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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.
Customer ReviewsMost Helpful
By Victoria on 06-22-16
fascinating story but...
the narration! ugh. weird. she's fine until she's voicing a child or a male. it's cartoonish and distracting and annoying and completely unnecessary in a memoir. It's fine to change voices in a novel, but in a memoir, especially when it's done poorly, is just not needed.
I had to cringe and grit my teeth when listening to these parts. It's my only caveat.
Otherwise, it's a very interesting story of the author's adventure in different cultures, and what she learned about language learning. It's very well researched and I learned a lot. The writing itself isn't excellent, but the story is interesting enough to overcome that.
1 of 1 people found this review helpful
By Love to read on 12-22-16
Any additional comments?
This book is so interesting! The author goes to live in such different places, that I wouldn't think of living in, just to learn the three most useful languages. I like how candid she was about China, and just the interesting stories about her trying to conduct her family life in three different countries. It must have been exhausting to move so much in just two years. I don't know how she did it!