Book Review: The Toolbox for Multilingual Families by Ute Limacher-Riebold & Anna Elisa Miranda

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My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve been following Ute Limacher-Riebold for many years now, ever since my family and I found ourselves ‘in a strange land’ – in Bangladesh, many moons ago – trying to get a handle on a language so alien it didn’t remotely resemble any language we’d encountered before. Ute’s writings were remarkably helpful in that respect. Her blog posts were always full of interesting ideas and lovely encouragement.

I wish, then, that we’d had ‘The Toolbox’ available to use as our young children battled both learning their birth language, English, and the host language of Bangladesh, Bangla.

‘The Toolbox’ is a super collection of over a hundred fun and fascinating ideas for parents wanting to help their children with language acquisition. The activities span the age range from birth through to 15-year-olds and are grouped in sections according to skill sets – understanding and speaking, motor skills, reading and writing, and various subdivisions of these. Ute Limacher-Riebold and Ana Elisa Miranda have done an excellent job presenting these resources in short, snappy, easy-to-read chapters making this the perfect book for parents to just pick up and try a new game or activity.

Although the primary goal of the book is for bilingual families, actually the activities described are almost always applicable for acquisition of children’s birth language. So, any parent wanting to help their child to develop language skills, of any sort, will find this book tremendously helpful. Indeed, many of the activities are well-known games and will be familiar. The new spin is the way these games could be used for developing a second language.

If there was any criticism at all, it would be that from time to time, the authors suggest website resources to use for the purposes of the activities but don’t give any links to suggested ones. I can guess that this is because websites have a habit of coming and going; so links may well fail to work after a few years of publication. Plus, we’re all google-savvy these days and it isn’t hard to go and search for recommended places. However, books can be updated from time to time too and, these days, websites disappear from view far less often, especially if they are highly-valued sites. I personally would recommend the authors consider suggested links for future editions.

Nevertheless, the book is an excellent resource for every parent and an absolute must-buy for any family living in a bilingual world, whether because the parents speak different languages, or the family are situated in a country which speaks a language separate to their own. Highly recommended.

I would add that Ute Lichacher-Riebold is excellent in her field and very lovely as a human being. I recommend her various websites and social media platforms (links to which are in the book!) if you are part of a bilingual family. While ‘The Toolbox’ is too late to benefit my children (who have grown up but continue to use Bangla as part of their natural language), Ute’s skills will still be beneficial when I begin work in earnest on one of my follow-up books to my new book, ‘Try Not To Laugh’. While there is a chapter in there which briefly discusses learning a new language, with special regard to languages which do not used Latin script, I do intend to write an entire book devoted to the skills needed to develop to learn a language quickly. I have been hoping to engage Ute on this for some time now but, you know, she’s a busy woman! I do know that such a book would be all the better for having advice and input from someone who knows what they are talking about, both as a multilingualist and as a mother. Ute Limacher-Riebold is such a person.

Social Entrepreneur, educationalist, bestselling author and journalist, D K Powell is the author of the bestselling collection of literary short stories “The Old Man on the Beach“. His first book, ‘Sonali’ is a photo-memoir journal of life in Bangladesh and has been highly praised by the Bangladeshi diaspora worldwide. Students learning the Bengali language have also valued the English/Bengali translations on every page. Listen to his life story in interview with the BBC here.

His latest book is ‘Try not to Laugh’ and is a guide to memorising, revising and passing exams for students.

Both ‘The Old Man on the Beach’ and ‘Sonali’ are available on Amazon for kindle and paperback. Published by Shopno Sriti Media. The novel,’The Pukur’, will be published by Histria Books in 2022.

D K Powell is available to speak at events (see his TEDx talk here) and can be contacted at Alternatively, he is available for one-to-one mentoring and runs a course on the psychology of writing.

Ken writes for a number of publications around the world. Past reviewer for Paste magazine, The Doughnut, E2D and United Airways,  and currently reviews for Lancashire Life magazine and Northern Arts Review.

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