Click to Look Inside: MAXIMIZE YOUR CHILD'S BILINGUAL ABILITY

Books on bilingual acquisition by Annick De Houwer

Win one of these books by entering the free giveaway below!

Want to learn more about the science behind your child’s bilingual development? You won’t find a more knowledgeable guide than Annick De Houwer.

Dr. De Houwer, a professor of language acquisition and multilingualism at the University of Erfurt in Germany, is a leading scholar and researcher in the field of early child bilingualism and has written two excellent textbooks on the subject. Her work, in fact, has greatly enriched my own thinking and writing when it comes to the practical challenge of raising bilingual children and her illuminating efforts to understand the mechanisms of bilingual acquisition will continue to benefit multilingual families worldwide.

In this post, I’m very pleased to feature Dr. De Houwer and her work. I’ll offer my compact impressions of her books then step back to share an insightful interview we pursued via email. After that, you’ll have a chance to win the book of your choice in a special giveaway.

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Last Wednesday was my birthday.

In hamster years, I’m now 1080.

In human time, though, I turned 54.

As the years continue to hurtle past, my birthdays, I admit, are starting to get me a bit down. When I look back, it feels like I’ve done quite a lot in my lifetime…but I also wonder how much of this activity has really been of significance.

I guess I was seeking some confirmation of my worth in the world when I set the homework for my kids that afternoon. Along with other tasks, I made an unfinished list for them to complete: “7 Things I Like About Daddy.”

Of course, my kids groaned when they saw it, but they couldn’t really refuse when I whined, “Come on, guys! It’s my birthday!” (That’s certainly one good thing about birthdays: They serve as your trump card for getting people to carry out your needy requests.)

And, so prodded by guilt, my children went to work.

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The building blocks of the bilingual journey

Today I’d like to put to rest the false and unhelpful notion that we “don’t have enough time” to make the regular efforts that are necessary to provide persistent input in the minority language and promote strong bilingual development in our kids.

I empathize with the lives of busy parents, believe me, but when we claim that we’re “too busy” to maintain effective daily routines or take on a productive short-term project, we’re not only acting in a way that’s counterproductive to our own greater aim, we’re deceiving ourselves. Because here’s the truth:

No matter how busy you claim to be, you can always give more time to your children—even if just a little more time—by making this aim a higher priority in your life.

And the only exception to this, I think, would be if you’re reading these words from a maximum security prison and thus have no choice in the matter.

Because that’s the thing: It’s about choice. It’s about consciously choosing how you spend the hours of your day. And let me emphasize that the building blocks of success—the time and effort we invest in nurturing the target language—are particularly needed early on in the journey, during the child’s first few formative years. It’s certainly possible to make up ground at an older age, but the whole experience can be a smoother success when a sincere commitment of time and effort is made from the very start.

Now I don’t discount the other obligations we have, not the least of which is making a living. But even when our work makes us terribly busy, we ultimately still have options: We can be mindfully resourceful about reshaping our daily schedule to create additional time for our kids or, if that proves difficult, reshaping our work situation itself. (In my case, I was blessed that the chance arose to do my work remotely, from home. If that hadn’t been possible, I would have had to take some other sort of action.)

Of course, an au pair or nanny who speaks the minority language is another viable option for language exposure, but let’s focus, firstly, on optimizing our own efforts: Beyond the language input we can provide, the greater amount of time we spend with our children will surely deepen the parent-child bond, enabling us to create even closer relationships with our kids.

An encouraging example

Let me offer a concrete and encouraging example. Deepti Gupta (DeeptiGupta.com) is a busy actress who lives in the United States and has pursued an international career in film and theatre that stretches from the U.S. to India, Singapore, and Pakistan. At the same time, she juggles work off the set and stage as an actress for voiceovers and audiobooks and as a consultant and educator.

Meanwhile, Deepti is a mother with a preschool son and a minority language, Hindi, that she wants her child to speak in addition to English.

Despite her busy days, Deepti has also been mindful of her vital role in the process of handing down Hindi to her son. And this is clearly seen in the short-term project she pursued, with his help, to create a set of “alphabet blocks” in Hindi.

When Deepti, a reader of this blog, reached out with a photo of her finished blocks, I saw them as a lovely metaphor for the building blocks of time and effort that are so necessary for success on the bilingual journey. Via email, I asked Deepti about this creative project with her son and she kindly responded. Here are the highlights of our exchange…

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My Favorite Metaphor for Raising Bilingual Children

Note: Today’s post is from the preface to my book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids, available worldwide at Amazon and other retailers.

Not far from my house in Hiroshima, Japan are several wide rice paddies nestled among apartment buildings and homes. In the autumn these fields are thick with tall, green stalks, nodding their heavy loads of rice.

Growing a good crop of rice isn’t easy. Rice farmers spend long hours preparing the land, managing the water level, planting and fertilizing and weeding. And the farmers who do all these things a little more effectively, a little more diligently, day by day, end up harvesting a larger crop.

Their yield is bigger.

I can think of no better metaphor for raising bilingual children. The truth is, if we, too, pursue the range of daily efforts for nurturing language development a little more effectively, a little more diligently, our children’s bilingual ability will grow better, stronger, over the years of childhood.

By providing ideas and inspiration to help you become more effective and more diligent in your efforts, this book will serve to strengthen your children’s language development and maximize their bilingual ability.

The question is: What actions can a busy parent take to optimize the growth of a child’s bilingual ability? At the same time, how can this be done in fun, child-friendly ways?

I’ve spent 20 years seeking answers to this question. This book holds the fruits of what I’ve found.

Get the book at Amazon.

Learn more about it.

Lulu's great-grandfather

My grandfather was a social worker who led the National Refugee Service during World War II, helping refugees settle into new lives in America. His parents had immigrated from Romania and he was their first child born in the United States.

My family and I were looking at old photographs last night and made an astonishing discovery.

My father’s father—my grandfather and my children’s great-grandfather—was born on June 28, 1904.

Given the fact that the time in Japan is always one day ahead of the United States, the date of my daughter’s birth—June 29, 2004—means that Lulu and her great-grandfather were born exactly 100 years apart.

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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.

Christine Gilbert is a writer, photographer, and documentary filmmaker. She writes the popular blog almostfearless.com, which chronicles her journey from a software project manager living in Boston to full-time traveler, writer, and creative—all while traveling around the world with her growing family. In 2014, they were named National Geographic Travelers of the Year. Christine and her family are currently living in Oaxaca, Mexico, and expecting a third child. She is the author of the new book about her family’s adventures, MOTHER TONGUE.

Author Christine Gilbert and friends

When we moved to Mexico in 2012, I was seven months pregnant, and just coming off a long stretch of travel that included learning Mandarin in Beijing and Arabic in Beirut. My husband and I were beyond excited to have some comforts of home as we prepared for the birth of our second child. The experience would later make its way into my book Mother Tongue, but at the time we were still trying to figure out what languages to raise our child with—should it be Mandarin for business, Arabic for politics, or Spanish for practical reasons?

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Raising a Bilingual Child? Raise the Odds of Success!

Your present circumstances don’t determine where you can go; they merely determine where you start. —Nido Quebein

Think of it this way: Raising a child to be bilingual is about odds and each family’s odds of success will be higher or lower depending on their particular circumstances and how proactive they are about shaping these conditions in effective ways.

My experience as a teacher at Hiroshima International School demonstrates that the odds of a Japanese child successfully becoming bilingual are extremely high when that child acquires Japanese from the family and community, and English from the school environment. Of course, the degree of that ability in English will depend on such variables as the age at which the child enters the school and how long that attendance lasts. Still, I think it’s safe to say that, generally speaking, strong bilingual success for children who are exposed to the majority language at home and the minority language at school is virtually assured.

A different scenario

Many families, though, face a very different scenario, with circumstances that inherently make the challenge of fostering active ability in the minority language far more difficult. In other words, such circumstances, instead of working in the family’s favor—as in the example above—work against their success.

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BREAKING NEWS: Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability is now also available in paperback at Amazon sites in Europe and Canada.

The new book by Adam Beck, founder of Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo, can be obtained as a paperback or e-book at Amazon.com, Amazon UK, Amazon Spain, Amazon France, Amazon Germany, Amazon Italy, and Amazon Canada.

The e-book edition (and possibly the paperback, too, if in stock) is available at Amazon Japan, Amazon The Netherlands, Amazon Australia, Amazon Brazil, Amazon Mexico, and Amazon India.

45 Key Questions Every Parent Raising a Bilingual Child Should Ask

Note: These important questions are from the Reader’s Guide to the book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability and are tied to the “Perspectives” and “Principles” found in this book. Ask and address these questions to strengthen your efforts and your success at raising bilingual children.

Below you will also find the link to a PDF file with these questions, which can be freely downloaded and shared, and a video reading of the full text.

1. What are the benefits, to your mind, in raising a bilingual child? For the child? For you? For your family, near and far? For others? For the world? (Perspective 2 and Perspective 30)

2. How strongly do you believe that your actions each day—even your small actions—make an important difference to the larger success of your bilingual quest? (Perspective 3)

3. Which of your current circumstances are favorable for your success? Which circumstances are less favorable? How will you address these less favorable conditions to raise the odds of success? (Perspective 5)

4. How do you stay mindful of your bilingual aim? Does this include writing about your experience in some form? (Perspective 7)

5. In what ways are you proactive in your efforts? Could you be more proactive in some way? (Perspective 8)

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Friends, it’s finally here! And it’s available worldwide, in paperback and as an e-book!

This is the front cover…

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability (front cover)

Get it now at Amazon.

And here’s the back cover…

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability (back cover)

Learn more about it.

3333 Posts About Raising Bilingual Children

In July 2014, I opened the gates to The Bilingual Zoo, an online forum, so that the worldwide community which has grown around Bilingual Monkeys could actively provide mutual support and encouragement through their collective experiences and ideas. I’m happy to say that The Bilingual Zoo has since become a very friendly and lively site and a source of ongoing support for many “keepers” of bilingual kids as they navigate the challenges of their bilingual journey.

As of today, there are…

*477 registered members and large numbers of unregistered visitors

Access to The Bilingual Zoo—including full membership—is free and will always be free because I want the site to be useful to everyone, regardless of personal circumstances. At the same time, since maintaining the site does cost money (with rising traffic, the amount in fees for the forum platform alone will probably approach $300 US this year), I encourage both members and regular visitors to make a modest annual contribution, if they can, to help ease this burden: The suggested donation—welcomed, but not required—is $12 US, an amount equal to just $1 a month.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of membership in The Bilingual Zoo.

Click here to make your small contribution to support The Bilingual Zoo.

*11 boards, among them Introduce Yourself; Questions & Concerns; Strategies, Ideas, & Resources; Take a Challenge; and Track Your Progress

*522 threads

*3,333 posts

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