Books by Adam Beck

Germany

For five weeks in the fall of 2019—from September 2 to October 9—I traveled from Japan to Europe to meet bilingual and multilingual families in person and interview the parents for a new book I’m writing that brings together a range of “success stories” on the subject of raising bilingual and multilingual children. Along with the 15 interviews I conducted in England, France, the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Poland, the Czech Republic, Spain, and Italy, I’m now pursuing additional interviews with parents in other parts of the world via Skype. This series of posts shares some reflections from my recent travels. To follow my book project in greater depth—including the posts I wrote detailing my experience of each destination on my European tour—please consider joining me at my Patreon page and lending support to my work. (You’ll get some special rewards at the same time!)

One of my very favorite quotes, from Meister Eckhart, is this:

If the only prayer you say in your entire life is ‘Thank You,’ that would suffice.

As I sit here at my kitchen table, in my small house in Hiroshima, Japan, I struggle to begin writing about my five weeks in Europe. It was such a big experience for me, in so many ways, that sharing it in some orderly fashion feels overwhelming.

So, rather than one long post, let me write a series of shorter reflections.

And let me start my reflections by stressing those two simple words…

Thank you.

Above all, I’m deeply thankful for having had this opportunity to visit a variety of marvelous places, to spend time with a number of lovely families (and play with the adorable kids), and to hear the parents’ heartfelt stories about raising bilingual and multilingual children.

Honestly, it all felt like a dream while it was happening—and now, back in Japan, in a familiar old routine, it feels even more like a dream.

Did I actually meet all these people that I had become friends with through my work online over the past seven years?

Did I really stay with nine different families, families that welcomed me into their homes as I traveled from place to place?

Did I truly see all those incredible sights in all those splendid places, from major cities to small towns in the countryside? (Prior to this trip, I had only spent time in the Czech Republic so almost all my destinations were new to me.)

I scroll through the hundreds of photos on my phone and see that, yes, it’s true. I was there. For 38 days I was out in the world, savoring the excitement of fresh adventures and the joy of precious encounters with other bilingual and multilingual families.

I’ll share more pictures in subsequent posts, but here’s a sampling of memories from the whole journey, from London to Rome. (And please note: I’m only sharing certain photos of families because some families prefer that I not post images of them online, a request I will respect.)

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Follow My Travels in the U.K. and Europe!

Friends, I’m on the road from September 2 to October 9! I’m working on a new book about raising bilingual/multilingual children and I’ll be visiting families across the UK and Europe and interviewing experienced parents about their “secrets of success.”

Here’s where I’ll be…

September 3~10: UK
*I’ll be speaking in person in Newark, England on Sunday, September 8. I’d love to see you at this public talk if you live in the area! Get more details right here.
September 10~15: France
September 15~18: The Netherlands
September 18~21: Germany
September 21~24: Denmark
September 24~27: Poland
September 27~October 1: The Czech Republic
October 1~4: Spain
October 4~8: Italy

I wish I could visit even more places, and more families, but hopefully I’ll be back in Europe in the future and will also have opportunities to visit families in other parts of the world. (All invitations are welcome! And they needn’t be connected to my current book project.)

During this trip, I won’t be blogging, but I will be sharing regular updates on my adventures at my Patreon page. So please join me there for my posts!

Follow my travels in the UK and Europe at Patreon.

And if you’d like to contact me while I’m on the road, you can continue to use adam[at]bilingualmonkeys.com. I’ll try to check my email fairly often.

Please wish me well on this trip! And I wish you much success and joy on your bilingual or multilingual journey! :mrgreen:

Over the years, my family has followed an annual tradition, each August, of driving out to a large blueberry patch that’s located in the countryside about 90 minutes from Hiroshima. We spend much of the day there picking blueberries and breaking for a picnic lunch.

This tradition started when Lulu was two. In fact, we originally stumbled upon the blueberry patch by accident when we were out searching for a larger fruit farm, our original destination.

Here’s Lulu that first year, with our big baskets of blueberries. Lulu was more of an eater than a picker back then (and Roy hadn’t been born yet) so Keiko and I somehow filled these three baskets by ourselves, blueberry by blueberry. We’ve never equaled this haul in the years since!

Our first visit to the blueberry patch.

While we’ve tried to make this outing every August (when the blueberries are ripe), some years have been difficult. In fact, the past two summers I was busy traveling back to the U.S. as my parents fell ill and then passed away.

So this year—despite the fact that my kids, now 15 and 12, are both very busy with schoolwork and club activities during the summer break—I was determined to resume our little tradition.

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As my children get older (my daughter is now 15 and my son is 12), I’m trying to increase the amount of opportunities they have to engage in translation activities: in effect, stretching their ability in two languages simultaneously and deepening their grasp of the more subtle differences between them.

I wish we had more time for writing because this is now the area where more practice is needed, and I’ve found that translation tasks are very effective toward this end. But as I’ve moaned about before, with my kids leading busy lives in junior high school, and having even less time for English and Spanish (our two minority languages), squeezing in the amount of writing that I’d really like them to do just isn’t realistic. Still, short translation tasks can be a productive way to get them writing in brief bursts on a regular basis, and for me to pinpoint, in their written work, any shortcomings in their language ability.

Because our main minority language is English, with Spanish still at a lower and more passive level, these tasks generally involve having them translate a short passage of text from the original Japanese or Spanish into natural English. Such translation texts—along with other writing tasks in English—typically take them from 5 to 15 minutes to complete, depending on the length of the text. Again, this isn’t the sort of concentrated time for writing that I would prefer, but it’s nevertheless true that this time adds up over the months and years and helps advance their writing ability at a steady pace.

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ADAM’S NOTE: As I’ve stressed over the years (like in this post), one of the keys to realizing our bilingual or multilingual aim is a creative spirit. And this sort of resourceful and proactive approach is particularly important when your circumstances are challenging and working against your success. So today I’m thrilled to present a new guest post by Ana Calabrese because her outlook and her efforts are such an encouraging example of how jumping into this journey with a creative spirit can generate rewarding success, both for one’s family and even, through our influence, for others near and far. Thank you for sharing your story, Ana! :mrgreen:

Ana_Raising-Bilingual-Kids-1

Ana Calabrese is a native Spanish speaker from Colombia raising two bilingual-bicultural kids in California. She founded Spanish Plus Me and recorded her album “Short + Fun Spanish Beats” to promote the advantages of bilingualism and encourage the introduction of the Spanish language to children through the use of songs, movement, and fun. You can find Ana’s songs on Amazon, iTunes, and Google Play, and download all the lyrics with translations in English, Portuguese, and French at www.spanishplusme.com.

Ana CalabreseI have always liked the scene in the Disney movie “Big Hero 6” where, in a moment when the younger brother was feeling hopeless and out of ideas for a big project, the older brother carried him on his shoulders and turned him upside down to shake him and move him around their bedroom, encouraging him to look at things from another angle.

Every now and then I feel like I need that kind of shaking up to reset and look for inspiration and encouragement to keep working on helping my kids (8 and 5) to become bilingual. It is challenging when one has to do it in a community with very few resources to add exposure to the minority language and when all their world seems to be speaking the majority language, in our case English.

The most common advice I have heard from other parents raising bilingual kids is to try to find a community of speakers of the target language so they can practice and have that sense of culture. Every day, on social media, I read cases of parents asking for help and ideas on how to raise their children bilingual in Spanish, and every day I also read things like: enroll them in a dual language or immersion program, find friends that speak Spanish, attend events for Spanish speakers, go to parks where Spanish speakers gather, hire an au pair, move to a Spanish speaking country, among others.

Well, that has not been an option for us. There are no dual language or immersion schools in our school district, there is no Spanish story time at our local libraries, there are no Spanish classes at their school or nearby. With the few friends we have that can speak Spanish, they won’t play in Spanish, and no, we won’t move to another country and we can’t hire an au pair. So what did I do? I decided to look at things in a different way. I decided that we were going to promote Spanish in our community, and we were going to be the ones teaching Spanish to our friends. If there were no Spanish resources, we were going to facilitate some of them and share our gift with others. In that way we could also get to know people that appreciate other cultures and languages, whether they were bilingual or not.

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ADAM’S NOTE: In this insightful guest post, Marisa Martínez Mira offers a broader perspective on the bilingual journey, based on her own personal and professional experience. To my mind, this sort of broader perspective is so important for keeping up our commitment and our efforts through early childhood, as these are years that can be very challenging for our bilingual or multilingual aim. Thank you for this encouraging reminder, Marisa! (Marisa is also generous with her wise advice at The Bilingual Zoo, the world’s warmest, liveliest forum for parents on a bilingual or multilingual journey.) :mrgreen:

Bilingual Ability Is Always a Positive Thing

Marisa Martínez Mira is originally from Spain and now lives in the United States with her three-year-old daughter. When Marisa first arrived in the U.S., back in 1996, her goal was to teach Spanish to college students for a year…and she’s still doing that today. While working as a Spanish professor at a university in Virginia, Marisa is also raising her daughter with a multilingual aim: English is the majority language and the minority languages are Spanish, German, and French.

Marisa Martínez MiraLike all of you, I’m doing the best I can to ensure that my daughter (the little fairy above) grows to enjoy the benefits of speaking more than one language, and hopefully she’ll do the same with her own children in the future. At the moment she’s three years old and is a lovely, funny little girl and (at least so far) seems very interested in languages.

My own interest in bilingualism/multilingualism is both personal and professional. I did my MA and Ph.D. in the United States and I specialize in sociolinguistics. For my Ph.D. dissertation, I studied the use of a particular grammatical feature in the Spanish of different generations of heritage speakers, i.e. speakers who, in G. Valdés’s definition (2000a, 2000b), “are raised in a home where a non-English language is spoken, who speak or at least understand the language, and who are to some degree bilingual in that language and in English.” (In my case, those speakers were of Mexican heritage.)

Research has been quite consistent on the following: starting with the second generation of heritage speakers, the majority language becomes the dominant language, to the extent that by the third or fourth generation, these heritage speakers are virtually monolingual. My data corroborated this assumption, although I also discovered that even the heritage speakers with the lowest Spanish proficiency showed better knowledge and understanding of Spanish than those who began to study it later in life because the former had been exposed to Spanish, even if in a limited environment, from an earlier age. This means that, yes, everything we’re doing as parents to promote bilingualism/multilingualism in our little ones will prove to have a positive outcome!

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Deepti and her son recording their podcast.

ADAM’S NOTE: Along with your persistent daily efforts to nurture the minority language—in particular, talking to your child as much as you can and reading aloud—I also encourage you to pursue short-term projects, which can provide a powerful boost for language exposure and engagement. Make videotaped interviews or “dramatic” films; create a picture book or comic book; write and perform a short play; sing and record a favorite song (or make up your own); invent a new game and play it together; compile a photo album and add captions; do craft-making or building activities; research and report on some subject of interest; and many more. (See the links at the end of this post for a number of encouraging examples.)

In today’s guest post, Deepti Gupta offers a wonderful example of her own: a podcast that she has created with her young son. When Deepti wrote to me about her new project, I was eager to share it with all of you because creative efforts like this, which are so engaging and effective, can offer tremendous inspiration for families of any target language. (And even if you don’t understand Hindi, I urge you to listen to a podcast episode, like this one. It overflows with not only language but much laughter and joy as well.) So many thanks to you, Deepti and Josh! And all the best with your lovely podcast! :mrgreen:

Deepti Gupta is an actress and Audie nominated audiobook narrator and voiceover artist. Originally from India, she lives in the United States with her American husband and 6-year-old son, who is bilingual in English and Hindi. Learn more about Deepti’s professional work at DeeptiGupta.com.

Last year, my 6-year-old son, Josh, began listening to an English language story podcast called What If World. The stories on this podcast are fun, creative, and super imaginative. Josh enjoyed them so much, he could listen to episode after episode.

Because I’m committed to raising a bilingual, Hindi-speaking child, I decided that I needed to find something similar for him to listen to in Hindi. So I looked for Hindi story podcasts online and on apps like Saavn, an Indian music streaming service. What I found was a few podcasts in Hindi but with the same old Hindi stories and the language used didn’t sound like how we speak Hindi. Bookish Hindi doesn’t help a young child who is learning to express himself in this language.

So I started wondering if I should start a podcast myself. But what would it be about? I could have just narrated stories from the Panchtantra and the Upanishads and created a podcast of these traditional tales. But I wanted something that would capture the imagination and interests of children in today’s world. How do you create new content that kids of this era can relate to? Where both snakes and robots can be in the same story? I was at a loss.

Our first podcast episode

Last December we went to an event called Makers Faire at the Los Angeles Central Public Library. This is a fair where all kinds of innovators and creative folks gather to showcase their inventions and creations. We got to see Eric O’Keeffe of “What If World” in action. He created a podcast episode on the spot with the participation of kids in the audience. Josh had the chance to give a suggestion for the story, too.

I think both he and I were inspired by what we saw and experienced. The joy of creating and letting our imagination take flight. I have a home studio where I record my audiobooks and sometimes Josh would sit in my booth and narrate his own made-up stories or just gibberish stuff. He loves these “recording sessions,” and they’re fun for both of us. So I wondered if he and I could create something together. And it was now clear to me that a storytelling podcast was the right direction.

Not long after that, on a fine Saturday morning in January, we decided to take action. He was in good spirits and I was excited at the prospect. In half an hour, we recorded our first podcast! It was exhilarating! Josh then made the logo for our podcast, a picture of the two of us recording in the booth. That same day I edited the audio, chose a platform, and launched our new podcast, called Josh Ke Saath. (“Josh Ke Saath” means “Along with Josh” and also means “With Enthusiasm.”) I shared it with other families and the response has been amazing.

Josh Ke Saath

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Great-Reading_Fifa

Want to read some engaging, widely-praised books this summer? Please take a look at my popular nonfiction and fiction for language-loving families! (Yes, bearded dragons included!)

“the ideal guidebook for parents”

Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability

“A pure gem! Adam Beck has created a truly wonderful and easily readable book that parents everywhere will enjoy and that bilingual families and children will benefit from.” —Dr. Annick De Houwer, leading researcher of child bilingualism and author of Bilingual First Language Acquisition

“Who but Adam Beck can tie together the complexities of raising a bilingual child with such wisdom, warmth, and wit? An in-the-trenches father, he shows how fun speaking another language at home can be. His work tells you not only the benefits and the methods, but delves deep into how to motivate both yourself and your child. He gives the percentages of success for the various bilingual strategies (One parent, one language: 74.24%), but for those who heed his advice, count on 100%.” —Christine Jernigan, PhD in foreign language education and author of Family Language Learning

“Not long after I started Spanish Playground, Adam Beck began writing his blog Bilingual Monkeys. As I read his early posts, I recognized a talented educator and a kindred spirit. His book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability was released last year, and since then I have recommended it often to parents raising bilingual children. Without fail, their reaction is ‘Thank you. This is exactly what I need.’” —Jennifer Brunk, longtime educator and founder of the popular site Spanish Playground

“If books are food for thought and if continuing to learn about bilingualism is an essential part of a bilingual parent’s mental diet, then Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability is nutritional superfood…the ideal guidebook for parents who are sure of their commitment to bilingual parenting but in need of ideas and ongoing inspiration.” —Michele Cherie, writer and founder of the blog Intentional Mama

“a master storyteller…un-put-down-able”

How I Lost My Ear
(a humorous, action-packed novel, for children and adults)

How I Lost My Ear

Look at this wonderful new review!

By Rich Follett for Readers’ Favorite, a book review website…

“Adam Beck’s How I Lost My Ear is a marvelously comic, wonderfully wise, delightfully imaginative and deliriously unpredictable epic adventure. In Boony Point, young Ben Boyd covets a pair of ruby red bongo drums, seemingly tailor-made for his superstar tryout for the Marching Moose – the town’s pride and joy. Never mind that bongo drums have not previously been seen or heard in the community’s iconic marching band; Ben is determined and has the most deliciously eccentric support crew in the history of children’s literature to help him reach his goal.

Along the way, Ben contends with a practical-joking grandma fixated on crab apples harvested with the dew still on them, a monster to slay, a mystery to solve, the twists and turns of his never-ending quest to be a Member of the Marching Moose, and his own deep-seated need to overcome his unwanted nickname: Butterfingers. The drama is high, the pathos is non-stop, and the comedy is as whimsical and witty as any to be found in the realm of fiction for the young. Although How I Lost My Ear is listed as being intended for pre-teen readers, it has much to offer readers of any age who are willing to allow themselves to be young at heart long enough to become swept up in the merriment. Adam Beck is a master storyteller and a master of invention, and How I Lost My Ear is un-put-down-able.

Simon Farrow’s playful illustrations are a perfect match for Beck’s unique storyline. They capture both the eccentricity of the characters and the absurdity of the incredible situations in which they find themselves, time and again. Adam Beck’s How I Lost My Ear is always fresh, always a surprise; in short, an ideal antidote for the mundane cares of ordinary life for readers of all ages.”

I hope you’ll read my books! And I’d be really grateful, too, if you would share your impressions with others through online reviews at Amazon and Goodreads and through word of mouth! Many thanks!

This Key Strategy Can Empower Your Child's Bilingual Ability Throughout the Childhood Years—and Even for a Whole Lifetime

In the recent post Make the Most of the “Golden Years” of Your Minority Language Influence, I introduced the challenging new stage of my family’s bilingual journey.

Now that my kids—Lulu, nearly 15, and Roy, 12—are both in junior high school and are leading busy, increasingly independent lives in Japanese, I’m afraid my presence in their days, and the English exposure that goes along with it, is far more limited than it was when they were younger. In fact, the balance between the time they spend in Japanese and the time they spend in English has shifted severely. When they were small, this balance was roughly 50-50, and even through elementary school it was a still productive 60-40 or 70-30, Japanese to English. Yet now, with their long days spent almost entirely in Japanese, and my hours with them in English badly squeezed by the lack of time and their growing social lives with friends from school, that ratio has deteriorated to less than 90-10.

I confess, I feel frustrated by this situation, but at the moment it isn’t realistic to consider reshaping these circumstances in any substantial way. The hard fact is, for us, the junior high school years (three of them) will probably be the low point when it comes to this balance between the majority language and minority language. (I’m hoping high school, and beyond, will bring more beneficial English opportunities into their lives.) Therefore, since changing the situation itself, for solely the sake of their English, isn’t a practical option, I have to accept the fact that their English ability will advance more slowly than I’d prefer during this time, simply because the balance of exposure and engagement is now so heavily weighted toward Japanese.

One simple, empowering strategy

Accepting this reality, though, doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to do what I can to engage their English side from day to day. Although their English ability may not grow as quickly or strongly during this stage of their bilingual development, I know it will continue to grow as long as I stay persistent in creative and resourceful ways…while also doing my best to be understanding of their busy lives if they’re not always able to meet my expectations for daily homework in English or other English activities.

In this post, though, I want to stress one simple strategy that can have a very empowering influence on children at an older age—as teens and even as adults—because it has the potential to engage them in the minority language on a regular basis and without the parent’s presence. Yet the key to making this idea work as productively as possible at that older age depends greatly on the actions you take from early on, when your children are still small.

The truth is, for me this was a conscious strategy that I pursued since the time they were very young, with an eye toward the future circumstances that I expected to face during their teenage years. And as long as I continue to make the most of this tactic, I believe it will have a significant influence on the amount of time and attention they give to English, despite the daily dominance of Japanese. By engaging them in English in this way—even without the need for my presence—I can continue to advance their English ability while also embedding the language more deeply in their lives as they grow into adults.

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Want to Raise a Bilingual Child? Remember This: You Get What You Pay For.

I won’t bore you with the details, but over the past couple of months, I’ve had continuous troubles with many parts of my digital life, and especially email. In fact, last week my entire email account for Bilingual Monkeys (adam@bilingualmonkeys.com) suddenly disappeared from my computer, with thousands and thousands of messages vanishing in a matter of moments. (Fortunately, I was able to locate a back-up folder and restore most of them, but still, it was a long and distressing day.)

So if you haven’t received a message from me lately—whether a personal reply to an email you sent or one of my regular newsletters—it’s because I’ve been struggling with this problem of unreliable email. At this point, I hope (I pray) that it’s working properly again. I apologize for the inconvenience, but if you sent a message to me recently, and never received a reply, could you please try once more?

Thinking of the bilingual aim

At the same time, it’s also true that some of these troubles are connected to my aging computer. The desktop PC that I’ve been using for over 8 years has been a real workhorse, but I know it’s now wise to consider replacing it and remaking my digital life in new ways.

Here’s the thing: During my research for a new computer (I’m looking at laptops, in particular), I’ve continually come across the expression “You get what you pay for.” And by the fourth or fifth time I heard someone say this, I couldn’t help thinking of the bilingual aim as well.

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I Know a Lot About...

Over the years, I’ve amassed big piles of papers that hold teaching materials, creative writing, and ideas for future blog posts, books, and other projects. From time to time I’ll sift through these piles in an attempt to file the papers I want to keep and discard the ones I no longer need.

But the truth is, I never seem to get all the way to the bottom of these stacks and so the piles begin rising again as I add fresh papers. One of my goals in connection with our move last August was to tackle this task and finally eliminate all the piles…and yet it’s now eight months later and they’re still growing like weeds.

The thing is, it’s a lot more fun for me to add to the piles with new inspirations than it is to get everything properly sorted in my filing cabinet.

Still, last night, as I was halfheartedly making another attempt at this aim, I came across a paper that was fun for me to rediscover…and might be fun for you to try with your own kids or students.

A humorous twist

When my children were younger, and first learning to read, I created a kind of worksheet designed to promote both vocabulary and early reading. If you’ve been following this blog over the years, you know that my mind is continuously trying to put a humorous twist on language activities for my kids and students because this sort of playful approach tends to make the activity more engaging and more productive. Of course, there’s nothing “wrong” with pursuing the same language targets—like saying the names of animals and reading some simple sentences—in a more conventional way. But, in my experience, a humorous twist holds the power to make the activity more enjoyable and more effective.

So here it is: the worksheet I used with my kids, and then with my younger students (renewed for this post); a simple activity that turned out to be a fun, language-filled success each time I tried it. (In my case, the target language is English, but this activity could be pursued in any language you like, and with any age, really, which means the same idea would no doubt work well with language learners.)

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