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Download free resources designed to support the language development of bilingual kids.

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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I Know a Lot About...

Over the years, I’ve amassed big piles of papers that hold teaching materials, creative writing, and ideas for future blog posts, books, and other projects. From time to time I’ll sift through these piles in an attempt to file the papers I want to keep and discard the ones I no longer need.

But the truth is, I never seem to get all the way to the bottom of these stacks and so the piles begin rising again as I add fresh papers. One of my goals in connection with our move last August was to tackle this task and finally eliminate all the piles…and yet it’s now eight months later and they’re still growing like weeds.

The thing is, it’s a lot more fun for me to add to the piles with new inspirations than it is to get everything properly sorted in my filing cabinet.

Still, last night, as I was halfheartedly making another attempt at this aim, I came across a paper that was fun for me to rediscover…and might be fun for you to try with your own kids or students.

A humorous twist

When my children were younger, and first learning to read, I created a kind of worksheet designed to promote both vocabulary and early reading. If you’ve been following this blog over the years, you know that my mind is continuously trying to put a humorous twist on language activities for my kids and students because this sort of playful approach tends to make the activity more engaging and more productive. Of course, there’s nothing “wrong” with pursuing the same language targets—like saying the names of animals and reading some simple sentences—in a more conventional way. But, in my experience, a humorous twist holds the power to make the activity more enjoyable and more effective.

So here it is: the worksheet I used with my kids, and then with my younger students (renewed for this post); a simple activity that turned out to be a fun, language-filled success each time I tried it. (In my case, the target language is English, but this activity could be pursued in any language you like, and with any age, really, which means the same idea would no doubt work well with language learners.)

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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 the questions in this comprehensive “checklist” 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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The most popular post at this site is even bigger and better!

Now with 50 tips, and over 6,000 words, My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids offers a wealth of ideas that will help strengthen your success in bringing up bilingual children.

You can also freely download the whole post as a handy PDF file for saving, printing, and sharing!

Download the PDF file now.

The peppy puppy the prince presented the princess produced piles of poop in the palace.

Hardly a week goes by that I don’t challenge my kids to repeat a tongue twister that emerges naturally from our interactions. The truth is, because tongue twisters are such a fun and effective form of engagement in the target language, my ears are continuously pricked for this opportunity.

22 Funny Tongue Twisters for KidsTwo examples, one older and one more recent…

1. When my son entered first grade, he chose a black backpack for school. Of course, it was hard to overlook the wonderful tongue-twisting appeal of “black backpack” and this has since become a familiar refrain over the past two years as he gets ready to leave the house in the morning.

2. The other day he was wearing a snazzy new soccer shirt and I pointed to it and said “Sharp shirt!” I wasn’t aiming for a tongue twister when I said this, but I jumped on it just the same: “Okay, say that ten times fast!” Roy, Lulu, and I gave it an enthusiastic try and failed miserably (Lulu’s attempts sounded more like “shup shup, shup shup”)…but these two little words successfully served their purpose by promoting laugh-filled engagement in the minority language.

And now, like “black backpack,” I expect that every time Roy wears it, his “shup shup” (sorry, “sharp shirt”) will become a little trigger for language play. (Go ahead, give them a try yourself, if you haven’t already. Ten times fast, “black backpack” then “sharp shirt”!)

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Instant Inspiration for Parents Raising Bilingual Kids

In spring 2014, I released the e-book Instant Inspiration for Parents Raising Bilingual Kids. The response to this unique resource was very positive and I’m so thankful to all those who made a contribution, in exchange for the e-book, to help support my work at Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo. As promised, 100% of these funds have gone toward maintaining and enhancing these two websites.

Meanwhile, I’ve also heard from some parents who wanted a copy of the e-book but weren’t able, for one reason or another, to make a donation online. (So I imagine there are others, too, who haven’t contacted me.) In fact, I’ve felt badly about this, because my main purpose in creating this resource was to lend support to other parents. Of course, the funds I’ve received have been really helpful, but I basically viewed this project as a nonprofit effort.

And so, I’ve decided to make the e-book available to all, entirely for free. At the same time, if Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo are of value to you, and you’re able to give something back by making a small contribution, this is still possible, too, and I would be grateful for your support. But it’s completely up to you: download the e-book for free or for an amount of your choice.

Get Instant Inspiration for Parents Raising Bilingual Kids

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The Ultimate Crossword Puzzle About Raising Bilingual Kids!

I made a crossword puzzle for you! Feel free to download it for personal or professional use. And if you like it, please share it with others. I think it’s the only crossword puzzle of its kind! :mrgreen:

To get the two-page PDF file, just click this big link…

The Ultimate Crossword Puzzle About Raising Bilingual Kids! (PDF)

To check your answers, click this link…

ANSWERS to The Ultimate Crossword Puzzle About Raising Bilingual Kids!

Good luck! And if you complete it—without peeking at the answers first—you’re welcome to boast in a comment below!

For additional fun, check out my three quizzes on bilingualism…

What Do You Know About Bilingualism? Take this Quiz and Test Your Knowledge! (based on the book Bilingual: Life and Reality by François Grosjean)

Another Fun Quiz on Bilingualism! Test Your Knowledge! (based on the book A Parents’ and Teachers’ Guide to Bilingualism by Colin Baker)

Take This Quiz on Bilingual Acquisition in Children! How Many Will You Get Right? (based on the book Bilingual First Language Acquisition by Annick De Houwer)

The 12 Days of Christmas for Raising Bilingual Kids

I have a little gift for you…

My kids singing (and screaming) “The 12 Days of Christmas for Raising Bilingual Kids”!

It starts a little slow (Lulu was monkeying around), but they get better (and louder) as the song goes on. We hope you like it! And if you do, please let us know, and share the link with others! You’d make Lulu (10) and Roy (7) very happy! (Your positive feedback will also encourage me to start using more audio recordings. This post marks the first time I’ve used audio!)

The 12 Days of Christmas for Raising Bilingual Kids
Lyrics by Adam Beck of Bilingual Monkeys (http://bilingualmonkeys.com)

Click here to download a PDF of these lyrics!

On the first day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
a picture dictionary.

On the second day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the third day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the fourth day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the fifth day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
five DVDs!
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the sixth day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
six stacks of workbooks,
five DVDs!
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the seventh day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
seven shelves of stories,
six stacks of workbooks,
five DVDs!
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the eighth day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
eight little playmates,
seven shelves of stories,
six stacks of workbooks,
five DVDs!
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the ninth day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
nine children’s albums,
eight little playmates,
seven shelves of stories,
six stacks of workbooks,
five DVDs!
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the tenth day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
ten TV programs,
nine children’s albums,
eight little playmates,
seven shelves of stories,
six stacks of workbooks,
five DVDs!
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the eleventh day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
eleven games and apps,
ten TV programs,
nine children’s albums,
eight little playmates,
seven shelves of stories,
six stacks of workbooks,
five DVDs!
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

On the twelfth day of Christmas, my parents gave to me:
twelve private lessons,
eleven games and apps,
ten TV programs,
nine children’s albums,
eight little playmates,
seven shelves of stories,
six stacks of workbooks,
five DVDs!
four homestay guests,
three pen-pals,
two trips abroad,
and a picture dictionary.

And a picture dictionary!

Click to leave a comment and get links to more Christmas posts →

The Funniest Activity I’ve Ever Done with My Bilingual Kids and Students

This might sound like an exaggeration, but it’s honestly not: the activity I’ll share with you today often gets my bilingual kids and students laughing like mad chipmunks. And it hits the funny bone of a wide range of ages, too, from first graders to teens. (I’ve even done this activity when I was teaching at local universities, and these college students learning English as a second language—who were normally so shy and passive—would soon be seized by fits of laughter.)

First, though, I should back up and explain that my use of this activity—I call it “Silly Stories”—can be traced back to my own childhood and the time I spent giggling over a word game known as Mad Libs.

If you’re not familiar with Mad Libs, it’s a game where one player prompts another player (or several other players) for words to complete the blanks of an unfinished story. The text is then read aloud, and the results—often crazy and comical—are met with grins and laughter.

Dozens of Mad Libs books have been issued since the first one was published in the United States in 1958, selling a total of over 110 million copies. So it’s clearly a very successful word game, and I suspect it can be adapted for any target language, adding another powerful tool to your bag of tricks.

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Our humble bathroom.

Our humble bathroom.

See this? It’s our bathroom. Why am I sharing a picture of our bathroom with you?

It’s not because I’m particularly proud of it. I mean, it’s nothing special, right? It’s a typical tiny Japanese bathroom, functional but not comfortable. And completely unheated, too, which means that when the temperature drops, it’s only human nature to flee to a warmer room as soon as possible (even unzipped).

But my kids, bless them, they actually linger here in this cold, uncomfortable little room. Why?

Look at the walls. (And watch for a free download below!)

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If you missed my last post, How Many Books Do You Have In Your Home?, I recommend a look. Not only does it share some interesting research that shows a strong relationship between the number of books in the home and a child’s language development, the comments that have come from readers provide additional food for thought.

This post (you may be relieved to hear) won’t be nearly as long. In fact, today let me simply offer a friendly PDF file—a “report” on reading—which provides a pretty good summary (with links to further material) of my thoughts on this important subject. Though this information has appeared in one form or another on my blog—and has been shared with other sites in a version similar to this—I thought it might help to put out a handy PDF file, too.

To open the file and save it to your computer, just click on the button below.

The Power of Reading in Raising a Bilingual Child