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

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

by Christine Gilbert
 

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One woman’s quest to learn Mandarin in Beijing, Arabic in Beirut, and Spanish in Mexico, with her young family along for the ride.

Imagine negotiating for a replacement carburetor in rural Mexico with words you’re secretly pulling from a pocket dictionary. Imagine your two-year-old asking for more niunai at dinner—a Mandarin word for

Overview

One woman’s quest to learn Mandarin in Beijing, Arabic in Beirut, and Spanish in Mexico, with her young family along for the ride.

Imagine negotiating for a replacement carburetor in rural Mexico with words you’re secretly pulling from a pocket dictionary. Imagine your two-year-old asking for more niunai at dinner—a Mandarin word for milk that even you don’t know yet. Imagine finding out that you’re unexpectedly pregnant while living in war-torn Beirut. With vivid and evocative language, Christine Gilbert takes us along with her into foreign lands, showing us what it’s like to make a life in an unfamiliar world—and in an unfamiliar tongue.

Gilbert was a young mother when she boldly uprooted her family to move around the world, studying Mandarin in China, Arabic in Lebanon, and Spanish in Mexico, with her toddler son and all-American husband along for the ride.Their story takes us from Beijing to Beirut, from Cyprus to Chiang Mai—and also explores recent breakthroughs in bilingual brain mapping and the controversial debates happening in linguistics right now.

Gilbert’s adventures abroad prove just how much language influences culture (and vice versa), and lead her to results she never expected. Mother Tongue is a fascinating and uplifting story about taking big risks for bigger rewards and trying to find meaning and happiness through tireless pursuit—no matter what hurdles may arise. It’s a treat for language enthusiasts and armchair travelers alike.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“An engaging travel narrative for both language lovers and general audiences.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Christine Gilbert takes us, her husband, and her toddler to China, Beirut, and Mexico on a quest to connect with locals and master their languages… for as long as it takes. But her plans get hijacked by political and human events. Gilbert’s warmth and willpower are contagious, and I especially loved vicariously learning the challenges of Mandarin. Her journey moves us through determination, disappointments, and finally, into joy. Her talent is to make us care!”
—Rita Golden Gelman, author of Tales of a Female Nomad
 
“Christine Gilbert’s intimate, honest narrative, rooted in science, illustrates the courage it takes to “be global” and raise global kids – complete with humor, humility and humanity. I thoroughly enjoyedMother Tongue and encourage anyone who’s considered living or traveling abroad with kids to read this book!”
—Homa S. Tavangar, author of Growing Up Global
 
“Read this book while packing your suitcase. You'll be inspired by Christine's stories of adventure in foreign lands, and you'll be encouraged by how close her family became as they traded risk for reward wherever they went.”
—Chris Guillebeau, NYT bestselling author of Born for This and The $100 Startup
 
"Inspiring...  Gilbert balances a young family and her career to take us on an enviable journey around the world while also providing illuminating research on language acquisition for the young and old alike." 
—Jen Lin-Liu, author of On the Noodle Road

Kirkus Reviews
2016-03-01
A blogger and documentary filmmaker's account of how she and her family became globe-trotting foreign language learners. Gilbert decided that she, her husband, and her child needed to become multilingual global citizens rather than remain "all-American monolinguals"—not just to enhance their cultural literacy, but also to give their young son, Cole, a cognitive edge. The author's father had suffered from dementia, and she discovered research that showed how lifelong bilinguals "could stave off the effects of dementia by four to five years." The "mad" project she envisioned would eventually take her family to Beijing, Beirut, and Puerto Vallarta, where they would learn three languages through focused study and cultural immersion. Her idealism, however, foundered almost immediately after she arrived in China. Studying Chinese, one of the hardest of all modern languages, "felt like hitting my head against a brick wall," and Beijing was so polluted that the family had to stay indoors most of the time. Yet by the time they left for Beirut a few months later, they had managed to learn the rudiments of Chinese. Although Cole went through a worrisome "silent period" before he began to speak Arabic, Gilbert soon discovered that the language "was hard, but it wasn't that hard." However, political instability and the constant threat of violence drove the family on to Mexico, where Gilbert gave birth to her second child and learned to speak Spanish with ease. Two years after they had begun their journey, the family decided to settle more permanently in Barcelona, where they could "form [their] life…and community" around a second culture they could love and call their own. Informed by research into language and cognitive development, Gilbert's book is not only the record of a lively and unusual adventure. It is also a celebration of a family's determination to venture together, for better or worse, into the unknown. An engaging travel narrative for both language lovers and general audiences.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781592407927
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
05/17/2016
Pages:
336
Sales rank:
381,009
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.60(d)

Meet the Author

Christine Gilbert is a writer, photographer, and documentary filmmaker and is the creator of the popular blog Almostfearless.com. Gilbert’s site has been mentioned in the Los Angeles Times Web Buzz, the Travel Channel’s World Hum, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Brave New Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, and many more publications. Her writing and photography have been seen on Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, and BBC Travel.

Originally from the Boston area, Gilbert now lives in Barcelona, Spain, with her husband, Drew, and their children, Cole and Stella.

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