Mother Tongue: Book Review

Part of me wishes I could be a part of Christine Gilbert's family. In her travel memoir, Mother Tongue: My Family's Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish, Gilbert details her experience (trying to) learn several languages. 

Her ambitious plan, conceived while she was preparing to give birth to her her first child, is to move to immerse herself and her family in three different countries (China, Beirut, and Mexico) to learn three different languages. Her goal, she explains, is to have her son become multilingual. While she wants her toddler child to learn the languages as toddlers do, simply by listening and mimicking, she is going to learn languages like it's her job. She hires private tutors, buys two five-foot-wide white boards and various other office supplies, and turns her house into what she dubs her "Language Lab". 

I appreciate Glbert's go-big-because-there's-no-going-home attitude. She doesn't settle for mere bilingualism. She doesn't give up Mandarin, one's of the most difficult languages to learn. She doesn't pack up and head home when violence strikes her family's neighbourhood. Gilbert tells her story, the difficulties in learning languages and the challenges in balancing her dreams with her family's needs, intimately and honestly, and the book is so much better for it.

A Gilbert family photo via Seriously, how cute is this family?

Mother Tongue explores more than just language; it's about family and finding home. Gilbert proves that travel and adventure doesn't have to stop when you have kids. (I want to remember this when I have kids of my own, but before then, I might just join the Gilberts!) Read this book and be prepared to move abroad and enrol in a language class—or at least download the Duolingo language-learning app. 

Buy Mother Tongue: My Family's Globe-Trotting Quest to Dream in Mandarin, Laugh in Arabic, and Sing in Spanish