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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2016 Christine Gilbert (P)2016 Recorded Books

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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

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Awesome book!

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!

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Travel is possible with children! Even adventure!

Loved the overall book, the story, this family's journey. Loved the mix of languages and the narrator's ability to speak them so well. There were a few sections of the book that a struggled to keep listening and not skip over like all the detailed in-depth explanations on the learning process like the Chinese sounds but overall a great book, great story and an inspiration to someone like me who has always had wanderlust and now with two toddlers wonder how exotic travel is possible.

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I enjoyed listening to this book :)

I liked this book as it's a story with a lot of historical and linguistic information scattered around its pages!

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Fun journey through several cultures

I very much enjoyed this book. Christine Gilbert isn't afraid to share her dreams for herself and her family, along with the successes and failures in the process. Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's honest and raw.
I especially appreciate that she did her homework regarding the linguistic theory behind her project and and kept it from being dry and boring while teaching us what she learned at the same time.
I listened to the audio version and Angela Dawe did an excellent job capturing all the accents and pronunciation of the various languages and characters.