Interviews with Roy, Adam, and Lulu

Here’s a new infographic on bilingualism and its many myths.

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9 Lesser-Known Myths About Bilingualism

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Click to view all my fun infographics about bilingual kids!

Note: Below my review of Family Language Learning is an interview with the author, Christine Jernigan, who offered frank and insightful responses to the questions I asked via email. And below that you’ll find the giveaway, where you can win a free copy of her fine book!

Family Languge LearningThrough my interactions at this blog and at The Bilingual Zoo, it’s clear that there are many, many parents who are not native speakers of a certain language but want to nurture ability in that language in their children. In some cases, the parent already has some proficiency in the target language; in other cases, the parent doesn’t speak the language but hopes that the family can learn it together.

In both cases, here’s a new book I wholeheartedly recommend: Family Language Learning: Learn Another Language, Raise Bilingual Children by Christine Jernigan. Although I think any parent raising a bilingual child would find it worthwhile reading, the book’s special focus on providing encouragement and support to non-native parents makes this a unique and valuable resource for parents who aren’t native speakers of the target language.

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Adam Beck Goes Bonkers in Interview, Reveals “Crazy Secret” for Bilingual Success

I’ve written a lot of words at this blog about raising bilingual children. But I think this short video of me being interviewed by my kids will demonstrate, better than words ever could, the important sense of playfulness that I’ve described in Be Very Serious. Be Very Playful. The Bilingual Journey Demands Both. and other posts.

I hesitate to call this a “method” because it’s simply my nature when I’m around kids. At the same time, I’m quite conscious of its impact on language development because this sort of silly playfulness is highly effective at engaging children in the use of the minority language. And so, though I’m not this nutty all the time, I do express my wild side pretty continuously with my children and my students, and I actively incorporate this playful quality in my ideas for language exposure.

Whatever success I’ve had in working with bilingual children over the years, this penchant for play is at the heart of it all because my actions appeal to the child’s own playful spirit. And when you match the child’s natural instinct for play, you create more effective conditions for exposure and engagement in the minority language, day after day, which, over time, leads to greater heights of bilingual ability.

In other words, this isn’t just frivolous stuff: to my mind, “serious silliness” is not only fun (and thus creates a closer parent-child bond), it’s the very foundation for maximizing a child’s development in the minority language.

This, as the video conveys, is the “crazy secret” for bilingual success.

Click to watch me go bonkers →

VIDEO: Wacky Interview with My Bilingual Daughter

In a previous post, I explained…

You see, half the battle of raising a bilingual child is making the time and opportunity to provide exposure in the minority language. The other half is making the most of that time and opportunity by maximizing the child’s engagement. In my experience, the most effective way to achieve this is by matching the child’s madness for play.

I then shared a concrete example of this with a videotaped interview of my son. If you missed that post, I highly recommend a look: not only does it describe my “method” in detail, the interview with Roy is quite funny…

VIDEO: With Bilingual Kids, There’s a Madness to My Method

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The pure joy of piggyback rides.

There are many good things about raising bilingual children. In my case, with my kids now 10 and 8, these include…

  • Communicating with my children in my mother tongue and sharing the joys of this language with them
  • Seeing them communicate with family members and others who don’t speak our majority language
  • Giving them the gift of two languages, an ability that can positively impact their lives in so many ways

These are tremendous benefits, and we’ve been blessed to achieve them. At the same time, I’ve become more mindful of a benefit that isn’t often considered, but should be, because, when all is said and done, it might just be the greatest benefit of all.

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Guided Tour of the Bigger and Better Bilingual ZooLast July, to complement this blog, I opened the gates to The Bilingual Zoo, a forum for “keepers” of bilingual (and multilingual) children. Over the past nine months, this forum has grown into a thriving community of parents and teachers from around the world.

As of this blog post…

The Bilingual Zoo has 310 registered members.

There are 11 boards with a total of 346 threads and 1,917 posts.

The site welcomes about 200 members and guests each day.

Meanwhile, I’ve been busy behind the scenes, managing and moderating the site while actively posting to the forum boards.

Today I’d like to offer a guided tour of the bigger and better Bilingual Zoo…

Click to continue the tour →

Cherry blossoms in Hiroshima

The cherry blossoms were beautiful this year, perfect for a few strolls and picnics.

Today I’d like to do some spring cleaning. It was a busy winter and I think it’s time to report on a variety of things related to my recent efforts. Please read on, as I bet you’ll find some useful bits of information. (I’ll also sprinkle in fun photos and a video clip from the past few months!)

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WARNING: Do Not, Under Any Circumstances, Read This Blog Post About Raising Bilingual Children

What?! Why are you reading this blog post? I warned you not to, but you’re still reading! For your own safety, please stop reading now, before it’s too late!

I mean it! You mustn’t read this blog post! It’s much too dangerous! It contains dreadful secrets you don’t want to know!

This is your last warning! If you continue reading this blog post, I won’t be held responsible for the terrifying consequences!

Please don’t continue reading this blog post →

How Many Steps is the Bilingual Journey?

Okay, let’s say the bilingual journey lasts from birth to age 18—that’s 18 years, or 6570 days. (After that, our children are on their own and we can adjourn to our hammocks.) Now, if each day can be considered one step, that equals 6570 steps for the whole journey.

But there’s a catch, too.

These steps don’t usually head off into the horizon over flat land. No, for most who travel this way, these 6570 steps go up, up, up the side of a great, rocky mountain.

These were my thoughts the other day as I sat brooding halfway up Mt. Misen, the mountain which looms above the well-known island of Miyajima. Though I’ve lived in Hiroshima for many years—and Miyajima is less than an hour from Hiroshima by train and ferry—this was the first time I had tried to climb it.

“Come on, Dad!” my eight-year-old son called. He had just snapped my picture and was eager to continue climbing.

I was eager to continue sitting.

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Adam and his bilingual monkeys

I suppose you’ve noticed: Animals often appear in my posts, and I’m not just talking about my two monkeys. :mrgreen:

In fact, in my last post, Adam’s Fables for Raising Bilingual Kids, I used animals to create little analogies about issues involving bilingualism and children.

I even made an earlier post, called Bilingual Kids and the Animal Kingdom, where I shared my life-long love of animals and offered a list of links to many of the posts where animals make an appearance.

In that post, I also explained why my dream of becoming a veterinarian was derailed by an “F” I got in Biology in 7th grade. (Hint: It has something to do with the fact that I don’t like killing insects…though I do make an exception for mosquitoes.)

Today, then, let me offer 50 ideas for activities featuring animals. By leaning on this theme, a powerful favorite of children everywhere, we can effectively engage our kids in the use of their minority language. Some of these ideas will be familiar, but I hope you’ll find a few new suggestions on this list to try at home. Modify them to suit your needs, and pursue them as playfully as you can.

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In the spirit of Aesop, I’ve written three short fables about raising bilingual children. The illustrations are by my son, who just turned 8. We hope you like them! (And if you do, please share!)

The Wolf's Child

The Wolf’s Child

A wolf and a fox fell in love and had a child: a handsome baby boy with his father’s long snout and his mother’s red fur. Because the wolf went hunting each day, the fox stayed behind in the den, taking care of their child. When the wolf returned home in the evening with that day’s supper, he was often too tired to play with his lively son. After devouring his dinner, he sprawled out on the floor of the den and fell asleep.

And so it went, day after day, as the little boy grew and soon began yapping endlessly to his parents. But one evening at supper, the weary wolf suddenly snarled and said, “Yap, yap, yap. That’s all I hear. This child is a wolf, too, isn’t he? When will he start howling?”

The fox sighed and looked her husband in the eye. “If you want your son to howl,” she said, “then you have to start howling.”

Click to read two more “bilingual fables” →