HaBilNet

I’m so pleased to tell you that there’s a new organization which is quickly proving to be an empowering source of support for bilingual and multilingual families around the world.

HaBilNet stands for the Harmonious Bilingualism Network and as the homepage states:

“HaBilNet promotes and carries out research on harmonious bilingual development. Through HaBilNet you can gain access to research-based sources that will help your family develop bilingualism in harmonious ways.”

Annick De HouwerHaBilNet is the brainchild of Dr. Annick De Houwer, an international authority on child bilingualism and the author of highly recommended books that include Bilingual First Language Acquisition and An Introduction to Bilingual Development. I’ve known Annick for several years and she was kind enough to take part in these three previous posts at Bilingual Monkeys…

Interview with Prominent Researcher Annick De Houwer on Bilingual Acquisition in Children

Expert Annick De Houwer Responds to Readers’ Questions on Bilingual Children

Take This Quiz on Bilingual Acquisition in Children! How Many Will You Get Right? (based on information from Bilingual First Language Acquisition)

During my travels through Europe last fall, as I was researching the new book I’m now writing on the “success stories” of bilingual and multilingual families, I had the happy chance to finally meet Annick in person. Over lunch she told me about her vision of HaBilNet and asked me to be a part of its work as an Active Member, a role which I was honored to accept. In this role I have the opportunity to serve as a HaBilNet consultant and lend support to families through its online consultation service. Supporting families in this personal way has always been among the greatest joys of my work and the chance to now do so alongside Annick and her team is such a blessing.

Let me warmly introduce HaBilNet today through a brief interview, conducted via email, with Annick De Houwer. Beyond this article, I encourage you to visit the HaBilNet website and explore how its work could benefit your family’s bilingual or multilingual aim.

Annick, could you please tell us a little about yourself?

Hi everybody at Bilingual Monkeys! I was raised monolingually at home with Dutch as generally spoken in Flanders, Belgium. Once I was three I came into contact with other languages. That chance came when my family moved to Pakistan for a few years. There was a Dutch school in Karachi where they spoke a very different kind of Dutch than I had heard at home. I also heard people speak Urdu and English. I have heard different languages and very different kinds of Dutch ever since. When I was 16 I wondered how it was possible that I was able to fluently speak Dutch and English. Eventually that interest brought me to the formal study of how young children learn more than a single language. I figured that in order to truly understand something you have to go to its earliest beginnings. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on the language acquisition of a Dutch-English bilingual two- to three-year-old. She was part of a bilingual family. A few months after getting my doctoral degree I started my own Dutch-English bilingual family. A shorter version of my dissertation was published as a book with one of academia’s most prestigious publishers, Cambridge University Press, and launched my career as a scholar. Now 30 years hence, I feel I understand a great deal more about early bilingual acquisition than I did then but I’m still learning every day! You can find out a bit more about me here.

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Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book

While it’s vital to provide ample language exposure to our children through continuous efforts like talking to them a lot and reading to them a lot, another productive option for language input involves short-term projects. Over the years I’ve shared a variety of ideas for creative projects—projects pursued by myself or other parents—that can give a significant boost to your bilingual journey by engaging your kids in fun, effective activities that make use of the target language. These projects with kids have included making creative videos, producing a podcast, publishing a book, and even blogging about a stuffed animal that was sent on a trip around the world.

This year, because local schools were closed for several months as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, my 13-year-old son and I took up a new project together. And in fact, our pet was involved, too. She’s a bearded dragon and her name is Fifa. Here she is sitting on the kitchen table…

Fifa, the inspiration for Bearded Dragon Daydreams

In a way, Fifa actually played the most important role in this project because she inspired the whole thing. You see, as bearded dragons tend to do, Fifa spends quite a lot of time just sitting quietly and staring off into space. So Roy and I were wondering: Just what is Fifa daydreaming about all the time? And from that question came the idea of creating a coloring book of imaginative daydream scenes. With the support of an illustrator friend, we then developed the book, day by day and page by page, over the course of about three months—and all this interaction was in English, our minority language.

The final result, recently released, is Bearded Dragon Daydreams, a fun-filled coloring book for all ages that consists of 30 illustrations plus two “challenge pages” for creating your own bearded dragon daydreams.

Download free sample pages from the book for coloring—and promoting language exposure (any language!)—with your kids.

Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book

Get a copy of the book at Amazon, Amazon UK, other global Amazon sites, and other online booksellers.

Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book

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Chameleon Reader

If only Chameleon Reader had been around when I was teaching bilingual kids, and when my own kids were small! It would have been such a fun and effective way to nurture their ability in our minority language!

Full disclosure: Over the past eight years, since I began this blog, I’ve regularly gotten requests to review books and products and services with some connection to raising bilingual kids. And in many cases, I’ve received free “review copies” of these things, which is also true of Chameleon Reader. However, I only blog about resources that I can genuinely recommend and Chameleon Reader is honestly the single most useful and flexible product I’ve ever seen for supporting parents and teachers in their efforts to nurture language development in children. (And I have no financial stake in saying so.)

At the same time, I do have a couple of minor quibbles with the version of the product that I tried out at home—and I’ll mention these, too—but the fact remains that Chameleon Reader is such an incredibly clever and helpful device that such quibbles do nothing to detract from my full (even overflowing) enthusiasm for it.

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Dylan's Birthday Present

There aren’t too many children’s books out there in the world about children who are bilingual or multilingual, but Victor Santos has just published an appealing new picture book called Dylan’s Birthday Present. And it not only features multilingual kids, it features a multilingual chicken! I interviewed Victor, by email, about his new book, actually the first book in a series about bilingual and multilingual kids. :mrgreen:

Victor, tell us about your new series of children’s books.

The new series is called Little Polyglot Adventures and the main purpose of the books is to make children ages 4-8 aware of the value of different languages and different cultures in a fun, visually-appealing, and at times, humorous way.

Book #1 in the series is already out and available in English, Spanish, Portuguese, French, German, Russian, and Ukrainian, in both monolingual and bilingual versions. We intend to release it in dozens of other languages in the upcoming months. Book #1 is called Dylan’s Birthday Present and it’s the story of a multilingual and multicultural boy named Dylan who receives a very unusual present for his birthday, only to lose it shortly after. Together with his best friend Emma, a sweet bilingual girl who speaks English and Zulu and whose parents come from South Africa, Dylan sets out to find his lost birthday present. During their search, the two friends learn about the value of speaking other languages, the value of friendship, and the value of appreciating one’s own and as well as others’ cultural and linguistic background. In the book, kids will learn new words (including their actual pronunciation) in three different languages and feel like little polyglots themselves.

Book #2 is already written and is currently being illustrated. The tentative release date for the second book in the series is currently October 2020.

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Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book is now available worldwide at Amazon, Amazon UK, the other global Amazon sites, and other booksellers!

Conditions in Japan have improved quite a lot through the month of May. New cases of COVID-19 infections have dropped to around 20 a day, nationwide, with no new cases in the Hiroshima area in the past couple of weeks. As a result, local schools will reopen next week and my kids will resume their school routine after nearly three months at home.

The whole city has its fingers crossed.

In a post I made in early April, I described a creative project that I’ve been working on with my son (in the minority language, of course!) during this lengthy break from school: a coloring book called “Bearded Dragon Daydreams.” (It’s illustrated by a friend.) The idea was inspired, in fact, by Fifa, our own lovable bearded dragon, who’s often staring into space and seems to be daydreaming of exciting adventures.

Here she’s obviously daydreaming of bungee jumping…

Fifa, our bearded dragon

So here’s the exciting news: The book is now basically finished and we’ve been waiting to see a proof copy, to check what the actual book looks like. Well, I’m happy to report that the proof copy came in the mail today and it looks great!

Here’s the cover…

Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book

This means that the book is nearly ready for the world and will be available very soon. I think you’ll find that it’s not only a fun-filled coloring book, it can be used in various ways to engage children in the target language (any target language!) at the same time. In fact, I’ve included a page of useful ideas to help parents make the most of the book as a productive language tool.

My son and I (and Fifa, too) look forward to sharing “Bearded Dragon Daydreams” with you in June!

Bilingual Kid Talk: Tips for Success

UPDATE: The live chat went well, and was recorded, so you can catch it on video anytime!

Video of Bilingual Kid Talk: Tips for Success

Friends, come join me and Tiara Harris of Chocolate Sushi Roll for the very first episode of “Bilingual Kid Talk”! If this first live chat works well enough, we’ll be back monthly for more episodes, talking about raising bilingual kids and responding to questions from out there in the world! (We did do a trial run the other day, which went pretty smoothly, but since it’s live, anything could happen, especially when you mix in some monkeys!)

We’ll start at 9 p.m. on Sunday, May 24—that’s Japan time. Here’s the same time on May 24 in various places around the world…

Los Angeles: 5 a.m
Chicago: 7 a.m.
New York: 8 a.m.
Rio de Janeiro: 9 a.m.
London: 1 p.m.
Paris: 2 p.m.
Moscow: 3 p.m.
Beijing: 8 p.m.
Sydney: 10 p.m.

Or check the time in your city here.

To join us, just head to my YouTube channel at that time and you should see the window for the live chat right there…

https://www.youtube.com/c/bilingualmonkeys

Hope to see you soon! :mrgreen:

Play This Great Indoor Game with Your Kids (And Get Them Eagerly Reading, Too)

The other day at The Bilingual Zoo, one mother (thanks, Judit!) described a game she was playing with her young son in the house and how much fun it was for them both. And, at the same time, how it got him reading eagerly in their target language.

Reading about her experience, I fondly recalled the times I played this game with my own kids when they were small. And I thought: “Yeah, they’re now teenagers, but I bet they would still enjoy it, and since they’re here at home, day after day, and getting a bit bored, maybe this would liven up their afternoon.”

And so I picked up some treats from the store—the motivating rewards—and sat down to prepare the game for them, which took about 20 minutes or so. Then I got them going (with the promise of prizes) and, yes, even these sometimes-moody teens were all smiles as they raced through the house on their hunt for treasure.

Because that’s what this is: a treasure hunt game.

And here’s how to play…

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**Finalist in both the Readers’ Favorite 2019 International Book Award Contest and the 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards.**

How I Lost My Ear

“How I Lost My Ear is an extraordinary imaginative achievement.”

“Adam Beck is a master storyteller, a master of invention.”

“Reminds me of the best of Roald Dahl.”

Friends, it’s hard to say how long we’ll be sheltered at home because of the coronovirus, but as long as this lasts, I’m making the digital version of my fun-filled novel available for free for anyone who would like to read it, with the hope that it can add some joy to your days. “How I Lost My Ear” is an engaging tale for both children and adults, for reading alone or reading aloud. (This digital version contains the full story and all 136 illustrations found in the paperback.)

To download the book for free (until June 30), just click right here, choose “I want this!” on the book page, then use the discount code “free” at check-out.

Please also feel free to share the download link and discount code with others, something like:

Adam Beck’s fun-filled novel for children and adults is now available for free. Download the digital version of “How I Lost My Ear”, which contains the full story and all 136 illustrations found in the paperback, by going to https://gum.co/how-i-lost-my-ear and using the discount code “free“.

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The epic, laugh-out-loud novel from author Adam Beck and illustrator Simon Farrow. A wildly entertaining page-turner for both children and adults, to read alone or read aloud. Finalist in both the Readers’ Favorite 2019 International Book Award Contest and the 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards.

Grandpa Gristle spins the story of a book-loving boy and his spiraling adventure with a state champion marching band, a moody grandmother with beautiful blond curls, a long-lost hero and his three-legged moose, a dancing bear, a poisonous spider, a baby-snatching owl, a shaggy yak of a man and his snapping turtle, a cold-hearted sheriff and his grinning deputy, a herd of 144 spitting llamas—and a very large, very hungry ogre.

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“Brilliant…an extraordinary imaginative achievement, utterly delightful, and a pleasure from start to finish. One minute it’s laugh out loud stuff, the next it’s heart in the mouth tension, and then it can be suddenly rather moving… It is wonderful, wonderful stuff.”
—Andrew Norriss, children’s author and winner of the Whitbread Award for Aquila

“Powerful, whimsical, and utterly hilarious. It reminds me of the best of Roald Dahl with a little bit of J.D. Salinger thrown in. You will love this book!”
—Josh Selig, Emmy Award-winning creator of “The Wonder Pets” on Nickelodeon

“Adam Beck’s How I Lost My Ear is a marvelously comic, wonderfully wise, delightfully imaginative and deliriously unpredictable epic adventure. 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 listed for pre-teens, it has much to offer readers of all ages. Adam Beck is a master storyteller and a master of invention, and How I Lost My Ear is un-put-down-able.”
—Rich Follett for Readers’ Favorite

“Wackiness that I love, and done so well. Such an enjoyable book.”
—Bill Harley, Grammy-winning children’s musician, storyteller, and author of the popular Charlie Bumpers series

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Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book is now available worldwide at Amazon, Amazon UK, the other global Amazon sites, and other booksellers!

Fifa, our bearded dragon

What a surreal six weeks since my last post.

The swift, worldwide spread of the coronavirus has abruptly upended the lives we had grown so accustomed to living—and has even stirred deep pangs of existential anxiety about survival itself. (Full disclosure: I have a congenital heart condition—which I only found out about two years ago—and though I’m still reasonably healthy, this probably puts me at a higher risk of more serious illness.)

Still, as trying as this time is, in so many ways, we can only carry on as best we’re able while continuing to hope that we’ll see the light at the end of this dark tunnel before too long. Toward that end, the outpouring of mutual support at The Bilingual Zoo, from parents around the world who are hunkered down in their homes with their children, has been very encouraging.

Along with a range of practical ideas and helpful resources for families on lockdown (see this thread), the personal experiences that many parents are sharing (see this thread and this board) also point to what seems to be the most healthy perspective we can adopt at this time:

As terrible as the pandemic is, this situation can nevertheless be viewed as an opportunity to take new actions that could well benefit both the emotional bond with our kids and the ongoing growth of their bilingual or multilingual ability.

A new creative project

In my case, along with my efforts to provide my kids, 15 and 13, with daily input in English (our minority language) through ample speech, reading aloud, playing games, and homework tasks that involve reading and writing, I’m also trying to engage them in some creative projects.

For example, here’s a new project that I’m now pursuing with my son…which was inspired by our bearded dragon named Fifa! (The name came from Roy’s love of soccer.)

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Big News About My Blog!

February 20, 2020

Big News About My Blog!

Friends, I have big news!

Nearly eight years have passed since I founded the Bilingual Monkeys blog. I somehow managed to build the site myself, and keep it running longer than I expected, but over these years the technology behind it has grown old and it doesn’t perform very well these days.

So I’ve finally come to a crossroads: either I renew the site—and that means redesigning it completely, which, considering its size now, is a pretty massive task—or I let it slowly wither away.

To be honest, I struggled with this choice. Since I don’t have the desire or expertise to redevelop the site myself, I knew I would need to bring in a web designer to do the technical work for me while I guide every detail, large and small, toward a clear vision for this renewal. In fact, the prospect of investing considerable time and treasure in order to modernize the site kept me dithering about it for the past several years.

But I finally made the choice…to let it wither away.

Just kidding! I’ve decided to renew it! And actually, I’ve already found a good web designer and we’re now moving forward with this project! I’m not sure how long it will take, but hopefully I can unveil the sparkling new site in March or April.

And toward this end, please let me ask a special favor.

For the new site, I’d like to share some comments from parents, describing the impact my work has had on their family’s bilingual or multilingual journey. If my work has had a positive impact on your journey in some way, I’d be so grateful for your support!

Here’s how to help…

1. Write as much as you like, long or short, in response to this:

Describe the impact, or value, my work (any of these: my blog, forum, books, newsletter, YouTube channel, coaching, etc.) has had on your bilingual or multilingual journey with your children.

2. Add your first name and the country where you live. If you’re willing to attach a photo of your smiling face, too, I’d love to include that with your comment, but a photo isn’t required.

3. Email everything to adam[at]bilingualmonkeys.com. I will respond to every email, with my personal thanks, within 48 hours. If you don’t get my response, it likely means that your message to me somehow got lost along the way. In that case, please try resending it to adambeck.jp[at]gmail.com.

If at all possible, please send your comment to me by Sunday, March 1. (I’ll be happy to accept comments after this date, too, but your timely response will be very helpful for this renewal project.)

Thank you! I’m really looking forward to reading your comments! (Again, please email them to me at the address above; don’t add them below this post.) While I do hear positive feedback from parents from time to time—and it always lifts my spirit—this is my first open appeal to everyone for your comments on my work. After nearly eight years of Bilingual Monkeys and the rest of my efforts to support bilingual and multilingual families around the world, I’d be thrilled to know what you think. :mrgreen:

My Daughter Hits the Biggest Milestone of Our Bilingual Journey Together

My daughter, Lulu, will be 16 in a few months and this blog has followed her progress as a bilingual child in Japanese and English (trilingual, if we count her growing Spanish, too) over the past 8 years. There have been a lot of large milestones over these years—both in her language development and in her rising maturity—and I’ve shared many of them, including…

“I Can Help People”: I Interview My Daughter on Being Bilingual (March 22, 2013)

Big Breakthrough with My Bilingual Daughter? (December 29, 2014)

VIDEO: Wacky Interview with My Bilingual Daughter (April 28, 2015)

How I Got My Bilingual Daughter to Eagerly Do Her Homework in the Minority Language (February 1, 2017)

My Daughter and I Hit a Big Milestone on Our Bilingual Journey Together (March 23, 2017)

My Bilingual Daughter Is 13. My Bilingual Son is 10. So Why Is Their Level in the Minority Language Basically the Same? (January 26, 2018)

Update on My Daughter’s Bilingual Life at 14.5 Years Old: High School, Tears, and English Tests (December 6, 2018)

On Friday, though, came news of the biggest milestone yet.

Working hard for her dream

First, though, let me back up a bit and tell you that Lulu’s last year of junior high school has been very tough, very stressful. (In Japan, elementary school is six years, followed by three years of junior high, then three years of high school, with the school year running from April to March.) The truth is, I’ve watched her study much harder than I ever studied when I was a teen, not only studying constantly at home but also regularly attending a neighborhood juku, or cram school, in the evenings and on weekends.

At the same time, as I recently described in This Is the Bottom Line for Success at Raising Bilingual Kids, she also took part in an English speech contest for junior high students in western Japan and practiced hard for that as well. (Spoiler alert: She won!)

The larger aim of all these efforts was the dream she has pursued for the past three years: to attend her first choice of high schools in Hiroshima, one of the better high schools in the city, and, more specifically, that school’s special international program where the students study English more seriously, engage in cultural exchange activities, and even go abroad on short trips.

I was certainly behind her drive to enter this school (and my wife was, too), but, to be honest, we were also somewhat concerned because Lulu didn’t really want to attend any other high school. Her heart was set on this particular school, this particular program, and if she didn’t get in, it would no doubt be a crushing blow to her young life.

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