Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability

ADAM’S NOTE: In considering a language strategy for your family’s bilingual journey, the highest aim for this important decision is choosing an approach that will be most effectively geared to your particular circumstances and goals. And in some cases—as in Bea Sieradzka’s family—that choice involves consciously modifying traditional methods. Read Bea’s thoughtful guest post for an encouraging look at how one parent made a proactive decision that has paid off in strong bilingual success. Thank you, Bea!

Bilingual Success with a Proactive Language Strategy

Bea Sieradzka is a Polish mother living in the United Kingdom and raising a bilingual and biliterate son, now almost 7 years old. Based on research studies in bilingualism and her own background in linguistics, she introduced two languages from the time he was born: her native Polish and her second language, English. She is now supporting him in learning a third language, Chinese.

At her blog, Born Bilingual, Bea shares information and ideas to help immigrant families succeed at nurturing their children’s bilingualism: introducing the community language from birth, along with their heritage language, and fostering good ability in both languages.

Bea SieradzkaEven before my son was born, now seven years ago, I knew that one day he would be bilingual. Born in the United Kingdom to Polish parents, he had the opportunity to learn two languages at the same time. The question we asked ourselves, though—like so many other parents who have immigrated to the U.K. and speak English as a second language—was how to actually manage the process of his bilingual acquisition.

The downside to a common method

The conventional wisdom in this sort of situation is to speak to your child in your mother tongue, and allow them to learn the majority language out in the community. This is a common strategy known as the “minority language at home” approach. It sounds, at first, like the perfect solution.

The problem with this approach is that simultaneous bilingual acquisition only works if your child is regularly exposed to both languages for a sufficient amount of time. Research that includes The relation of input factors to lexical learning by bilingual infants (Barbara Zurer Pearson), The relationship between bilingual exposure and vocabulary development (Elin Thordadottir), and A Short Guide to Raising Children Bilingually (Fred Genessee) indicates that children need to be exposed to each language for a minimum of 20-30% of their waking hours, and ideally even more than that.

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My Daughter and I Hit a Big Milestone on Our Bilingual Journey Together

Happy smiles from Lulu and her classmates as they proudly show their diplomas after the graduation ceremony. Her teacher (in the white tie) is being lifted up in the back.

My 12-year-old daughter graduated from our local elementary school the other day. It was the 139th graduation ceremony at this school (really!), which means that the first class of graduates are now 151 years old (really?).

In Japan, children attend elementary school through the sixth grade, then begin going to junior high school. And since the school year runs from April to March, graduation ceremonies—for schools everywhere—are held at this time of year.

Smiles and tears

At Lulu’s graduation ceremony, Keiko and I were sitting in the school gymnasium, toward the back, but were still able to spy her smiling face among the other roughly 150 sixth graders. It was a long ceremony of speeches and diplomas then toward the end, when the students stood and sang a moving song, the tears began to flow from both the children and their parents. Until then, I had been keeping it together pretty well, but seeing Lulu cry while continuing to fight her way through the song, I got really choked up, too.

And I found myself flashing back on her life, from the day of her birth, when I first held her in my arms, to this large milestone, the day she graduated from elementary school.

My Daughter and I Hit a Big Milestone on Our Bilingual Journey Together

The day my daughter—our first child—was born, almost 13 years ago.

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NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 41-50, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 31-40, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 21-30, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 11-20, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 1-10, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual AbilityBREAKING NEWS: There’s a wonderful new review of my book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids at the popular site Spanish Playground. This review is especially gratifying to me because Jennifer Brunk has captured the content and spirit of the book so well in her impressions.

Here’s the first part of her detailed review…

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.”

Raising bilingual children is the right thing to do, but not an easy thing to do. In my experience, the biggest obstacle for most families is that they simply don’t know how – how to start, how to sustain the effort and how to cope with all of the complications and obstacles that inevitably arise. Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability teaches parents what they need to know.

Adam Beck is a teacher and parent raising bilingual children with a passion, playfulness and kindness that mirrors my own approach. He also has a deep understanding of how children acquire language. In the book he shares his genius for applying that knowledge to everyday family life.

To read the whole review, please visit this page at Spanish Playground…

Raising Bilingual Kids: How to Succeed
http://www.spanishplayground.net/raising-bilingual-children-how-to-succeed/
(Please share this link!)

To read more reviews of my book, see the links at…

What the World Is Saying About My Book On Raising Bilingual Children

To get your copy, head to Amazon or another bookseller. Thank you! :mrgreen:

ADAM’S NOTE: Among the many helpful guest posts at this blog, the articles written by trilingual speech-language pathologist Ana Paula Mumy should be considered must-reads. Her first guest post was Speech-Language Pathologist Tells All About Bilingualism, Speech, and Language Delays, and the second was Battling the Majority Language Giant (While Feeling Like a Minority Language Gnome). In this third guest post for Bilingual Monkeys, Ana Paula writes from personal experience about the widespread challenge of engaging children in the target language and sustaining steady progress. It’s another witty, insightful post and I’m grateful to Ana Paula for sharing her expertise and perspective so generously. :mrgreen:

Engaging Your Incredible Bilingual Child in the Minority Language

Ana Paula G. Mumy, MS, CCC-SLP, is a mother of two bilingual children, a trilingual speech-language pathologist (SLP), and a clinical assistant professor in the field of speech-language pathology. She has extensive experience working with individuals with communication disorders, particularly bilingual children. She has authored numerous articles as well as intervention materials and guides for diverse populations, and her specialized interests include articulation disorders, stuttering, language-literacy, and bilingualism. Many of her resources for SLPs, educators and parents can be found on her personal website The Speech Stop.

Ana Paula MumyMy favorite line in The Incredibles movie is when in the midst of complete chaos at the dinner table, which goes seemingly unnoticed by Mr. Incredible, his wife Helen (aka Elastigirl) finally pleads for his intervention and yells, “Bob! It’s time to engage!

I have felt like Helen lately, wanting to plead with my children to engage in the minority language. Over the past 7 months, my children have undergone major life changes: moving to another state, mommy working full-time for the first time since they were born, and transitioning from homeschooling in Portuguese and English to schooling in English at a private school where they spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Needless to say, as the primary source of Portuguese in their lives, this stark reduction in teaching and interactions in Portuguese has caused them to disengage significantly despite my efforts to 1) continue reading instruction in Portuguese, 2) maintain daily reading routines in Portuguese, 3) speak Portuguese at home, in the car, when running errands, etc., and 4) maintain connections with any Brazilian cultural events or individuals in the area. I confess I have found myself discouraged in this season!

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Here’s Clear Proof of the Basic Formula for Successfully Raising a Bilingual Child

Over the past 20 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of bilingual and multilingual kids as a teacher and a parent. Although I love all the children I’ve taught, first at Hiroshima International School and now as a private tutor, I’ve had a special fondness for teaching a certain type of child: children who had no English ability when they first entered this school, where English is the language of instruction.

Many of these children have been Japanese or Korean; others have been from a range of countries like Brazil, Germany, and Estonia. Different children, different backgrounds, and yet they’ve all faced, and successfully overcome, the exact same challenge: becoming bilingual in English.

Working with such children isn’t always easy—early on, this lack of language ability can be very frustrating for them. But my experiences as their teacher, witnessing the swift progress they make from week to week, and the joy that accompanies their growing ability to communicate with others in the new language, have been profoundly rewarding.

Anna becomes bilingual

For the past six months I’ve been tutoring a 10-year-old girl I’ll call Anna. When I first started working with Anna, she had just entered Hiroshima International School and spoke no English at all. For the first several months, it’s true, she seemed to struggle with feelings of frustration, even defeat, but I knew it was only a matter of time before her language ability started to bloom. And the other day in our lesson, much to my delight, she began chirping away in English more freely and happily than she ever had before.

Of course, I can hardly take credit for this transformation. Compared to the long days she spends at school, our weekly hour together is brief. And, of course, her English level is still relatively low and she won’t really be fluent until a bit farther in the future. Nevertheless, she’s now rapidly becoming bilingual.

The question is: Why was I so sure this breakthrough would occur?

True, I’ve experienced the same sort of blooming language ability with other children in these circumstances, so, based on those past outcomes, I suppose it’s only natural that I would expect a similar result. But there’s more to it, and this is the important point I want to make, a central principle that every parent raising a bilingual child would be wise to keep firmly in mind.

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ADAM’S NOTE: Today is World Read Aloud Day! To mark this occasion, Gabriela Simmons has written a lively guest post which stresses the importance of reading aloud and shares useful ideas for this practice. In my case, reading aloud has been at the very heart of my efforts for 20 years, with both my students and my own children, and I’ve experienced the power of this daily routine first-hand. Gaby, thank you for shining a spotlight on one of my favorite topics! :mrgreen:

How to Make the Most of Reading Aloud to Your Kids in Two or More Languages

Gabriela Simmons is the mother of two active, sometimes nerve-wracking, but always amazing trilingual pre-teens (German, English, and Spanish). She was born and raised in Peru then moved to the United States for the last two years of high school and university. She later met her German husband in France while earning her masters degree. They have been living in Hong Kong for nearly 10 years.

Gaby is the co-founder of TimTimTom, an online book publisher that has launched its first bilingual storybook: a personalized book printed in the two languages of your choice. For more information on this unique bilingual book, see https://timtimtom.com.

Gabriela SimmonsIn our home, we have a rule: “One more book, bought or borrowed, is always okay.” Things like clothes and candy, they have their limits, but when it comes to books, we can never have too many.

Reading aloud to children is extremely important for their language development, and this is even more true when the child is growing up in a bilingual family and needs ample input in the minority language. In daily conversation, we tend to use the same limited range of vocabulary over and over. Because of this fact, books are an incredibly helpful tool when it comes to building a broader vocabulary.

But reading aloud is not only about expanding vocabulary and fueling language development. There are also important psychological and emotional benefits for you and your child. This aspect should not be underestimated.

Think of the read aloud experience: You and your child are snuggled up together as you read a colorful book and describe the illustrations. The child has questions and you pause to explain. The story sparks new ideas in the child’s mind, and may prompt a stream of comments or a wave of laughter. It might even enable you to talk about your cultural heritage and foster pride in your family’s roots.

All these elements of the experience strengthen the bond between you and your child while promoting their progress in the target language.

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