3 Essential Ways Parents Raising Bilingual Children Should Be Like Zombies

Right up front, please let me stress this important point to avoid any tragic misunderstanding:

Zombies are good role models for parents of bilingual children in certain ways, but not in others.

Yes, zombies possess several praiseworthy traits that parents of bilingual children would be wise to emulate—and I’ll describe these in more detail in a moment—but I’m afraid there are just as many ways in which zombies are not well suited to the task of raising bilingual kids. For this reason, it’s best to be selective and adopt only those zombie qualities that can empower the process of bilingual child rearing. Because other characteristics of a flesh-eating zombie can be counterproductive to successfully fostering good bilingual ability, and may even result in undesirable cases of cannibalism, taking after these monsters willy-nilly is strongly discouraged.

Click to find out how you should be like a zombie →

German flag lollipop

German flag lollipop!

This article continues a series of guest posts at Bilingual Monkeys called “Bilingual Travelers.” What sort of impact does travel to a location where the minority language is spoken widely have on a child’s bilingual development and bicultural upbringing? In this series we join other families as they make trips to destinations around the world and report back on their experiences.

If you’d like to contribute an article to the “Bilingual Travelers” series—or the series Thank You Letter From a Bilingual Child—please contact me to express your interest in guest posting at Bilingual Monkeys.

Mayken Brünings, originally from Germany, now resides with her French husband on the outskirts of Paris where they have a direct view of the Eiffel Tower.

Mayken has a four-year-old daughter who is being raised in German and French. She is trilingual in German, French, and English and juggles a full-time office job, writing children’s books, and competitive swimming while serving as generally the sole source of the minority language. She is very grateful for the existence of grandparents and the invention of Skype.

My family’s bilingual situation is comparatively “easy”: We live in Paris, only a few hours by car or train from Germany, and there is even a direct flight to my hometown where most of my family still live. (I won’t tell you about the size of the plane, though.) As a result, so far we’ve managed to organise several trips to the minority country each year.

Every Christmas we make the 12-hour car trip to stay for a week at my mother’s (Oma). Our daughter celebrates Christmas with a real tree with real candles and delights in the treasures of our local Christmas market.

Once or twice in the last two years, I’ve taken my girl on a mother-daughter trip to see Oma for a few days, by train or by plane. We usually come back loaded with German books and CDs and other goodies.

Click to continue →

Little Monsters Contest!

The truth is, even if children always behaved like little angels, the bilingual journey would still be a challenging experience for most parents, especially when literacy in the minority language is also an important aim. To foster higher levels of language ability, a significant amount of time, effort, and expense is required and these demands must remain a central part of a family’s lifestyle throughout the years of childhood.

All this turns even tougher, though, when a child’s behavior becomes less like a little angel and more like a little devil.

Duels with my daughter

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my 10-year-old daughter has always had a willful streak. Compared to my seven-year-old son, who’s generally quite easygoing and obedient, Lulu is rather high-strung and rebellious. And lately, her behavior has taken a turn for the worse and my wife and I have found ourselves engaged in duels with her over our expectations for her homework and her other responsibilities at home. I honestly don’t think we ask too much of her: our expectations may be high, but they’re not unreasonable, and we simply want her to take on these tasks positively and proactively, without continually dragging her feet and doing less than her best.

In one of my recent moments of exasperation, I “grounded” her for the day: she couldn’t leave the house to play with friends or go shopping with her mother. From the tearful outburst that followed, you would have thought I had just given her a life sentence!

As she went on wailing in the living room, I took refuge in my little office and opened the desktop file with the journal I’ve kept throughout their childhood. (See Why Keeping a Journal on Your Kids is So Valuable.) Since Lulu has had a long history of erupting in tantrums in times of frustration, I was seeking some of these earlier incidents to help lighten my perspective: if I survived those times, and can now look back at them and laugh, I can survive this time, too.

Reading these old journal entries, I not only regained a more healthy perspective, I thought of a fun way, with Halloween approaching, for us all to lighten the load of our journey just a bit: by holding a contest where we share humorous stories of the times our bilingual monkeys turned into little monsters.

Let me start with a story of my own. Then I hope you’ll share a story, too, by posting a comment below.

Click to read my story and enter the contest →

Highlights from Bilingual Monkeys: May-June 2014

As I explained earlier, I’m now taking a little break from blogging to focus on other writing projects—but I’ll be back on October 15 with a fun new contest! Over the past two years I’ve written more than 200 articles about raising bilingual children so this is a good time to take a short pause and let you catch up with previous posts that you may have missed.

One writing project is a book about raising bilingual children. My goal for this book is to provide ideas that will not only help parents achieve success, but maximize that success. This will be my mission moving forward: maximizing our children’s bilingual development.

If you’d like “inside information” on my new book—I’ll keep you posted on my progress and even give you the chance to win a free preview copy—just click this link to add your email address to a special list. (I’ll only email you occasionally, and only about my book.)

Yes, I’m interested in your book on maximizing success at raising bilingual children.

At the same time, I’ll continue to remain active at the forum for our community, The Bilingual Zoo, so please stop by and say hello. It’s a friendly, lively place for “keepers” of bilingual kids and admission is free for all.

P.S. Don’t miss my major update of the most popular post on this site, titled My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids. It now contains 44 important tips and runs over 5,000 words.

22 Fun Photos from Our Adventures in Hagi, Japan
A personal post where I share pictures from our trip to an old castle town called Hagi.

A Terrific Way to Get Your Bilingual Kids Talking (and Build a Closer Bond)
Here’s an idea that can be a fun and useful tactic for generating conversation and engaging your children in the minority language.

Are Your Bilingual Kids Writing Letters in the Minority Language?
Letter-writing exchanges in the minority language can promote stronger language development, broader awareness of the world, and richer relationships.

Be Very Serious. Be Very Playful. The Bilingual Journey Demands Both.
It’s an odd and delicate balance: you must be both very serious about your expectations for your kids and yet very playful about how you carry them out.

Another Fun Idea to Get Your Bilingual Kids Eagerly Using the Minority Language
Try this playful, indirect way of prompting your children to speak the minority language.

What to Do When It’s Hard to Find Children’s Books in Your Minority Language
Ideas for overcoming the problem of a lack of resources in a less-common minority language.

8 Meditations on Time and the Art of Raising a Bilingual Child
Time is the very fabric of our lives, and the way we perceive time, and use (or misuse) time, is at the heart of our bilingual journey.

How Nearly Getting Myself Killed by a Kite and Having to Pay a Parking Ticket for $150 Helped My Children’s Bilingual Ability
Even your failures are successes, in a way, when they’re experienced in the minority language.

Recommended Resources: “A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism” by Colin Baker
“A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism” is a comprehensive and authoritative book that can serve as a core reference for homes and schools.

Another Quiz on Bilingualism! Test Your Knowledge!
Try this quiz on bilingualism, with questions based on information in Colin Baker’s book “A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism.”

Highlights from Bilingual Monkeys: March-April 2014

As I explained earlier, I’m now taking a little break from blogging to focus on other writing projects. Over the past two years I’ve written more than 200 articles about raising bilingual children so this is a good time to take a short pause and let you catch up with previous posts that you may have missed.

One writing project is a book about raising bilingual children. My goal for this book is to provide ideas that will not only help parents achieve success, but maximize that success. This will be my mission moving forward: maximizing our children’s bilingual development.

If you’d like “inside information” on my new book—I’ll keep you posted on my progress and even give you the chance to win a free preview copy—just click this link to add your email address to a special list. (I’ll only email you occasionally, and only about my book.)

Yes, I’m interested in your book on maximizing success at raising bilingual children.

At the same time, I’ll continue to remain active at the forum for our community, The Bilingual Zoo, so please stop by and say hello. It’s a friendly, lively place for “keepers” of bilingual kids and admission is free for all.

P.S. Don’t miss my major update of the most popular post on this site, titled My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids. It now contains 44 important tips and runs over 5,000 words.

The Funniest Activity I’ve Ever Done with My Bilingual Kids and Students
Here’s a great game that often gets my bilingual kids and students laughing like mad chipmunks. (Free downloads, too!)

Inspiring Interview with Corey Heller of “Multilingual Living”
In this candid interview, Corey Heller, the founder of “Multilingual Living,” shares her personal story and her advice for parents.

Guest Post: If At First You Don’t Succeed, You May Be the Minority Language Parent
In this guest post, Tatyana Leskowicz shares a successful strategy for getting a small child to actively use the minority language.

It’s Not About How Hard It Is, It’s About How Hard You Try
The thing to focus on, above all, is your effort: How hard are you really trying each day, and are you satisfied with the extent of your effort?

You Need These 3 Things to Raise a Bilingual Child
Each of these three things is crucial to your success, and the third one is generally overlooked.

There Are More Resources in Your Minority Language Than You Think
With some extra effort, you can always find additional resources in your target language.

Thank You Letter from a Bilingual Child: Olga Mecking
In this guest post, Olga Mecking writes a lovely letter to her parents, reflecting on her upbringing as a bilingual child.

Watch Out for the Tough “Second Stage” of Bilingual Development
A warning for parents who will one day face the “second stage” of bilingual development: schooling in the majority language.

What’s the Best Book About Raising Bilingual Children?
The more you read on the subject, the more effectively you can navigate the years of your bilingual journey.

Could a Handful of Dice Get Your Bilingual Kids Speaking More (And Improve Their Math Skills, Too)?
Dice can be a fun and useful tool for encouraging communication in the minority language.

Your Child Wants to Be Bilingual!
Your gurgling baby, or your growing child, may not be aware of this yet, but they want to be bilingual!

Why Raising a Bilingual Child Is Very, Very Simple—and Very, Very Difficult
The process may be simple, but it’s hardly easy, particularly when the child attends a majority language school.

Highlights from Bilingual Monkeys: January-February 2014

As I explained earlier, I’m now taking a little break from blogging to focus on other writing projects. Over the past two years I’ve written more than 200 articles about raising bilingual children so this is a good time to take a short pause and let you catch up with previous posts that you may have missed.

One writing project is a book about raising bilingual children. My goal for this book is to provide ideas that will not only help parents achieve success, but maximize that success. This will be my mission moving forward: maximizing our children’s bilingual development.

If you’d like “inside information” on my new book—I’ll keep you posted on my progress and even give you the chance to win a free preview copy—just click this link to add your email address to a special list. (I’ll only email you occasionally, and only about my book.)

Yes, I’m interested in your book on maximizing success at raising bilingual children.

At the same time, I’ll continue to remain active at the forum for our community, The Bilingual Zoo, so please stop by and say hello. It’s a friendly, lively place for “keepers” of bilingual kids and admission is free for all.

P.S. Don’t miss my major update of the most popular post on this site, titled My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids. It now contains 44 important tips and runs over 5,000 words.

Crazy Bilingual Kids Reveal Their New Year’s Resolutions
When I sat down with my kids, seeking sincere resolutions, what I got instead was this nutty discussion.

Thank You Letter from a Bilingual Child: Tatyana Leskowicz
In this guest post, Tatyana Leskowicz writes a lovely letter to her parents, reflecting on her upbringing as a bilingual child.

How to Use Poetry with Your Bilingual Kids (And Why You Should)
How much do you use poetry with your children to nurture the minority language?

Why Resources in the Minority Language Are So Vital to Bilingual Success (With 6 Real-Life Examples From My Own Family)
Maintaining a steady stream of suitable resources is at the very heart of nurturing strong language development.

“I Spoke Both Finnish and English”: I Interview My Mother on Her Bilingual Childhood
My mother shares her history as a bilingual child, with bilingual parents.

Haircuts, Soap Bubbles, and the Whole Meaning of Life in Under 700 Words
This week I got a haircut. Once a month, for the past six years, I go to the same little barbershop, just a few minutes on foot from my house…

How Comic Books Can Give Your Kids Bilingual Super Powers
Comic books in the minority language can be a highly effective way of promoting language development.

Recommended Resources: Captivating Comic Books for English Learners
Here’s a list of great graphic novels to nurture language development and a love of literacy.

Recommended Resources: “Bilingual: Life and Reality” by François Grosjean
A wise, warm primer on the subject of bilingualism, highly recommended for parents, teachers, and the general public.

What Do You Know About Bilingualism? Take This Quiz and Test Your Knowledge!
Here’s a little quiz about bilingualism to test your knowledge!

76 Wonderful Quotes on Parenthood
The more effective we want to be as parents of bilingual children, the more effective we need to be, first and foremost, as parents.

Highlights from Bilingual Monkeys: November-December 2013

As I explained earlier, I’m now taking a little break from blogging to focus on other writing projects. Over the past two years I’ve written more than 200 articles about raising bilingual children so this is a good time to take a short pause and let you catch up with previous posts that you may have missed.

One writing project is a book about raising bilingual children. My goal for this book is to provide ideas that will not only help parents achieve success, but maximize that success. This will be my mission moving forward: maximizing our children’s bilingual development.

If you’d like “inside information” on my new book—I’ll keep you posted on my progress and even give you the chance to win a free preview copy—just click this link to add your email address to a special list. (I’ll only email you occasionally, and only about my book.)

Yes, I’m interested in your book on maximizing success at raising bilingual children.

At the same time, I’ll continue to remain active at the forum for our community, The Bilingual Zoo, so please stop by and say hello. It’s a friendly, lively place for “keepers” of bilingual kids and admission is free for all.

P.S. Don’t miss my major update of the most popular post on this site, titled My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids. It now contains 44 important tips and runs over 5,000 words.

Recommended Resources: Word Games in the Minority Language
The regular use of word games, from an early age, can promote a child’s love of language and bilingual development.

Your Efforts Today Have a Profound Impact on Tomorrow
Don’t ever doubt that your small, daily efforts matter—they do, and a great deal more than we usually recognize.

56 More Inspiring Quotes for Parents Raising Bilingual Children
More wise words that can help inspire parents in their quest to raise bilingual children.

When You Feel a Lack of Support for Your Bilingual Journey from the People Around You
What can you do when you feel a lack of support from a spouse, relative, or friend?

The Power of Using the Minority Language to Help Others
Motivate your bilingual child by providing opportunities for him to use his ability in the minority language to benefit others.

My Favorite Way to Get a Bilingual Child Reading More in the Minority Language
This strategy not only nurtures a child’s literacy development, it’s great fun for both parent and child.

Parents Trying to Raise Bilingual Children: Stop Confusing Your Poor Kids with Two Languages!
I received this message the other day from “A Concerned Citizen” and thought it might be of interest.

Help! My Bilingual Children Are Losing Their Ability in the Minority Language!
What should you do when your children start “losing” their minority language after entering a majority language school?

Thought Experiment: What Will Your Children Remember Most About You?
What impressions will you leave in your children’s minds and hearts, and how is this important, right now, in your efforts to foster their bilingual ability?

A Bilingual Child’s Christmas List
See the fun things my son put on his Christmas list!

Highlights from Bilingual Monkeys: September-October 2013

As I explained earlier, I’m now taking a little break from blogging to focus on other writing projects. Over the past two years I’ve written more than 200 articles about raising bilingual children so this is a good time to take a short pause and let you catch up with previous posts that you may have missed.

One writing project is a book about raising bilingual children. My goal for this book is to provide ideas that will not only help parents achieve success, but maximize that success. This will be my mission moving forward: maximizing our children’s bilingual development.

If you’d like “inside information” on my new book—I’ll keep you posted on my progress and even give you the chance to win a free preview copy—just click this link to add your email address to a special list. (I’ll only email you occasionally, and only about my book.)

Yes, I’m interested in your book on maximizing success at raising bilingual children.

At the same time, I’ll continue to remain active at the forum for our community, The Bilingual Zoo, so please stop by and say hello. It’s a friendly, lively place for “keepers” of bilingual kids and admission is free for all.

P.S. Don’t miss my major update of the most popular post on this site, titled My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids. It now contains 44 important tips and runs over 5,000 words.

What Frustrates Me About Raising Bilingual Children
“Preventive medicine” can lessen the difficulties, and accompanying frustrations, of raising bilingual kids.

There’s a Fine Line Between Being Firm and Being Rigid
Being firm is productive, but being too firm crosses the line into being rigid, and that’s counterproductive ground.

43 Great Quotes on the Power and Importance of Reading
Inspiring quotes on books and reading for parents and teachers.

A Friend of Mine Died
Since my friend passed away, I wake each morning and whisper: seize the day.

What Language Should I Speak in Public with My Bilingual Child?
Be careful that your use of the majority language doesn’t undermine your greater goal for your child’s development in the minority language.

You Are Not Alone
You can do this. Keep going, keep trying, day by day, and keep breathing in as much joy on this memorable journey as your heart can possibly hold.

Important Thoughts on Babies and Hammers
How is a stone cutter and his hammer a powerful metaphor for parents raising bilingual children?

19 Things I Haven’t Told You About Me and My Family
Here’s a personal peek into the past and present, with some fun photos, too.

How I Get My Bilingual Son to Talk His Head Off in the Minority Language
Here’s a fun activity for parent and child that promotes non-stop use of the target language and frees the imagination completely.

This Great Way to Get Bilingual Kids Talking More is Often Overlooked
Here’s a rich, ready source of inspiration for storytelling in the target language.

A Powerful Twist on the Use of Skype to Promote the Minority Language
Try this strategy for fueling lively conversations via Skype with grandparents and other loved ones.

Making Science a Bigger Part of a Bilingual Child’s Life and Language Development
How do I nurture my children’s language ability about the world at large, in scientific terms, when I’m practically a caveman myself?

How Blaming Your Kids For Things They Didn’t Do Can Boost Their Language Ability
Try this fun, playful way to prompt interaction in the minority language!

Is It Too Late For My Child to Become Bilingual?
What options are there for beginning or boosting a child’s bilingual development at an older age?

My Son Disappears, I Lose My Mind, and the World is Beautiful
Last weekend there was a festival at a local shrine in our neighborhood. We almost didn’t go—and afterward, I wished we hadn’t…

Highlights from Bilingual Monkeys: July-August 2013

Happy Birthday, Bilingual Monkeys! This month my blog turns two! I hope you’ve found my work helpful to your bilingual journey. I’m really grateful for your interest and your support.

The past two years have been exciting for me. It’s wonderful to connect with people all over the world on a topic that means so much to our lives. One day, when I can finally tear myself away from this computer and travel more, I look forward to meeting many of you in person!

At the same time, I’ll be honest: writing over 200 blog posts has left me a bit winded. It isn’t easy maintaining this site (and responding to email) on top of my “day job” as a writer and editor, tutoring bilingual kids on the side, and spending time with my family. The truth is, I now need to focus more on other writing projects, and so, for a little while, I’ll take a break from blogging and let you catch up with previous posts, from the past year, that you may have missed.

One writing project, actually, is a book about raising bilingual children. My goal for this book is to provide ideas that will not only help parents achieve success, but maximize that success. This will be my mission moving forward: maximizing our children’s bilingual development.

If you’d like “inside information” on my new book—I’ll keep you posted on my progress and even give you the chance to win a free preview copy—just click this link to add your email address to a special list. (I’ll only email you occasionally, and only about my book.)

Yes, I’m interested in your book on maximizing success at raising bilingual children.

At the same time, I’ll continue to remain active at the forum for our community, The Bilingual Zoo, so please stop by and say hello. It’s a friendly, lively place for “keepers” of bilingual kids and admission is free for all.

I’ll also continue sending out my weekly newsletter each Sunday. If you’re not already receiving my free newsletter, it’s the very best way to keep up with all the action at the blog and forum. For full details, just see the subscribe page.

As always, thank you for sharing your favorite posts with the world via Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking sites!

Also, don’t miss my major update of the most popular post on this site, My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids. It now contains 44 important tips and runs over 5,000 words.

If This Isn’t a Big Part of Your Strategy for Raising Bilingual Kids, It Really Should Be
Parents seeking to raise bilingual children must make the effort to create a “print-rich environment” in the minority language.

The One Way Parents of Bilingual Kids Must Be Like a Panda Bear
A panda eating bamboo is the perfect symbol of a mindset needed by us all to advance steadily on this bilingual journey.

3 Good Ways to Boost a Bilingual Child’s Language Ability and Loving Bond with Grandparents
How can we strengthen our children’s ties to their grandparents, while stretching their ability in the minority language?

Creative Solutions to Challenges Raising Bilingual Children
The broader our capacity for creative thinking, the more likely we’ll come up with effective ways to address the challenges of raising bilingual kids.

Can You See How Quickly Time Is Passing?
If you don’t take adequate advantage of the time that you have, the results may not be what you had hoped for at the start of this journey.

To Reach Your Destination, You Can’t Just Sit On Your Suitcase and Cry
Pursue the bilingual journey as you would a long trip: deal with the difficulties and keep heading toward your destination.

What My Hiroshima-Born Children Think About the Atomic Bombing
What do my children think about the atomic bombing, about war, about peace? I sat down with my kids on August 6 and asked them these questions.

96 Things You Can Do Today to Boost Your Child’s Bilingual Ability
A lengthy list of activities you can pursue, right now, to nurture a child’s language development, whatever your target language.

2 Key Reasons to Keep an Archive of Your Children’s Work
If you don’t already have a satisfactory system for collecting your children’s written work, this is something that really deserves your attention.

A Sneaky Way to Get Bilingual Kids to Use the Minority Language
To get your children eagerly using the minority language, try making “mystery” a conscious tactic in your efforts.

Why I’m Like This Rumbling Volcano (And Why You Should Be, Too)
How can you sustain an effective homework routine to nurture literacy in the minority language?

The Dark Secret to Success at Raising Bilingual Kids
What vital secret do cave formations—stalactites and stalagmites, in particular—whisper to parents raising bilingual children?

Lost teddy bear

I came across this teddy bear in the middle of the disaster zone. It lay on top of a guardrail, surrounded by mounds of white bags filled with mud.

A lost teddy bear, eyes staring at the sky. A wet ribbon around its neck. A silent bell.

What happened to the child who once loved it?

Click to continue →

Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 2

Eighteen months ago, when my kids were 8 and 5, I offered a detailed look at our daily homework routine in the minority language, which began (gently) when they were around the age of 3. In that post—Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 1—I discuss the value of a homework routine for nurturing literacy and overall language development, and I provide a range of strategies and resources that I’ve found useful to my own efforts. (Many of these resources, of course, are for supporting English, our minority language.)

If you haven’t yet read that post, I encourage you to start there, then return here, in order to view the bigger picture of our homework routine to date.

Now that Lulu is 10 and Roy is 7, and the strategies and resources involved in our homework routine have naturally evolved over time, I thought I would bring you up to date by sharing the “secrets” of our current routine.

Click to continue →