I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL!

All the Crazy Mischief I’ll Be Making in 2020

Friends, I hope the new year has begun well for you and your family and that you enjoy a lot of rewarding progress on your bilingual or multilingual journey in 2020! The many resources I offer are always available to you and, beyond that, I’m just an email away!

For me, it looks like 2020 will be a busy year of mischief making because I’ve decided to focus as fully as I can on my work in the field of bilingual/multilingual children. The truth is, this year is a kind of crossroads for me because either I’m able to make more progress toward the greater goal of doing this work in a sustainable way or I may need to consider other options. But before it comes to that, I want to give my goal of sustainability in this field the best try I can. So 2020 is an important year and my efforts will include…

Renewing the Bilingual Monkeys website
I launched Bilingual Monkeys in the fall of 2012, so it’s now over 7 years old and the tech side of the site is aging badly. This means that it isn’t growing or performing as well as it could. While I was able to build this blog myself (using WordPress), it’s now a pretty big site, with 435 posts and 3420 comments, and I’ll need to bring in a web designer/developer to help me with this project. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it—I fear it will be a lot of work—but it has to be done!

Writing and publishing three new books
I’m now working on three new book projects for my Bilingual Adventures publishing imprint: two of them are of moderate size but the other is a huge challenge.

Bilingual World (tentative title) is that huge challenge. This book is a collection of “success stories” from parents of bilingual and multilingual children around the world. While I love the work itself—particularly the engaging conversations I’ve had with so many parents, in person and via Skype—it’s *a lot* of work. For the next few months I’ll be spending 20 hours a week at the college library in my area so I can concentrate on writing, writing, and writing.

I’M SO GLAD I’M BILINGUAL! will be a follow-up to the “picture book for adults” that I recently released titled I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL!. This new book will also be a picture book, but it’s for children and their parents or teachers. The aim of the book is to help children recognize and appreciate the many positive things about being bilingual, which I think can fortify their self-image and motivation for this journey.

Bilingual Fairy Tales & Fables will offer 30 well-known stories, in both English and Spanish, at an easy-reading level for children and language learners. I’ve already written the stories in English and Delia Berlin, an accomplished bilingual writer, is now working on the Spanish translation. If this book turns out well, I may consider publishing the same book in more language combinations.

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I Did Something the Other Day That I Thought I’d Never Do

The other day I took my son to the library.

No, going to the library isn’t the thing I thought I’d never do. In fact, I used to go to the library all the time—every week, like clockwork—to borrow books to read to my kids.

So it isn’t the library itself—it’s why we went to the library.

For the sake of the minority language

The library is downtown, sitting in a small park, and the parking lot is some distance away. It was a sunny morning and I was feeling kind of nostalgic as we walked toward the building, which I had visited so regularly in the past but hadn’t been to in several years.

As I thought of the reason I was now returning to the library, I recalled the blog post I had written when my kids were still in elementary school:

Why I Don't Want My Kids to Do Well in School

The point I made at the time was that, for the sake of the minority language (English), I felt it was better if the majority language (Japanese) didn’t progress too quickly. I was being facetious, of course, when I said that I didn’t want them to do well in school. I wanted them to do well, but as long as they were doing well enough, that was fine and probably best for the larger arc of their bilingual development. I didn’t want them to do too well back then because I hoped to keep their English side as strong and as active as their Japanese side, at least as long as I possibly could.

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ADAM’S NOTE: During my recent travels in Europe, I met several non-native speakers of English who are making determined efforts to raise their children in this language. I even had the chance to stay with a family in Poland and see the fruitful progress that they’re experiencing. Today’s guest post, by Elzbieta Rzeszutko, another parent in Poland using English with her kids, calls this “intentional bilingualism,” which I think captures the essential spirit of a non-native aim, in any language, very keenly. In fact, whether we are native speakers of the target language or not, being “intentional” about our efforts—day by day and year by year—is the overarching key to success. Elzbieta, thank you for sharing your encouraging story with us! :mrgreen:

Guest Post: Non-native Speakers Can Bring Up Bilingual Kids, Too!

Elzbieta Rzeszutko is a Polish mother, in Poland, raising her two children, 5 and 3, in English. Though not a language teacher, she has a passion for teaching and a mission to persuade people that education can be fun. She shares her proactive approach with others through her popular blog At the Tip of My Tongue (written in Polish, this is the English translation of the Polish name) and through media appearances.

Elzbieta RzeszutkoThough my husband and I are Polish, and we live in Poland—a largely monolingual country—the language that we use with our two children is English. Because we believe strongly that bilingualism is so beneficial, we think it’s worth pursuing even if your knowledge of the target language isn’t “inborn” but acquired. In other words…

Non-native speakers can bring up bilingual kids, too!

And I’m happy to say that we’re experiencing success at our bilingual aim. The other night I was carrying my five-year-old daughter to the loo and her limp body, hanging loosely over my shoulder, suddenly mumbled: “Fox in socks on box.” A half-conscious child at this age who starts rhyming in the minority language is living proof of success to me.

[Adam’s note: This snippet of rhyme is from a wonderful Dr. Seuss book called “Fox in Socks” that I read many, many times to my kids when they were small!]

So, yes, I’m a non-native speaker of English and our approach is most frequently referred to as “non-native bililingualism.” However, I much prefer to call it “intentional bilingualism” because I have been as intentional as I can be about my efforts.

In this post I’ll share with you some of the ideas and strategies that have made up our bilingual journey to date.

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Lulu giving her speech in the finals of the speech contest.

Two threads of my life, both of them months in the making, have suddenly come together with the same message.

The first thread involves my 15-year-old daughter and an English speech contest (recitation contest) that took place on Saturday. This event was the culmination of a long process that began in the spring, when her English teacher at school encouraged her to take part.

When Lulu, now in her third and last year of junior high at a public school here in Hiroshima, told me about it, I first expressed surprise that I hadn’t heard anything about this speech contest in her first and second years. (I’m always the last to know things around here!) But then I, too, encouraged her to participate.

Writing the speech

The contest involved writing a short speech—to be presented within a time limit of five minutes—and giving this speech at the city-wide competition involving students representing junior high schools in Hiroshima. (Hiroshima has over a million people so there are a lot of junior high schools.) The winners from this round of city schools would then go on to the finals that brought together the winners from the junior high schools throughout Hiroshima Prefecture, which covers a sizable chunk of western Japan.

It was the finals that took place on Saturday.

But first, back to last spring. Before Lulu could even enter this speech contest, she needed a speech. So we brainstormed together and came up with a theme. Then I asked her to write a first draft. While it’s true that this first draft was a mess, I also knew that, as long we both stayed persistent, it could be improved through draft after draft.

And that’s what happened.

The date for the contest

So, finally, she had her speech—and I’ll share the full text with you below, so you’ll know what she spoke about.

At that point, in late May, we still hadn’t received information from her English teacher about when the city-wide round would take place…and then suddenly her teacher was on leave, awaiting the birth of her first child.

As it turns out, it took far more effort than expected to get that information from the school, but we eventually learned that the city-wide contest would be held on September 7, after the summer break.

Unfortunately, I would be out of town on that date, having already made plans for a trip to Europe to interview parents for a new book on raising bilingual and multilingual children.

Practicing the speech

Still, I could help her prepare for the contest and so we began practicing her speech. (I also have a background in theater arts, so I was eager to work with her in this way.)

First thing to know: Lulu has been terribly busy this year, not only studying hard for school but also studying hard for high school entrance exams, which will take place early next year. In fact, most days she attends a juku (cram school) in the evening, which means that we could only practice together after that, when both of us were tired. But night after night (with only rare exceptions, when she was just too tired), we did.

Second thing to know: Lulu isn’t very big, but she’s brave. She’s been in the public eye before on a number of occasions—dancing, playing piano or guitar, reading aloud at presentations (sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English)—but this was the very first time she would be memorizing a speech and standing on stage alone to deliver it. And, frankly, when we first began practicing, her presentation left a lot to be desired. I mean, she could recite the words well enough, but her delivery was so wooden, so stiff.

In fact, I wasn’t sure how successful I could be in getting her to open up and express herself more fully and naturally, but since the writing process had also been a test of persistence, I figured that we would surely make progress over time, no matter how far she finally got.

And so we both stuck with it, though it’s true that this process was made more difficult by the fact that she insisted on practicing the speech with her back to me…because she would break out giggling when she faced in my direction.

Results of the first contest

Finally, I left for Europe on September 2, which meant she was on her own for the last few days. On September 7, my wife took her to the city-wide contest, held at an auditorium in downtown Hiroshima. Considering the time difference between us on that day—I was in England and she was in Japan—it’s hard to say exactly what I was doing when she was standing on stage, delivering her speech, but perhaps—and fittingly, as you’ll soon see—I was in the midst of interviewing a parent about their bilingual or multilingual journey.

Soon after, though, I received the news by text: Lulu had won the contest in Hiroshima and would advance to the area-wide finals, scheduled for December 7.

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ADAM’S NOTE: Over the past few years, Tiara Harris has sometimes shared video clips with me of her super-cute kids speaking Japanese and I came to admire the very proactive efforts she is making so that she and her children can both become bilingual in this language and their native English. As a result of the success she’s experiencing, Tiara is also becoming a growing force at YouTube with a variety of helpful and appealing videos at her Chocolate Sushi Roll channel. Thank you for sharing your encouraging story with us, Tiara! And keep up all your good efforts, for your family and for families out in the world!

Tiara and her children

Tiara Harris is a native English speaker from the U.S. state of Georgia raising two bilingual children. As a military family, they frequently must relocate, but Tiara is determined to maintain the goal of having a bilingual family. Currently, they live in Japan and Tiara is making efforts to foster her young children’s ability in Japanese while studying Japanese herself and teaching English to Japanese children. She created a YouTube channel, called Chocolate Sushi Roll, to inspire other monolingual families to be brave and take the leap toward bilingualism.

Konnichiwa! (That’s hello in Japanese!)

If you had met me four years ago, I could only have greeted you in English and (maybe) Spanish…from the few Spanish words I learned from sleeping through my Spanish class in high school. I wasn’t interested in learning another language and never realized the opportunities and depth that can come with it.

Moving to Japan

I am—well, was—a monolingual mom from a completely monolingual family. We’re a military family and, to our dismay—at least at first—we became faced with relocating to Japan. To be honest, I dreaded going and was even refusing to go until one month before the move because I love living in America and I wanted to stay close to my family. But my husband urged me to come with him so he wouldn’t have to be stationed in Japan by himself.

So we went to Okinawa in 2014 and we were there for two years. I became a tour guide for Americans and learned about the culture and history and a lot of fun facts for the 30-minute bus tours. But I still had no interest in learning to speak Japanese.

Then, during our second year in Okinawa, we were blessed with a baby boy, Jason.

And my whole perspective changed.

At that point, because Jason was born in Japan, I decided that he should speak the language. And, in fact, before I even realized it, this was already starting to happen. I had been taking Jason to baby play classes with native Japanese mothers and their babies. One day I noticed that when the teacher said to clap, Jason clapped. And when the teacher said to clean up, his little hands started reaching to clean up. I was so surprised! This baby is learning Japanese!

By then, though, Jason was already a year old and it was time for us to return to America. And I was now pregnant with a baby girl.

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Just in time for Christmas!

I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL!

I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL! is the perfect book for parents—especially new parents and parents of younger kids—who dream of raising bilingual or multilingual children. Written by Adam Beck, author of the popular guide Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability, this playful book is a unique “picture book for adults” with delightful illustrations by Pavel Goldaev. Narrated by a lively baby, the book emphasizes the most important information parents need for realizing joyful success on a bilingual or multilingual journey. I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL! is an appealing and empowering book that makes a great gift for yourself or for a friend.

Watch this video at Bilingual Monkeys TV, my YouTube channel.

Early reviews from parents give the book glowing praise…

“I loved it!! This precious little book contains all the basic information you need to get started with your kids’ bilingualism. It faces the themes in a funny, entertaining way, as it’s actually the baby speaking! Since I read it, I keep it on my night table to have a look at it every time I feel my determination falter. Even though it’s a book for adults, it looks like a book for children, and kids love its funny drawings!”

“Perfect for expectant or new parents hoping to raise their child in a bilingual (or multilingual) environment! Adam Beck’s characteristic playful style comes through beautifully in this book, aimed at new parents. In this book, we see the benefits of growing up bilingual – from the baby’s point of view. Pavel Goldaev’s illustrations fit perfectly with Adam’s text. This is an ideal gift for expectant or new parents who hope to raise their child bilingually or multilingually. It can even be a fun, helpful reminder for those of us further along in our bilingual parenting journey, if we forget why we’re doing this.”

“I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL! is a picture book for adults, written from the perspective of a baby that wants to be able to speak all the languages the parents speak. The baby tells about the emotional, cognitive, social, and economic benefits of growing up bilingual, and guides the parents through the first phases of biliteracy. Adam Beck gives hands on advice in a fun and joyful way, which, together with the wonderful illustrations by Pavel Goldaev will surely empower many parents to embark on this exciting journey of raising a bilingual or multilingual child successfully. I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL! is a perfect gift for expectant or new parents!”

“When I was looking at this book my kids automatically came to me and asked what book it was because the illustrations were so cute and relatable to them. Then they went: ‘Read it to me, Mommy!’ If you are a new bilingual parent and don’t know where to start, this can be a cute summary for you. You can also read/narrate this book to your kids to boost their confidence in their bilingualism from an early age.”

I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL!

Get a copy of I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL!

I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL! is available at Amazon, Amazon UK, other global Amazon sites, and other booksellers.

Get the paperback at Amazon.

Get the paperback at Amazon UK.

Get the paperback at The Book Depository. (And get free shipping to anywhere in the world!)

SPECIAL OFFER UNTIL DECEMBER 31!

Join me at Patreon and I’ll send to you a *signed* copy of I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL! I’ll send the paperback right to your home, or workplace, anywhere in the world! (All I ask is that after you join me at Patreon, at any tier level, you then maintain your support there for at least 3 months.)

Join me now at Patreon and I’ll send you a signed copy of my new book!

Bulk orders for the paperback—for groups and booksellers—can be made by contacting Adam Beck directly at: adam[at]bilingualmonkeys.com

Please help me spread the word

  • Enjoy the book and share your impressions by posting a review at Amazon, Amazon UK, the global Amazon sites, Goodreads, and other sites online. (Even a short review is fine!) Reviews are so important for spreading the word about this special little book to other parents and I’d be really grateful for your support in this way. (I’d love to hear from you personally, too, with your impressions!)
  • Tell others about the book through social media and word-of-mouth. Many thanks for sharing these links…
    1. the link to this page about the book:
    http://bilingualmonkeys.com/i-want-to-be-bilingual-book

    2. this link to my author page at Amazon:
    https://www.amazon.com/Adam-Beck/e/B01EKPRIE6/

    3. this link to my author page at Amazon UK:
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Adam-Beck/e/B01EKPRIE6/
  • If you run a blog or website, please consider posting something about I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL! For inquiries related to reviews, interviews, or other posts, please email me directly: adam[at]bilingualmonkeys.com

Thank you so much, everyone! :mrgreen:

Japan

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 the core principles for successfully raising bilingual or multilingual children (key question #6 in 45 Key Questions Every Parent Raising a Bilingual Child Should Ask) is this:

Effective habits and routines that can provide the child with ample exposure in the target language, and create regular opportunities for him or her to use this language actively, must be made and sustained—and reshaped, as necessary—over the years of childhood.

In our case, for example, some of my long-running habits and routines with my kids have been…

*Spending as much time together as possible, and being as talkative with them as I can.

*Reading aloud to them every morning at breakfast for at least 15 or 20 minutes.

*Posting stories and articles in the bathroom on a continuous basis as captive reading material.

*Maintaining a regular homework routine by giving them a manageable amount of reading and writing tasks (almost) every day.

During my five weeks on the road, though, I was unable to sustain most of these habits and routines, which have fueled much of the progress my children have made in the minority language over the years. Moreover, it has been hard, in some ways, to get these habits and routines going again since my return to Japan.

In other words, good habits and routines are not only vital for the growth of our target language, they can be rather delicate things, too, and a change in circumstance—like my absence of five weeks—can sidetrack our efforts and make it harder to return to that productive rhythm.

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3-year-old girl in England

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!)

The adorable three-year-old girl was sitting on the stairs, telling me all about her “babies”—her dolls and stuffed animals that were adorned with band-aids (“plasters” she called them, in the British English she spoke) because, she said, they were ill or had gotten injured.

And at that moment, in my very first homestay of the trip, I flashed on my own daughter when she was the same small, incredibly-cute age and I suddenly missed that time terribly.

A large lump rose in my throat.

Halloween, years ago

Below is Lulu when she was three. She’s now 15 so that was 12 years ago. And fittingly for this week, she was dressed up for Halloween. Her Halloween costume was “red”—that was what she wanted to be, she had told us eagerly in her chipmunky voice. “RED!”

Lulu at Halloween

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Adam Beck and Simon Farrow

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!)

Another special highlight from my trip was the opportunity to meet in person, for the very first time, the artist who worked so hard on the illustrations for my novel, How I Lost My Ear, a funny, action-packed epic for older children and adults that was published in January 2018. In fact, before we met, I had spoken to him only once, over Skype, and that was just briefly. Otherwise, we communicated through email: many, many, many messages over the full length of 2017 that ultimately resulted in a total of 136—yes, 136!—fabulous illustrations for the book.

The truth is, without his illustrations, I could never have fulfilled my highest vision for the story. I worked on the text for 10 years, and while I was finally satisfied with it, feeling that it was the best creative writing I had ever done, I also knew that the right illustrator could bring the playful spirit of the story fully and vividly to life. And from the very first illustrations he sent to me, I knew I had been blessed to find Simon Farrow.

How I Lost My Ear

How I Lost My Ear

How I Lost My Ear

How I Lost My Ear

How I Lost My Ear

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Reunion in the Czech Republic

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!)

I met many people on my trip through Europe, and most of them I was meeting for the very first time. I suppose, then, that I should call them “new friends,” but in fact, they felt much more like “old friends” for these two reasons:

  1. I had already gotten to know them quite well through my work online: through my blog and my forum, through email, and even through Skype.
  2. I feel a special kinship with other parents of bilingual and multilingual children. Despite the different circumstances of our lives, we share the same deeply-felt aim for our children and this core value creates an immediate and meaningful bond.

And so, as I traveled from place to place, it was like I was meeting “old friends” at every stop. Plus, the fact that I hadn’t even met them in person before meant that, strangely, I was being “reunited” with “old friends” for the first time! It was such a unique and thrilling experience!

Returning to the Czech Republic after 23 years

At the same time, there was a place where I had the chance to meet a number of people that I had known from my past. In other words, these were “old friends” in the usual sense of this expression.

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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 10 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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