bilingualism, not simply about bilingual families, but would be of interest to those (like me) who are interested in knowing more about the subject. It covers a wide variety of topics, from what influences attitudes about bilingualism to the causes and of code-switching (brief switches from one language to another). One section is dedicated to the history of bilingualism in the US, detailing which ethnic groups are becoming monolingual and which are remaining bilingual and examining the reasons for the distinction. It is also unique among the books i have read on the topic in that it deals with the special problems of those who are bilingual in American Sign Language and spoken English."

Bilingual Children: from birth to teens
by George Saunders
Multilingual Matters, 1988
ISBN 1-85359-009-6 (paperback)
ISBN 1-85359-010-X (hardcover)

"I still haven't finished reading this book because it's more difficult to read than the other one as it's more scholarly. Both the author and his wife are Tasmanian and in order to raise their kids bilingually he is speaking to them in German, which is not his native language but one he has a native-like proficiency in. There are quite a few things I don't agree with in this book, such as a number of strict rules imposed upon the author's children which would have put me off speaking a second language completely. The book is also very technical and requires some sort of a linguistic background."

Zweisprachige Kindererziehung
by Bernd Kielhoefer, Sylvie Jonekeit
Stauffenburg Verlag, Tuebingen, 1983
ISBN 3-923721-05-6
(in German)

"This book is written for parents who want to give their kids a bilingual education. It contains theoretical background, many many "real life" experiences (German-French), and gives really valuable hints. I like this book, because the reader feels that the authors really experienced everything they write about, and give so many examples that all the parents of bilingual children will encounter one day. Finally, it is a very positive book, and I consider it a little bit like my "bible", and re-read passages from time to time when I'm not so sure if what I'm doing is really so good for my kids. (Now that I know biling-fam, I don't need to be reassured any more :-))"

Raising Children Bilingually: The Pre-School Years
by Lenore Arnberg
Seeking more information about, and a review of, this book!

Poetry and Fiction

Some partial references to literary descriptions of bilingualism, which were sent to me by e-mail. I haven't yet had the time to read any of these!
Hunger of Memory: The Education of Richard Rodriguez by Richard Rodriguez
Sorting Metaphors by Ricardo Pau-Llosa
I'm New Here by Bud Howlett (Written for young people)
Speaking Two Languages by Bethany Boswell (Written for young people)


Lost in Translation: Life in a New Country
by Eva Hoffman

"I suggest to you and others, if you are interested, a book that helped me put a lot of my own thoughts and emotions into perspective (it gave words and images to what I was feeling and I wasn't able to do that).It is called, appropriately, Lost In Translation: Life in a New Language and it is written by Eva Hoffman. While her reasons for going abroad are completely different from mine, there are a lot of things that she touches on that hit me right on."


The Bilingual Family Newsletter, published by UK-based Multilingual Matters, is informative and family-oriented, and periodically includes a list of books which may be of interest to families living with two languages. A free sample issue is sent out on request. Subscription information can be obtained by contacting:

Marjukka Grover
Fax (+44)/(0) 1275 343096
Multilingual Matters Ltd
Frankfurt Lodge
Clevedon Hall, Clevedon
England BS21 7SJ

Multilingual Matters also publishes other newsletters and books. More information about the company can be found at their Web site or by e-mail to

ImF, Interessengemeinschaft mehrsprachiger Familien e.V., publishes a newsletter, The Polyglot, for multilingual families in Germany. The newsletter is available in both German and English. They also publish a number of information sheets on topics of interest to bilingual families.

FFF, Föreningen för Flerspråkiga Familjer, publishes a newsletter, Samspråk, for multilingual families in Sweden.

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