Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability

Online Resources

What online resources—for parents and for kids—can be useful in raising children with good bilingual ability? These posts include recommended links!

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Burning Questions About Raising Bilingual and Multilingual Children

Questions about the process of raising bilingual and multilingual children—about approaches, tactics, resources, and many more aspects of this experience—are only natural. After all, this is a long journey, with continuous challenges, both large and small, and issues involving effective choices and productive efforts go to the heart of realizing greater success and joy over the childhood years.

This is essentially why I began this blog, Bilingual Monkeys, in 2012: My hope, in sharing my experience of working with bilingual and multilingual children for over 20 years, as a teacher and parent, has been to help answer the range of questions that parents often have and thus provide encouraging guidance that can make a positive difference in their bilingual or multilingual journey with their kids.

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The Top 20 Languages in the World

According to Ethnologue, the foremost reference on living languages, there are 7,099 languages spoken in the world today and just 23 of these languages account for more than half of our global population of 7.6 billion people. (See the authoritative Worldometers for remarkable live statistics on our planet’s population.)

Among these 23 languages are Malay (#23, with 60.8 million first-language speakers), Persian (#22, with 61.9 million first-language speakers), and Italian (#21, with 63.4 million first-language speakers).

Below are the top 20 languages, by number of first-language speakers, ordered from #20 to #1. Make your best guess then click on the green “plus” sign to reveal each one. If you get a good score, feel free to boast in a comment below!

#20, with 68 million first-language speakers
Tamil (India)

#19, with 68.1 million first-language speakers
Vietnamese (Vietnam)

#18, with 69.1 million first-language speakers
Urdu (Pakistan)

#17, with 71.1 million first-language speakers
Turkish (Turkey)

#16, with 71.8 million first-language speakers
Marathi (India)

#15, with 74.2 million first-language speakers
Telugu (India)

#14, with 76.1 million first-language speakers
French (Countries include France, Canada, Belgium, and many others)

#13, with 76.8 million first-language speakers
German (Countries include Germany, Austria, Switzerland)

#12, with 77.2 million first-language speakers
Korean (South Korea, North Korea)

#11, with 84.4 million first-language speakers
Javanese (Indonesia)

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Please Help My Kids and Me Learn Spanish!

NOTE: This post begins with a description of our efforts to date to learn Spanish. Then Jennifer Brunk, founder of the marvelous site Spanish Playground, kindly provides her expert advice by making a range of suggestions for strengthening our actions and our progress—suggestions that could be quite useful for other families, too. Finally, I would love to hear your suggestions as well so please feel free to leave a comment below with further ideas or resources for learning Spanish. Thank you! :mrgreen:

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that my children are currently 13 and 10 and that their majority language is Japanese and their minority language is English. At this point, their ability in each of these languages is comparable to their monolingual peers. In other words, they essentially have two native languages and can use both freely to communicate or to read and write.

What you may not know—since I haven’t yet mentioned this much—is that my kids are now working on a third language, too…but the circumstances of this additional minority language, Spanish, are vastly different from their acquisition of English.

While supporting their English side has been a huge priority for me ever since they were born, and my background as a native speaker and a longtime English teacher of bilingual children has helped me nurture satisfying progress in this language, I’m afraid I’m not doing nearly as well when it comes to Spanish.

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The Basic Formula for Bilingual Success

One of the most rewarding things about running The Bilingual Zoo, the friendly (and free) forum I opened in 2014, is the opportunity to follow the progress made by parents and children over time. It’s always a thrill for me when a thread begun by a parent, concerned over a child’s language development, is updated after six months or a year with happy news of stronger progress. This happens regularly, and the latest example is Stefania’s thread, which she updated the other day.

Not only are these successes gratifying to me personally, they also continually reaffirm for me, professionally, what I consider to be the basic formula for bilingual success.

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Recommended Resources: Great Books and Blogs for Nurturing a Child's Multicultural Spirit

One of the deeper themes of my efforts to support the bilingual and multilingual journey of families in the world—as I stress in such posts as Why Raising a Bilingual Child Matters in a World Gone Mad and Why Your Bilingual Child Is Tied, Profoundly, to Hiroshima and Peace—is the idea that children with ability in more than one language can potentially feel keener empathy for others and contribute to creating a more harmonious world through their outlook and actions.

I realize, of course, that the world is still very far from the peaceful place we wish it was—and I admit to wrestling with a more jaded side, too—but I nevertheless continue to believe that the efforts we make, including our efforts to raise bilingual and multilingual children, do make a productive difference to the larger arc of our evolution as a species.

Great books and blogs

This same idea—that expanding our familiarity with the world and our empathy for others can help promote greater peace on this fragile planet—is the essential aim of two books on nurturing a spirit of multiculturalism that I wholeheartedly recommend: Growing Up Global: Raising Children to Be At Home in the World and The Global Education Toolkit for Elementary Learners.

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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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Recommended Resources: Inspiring Podcasts About Raising Bilingual Children

One of the most challenging aspects of raising a bilingual child is that parenting itself keeps us so busy it can be hard to find the time and energy to read books and blogs on a regular basis to continually stretch our knowledge of the subject and strengthen the effectiveness of our actions.

If only there was some way we could continue to learn from others—other parents and professionals—while simply going about our daily routine of childcare, household chores, drives to the store, and commutes to work. Some friendly spirits, perhaps, that would whisper words of experience and encouragement into our weary ears, offering us ideas and inspiration for realizing even greater success on our bilingual journey.

Well, thanks to Olena Centeno and Marianna Du Bosq, this isn’t just wishful thinking.

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Because the focus of raising bilingual children is very often (and naturally enough) on the substantial challenges involved in this aim, I thought it would be nice to set all that aside for a moment and simply stress the things we love about having bilingual kids.

Raising Multilingual Children Blogging CarnivalI say “we” because this post was prepared for the February edition of the Raising Multilingual Children Blogging Carnival, maintained by Annabelle at The PiriPiri Lexicon, and shares posts made by other bloggers, too, on this same theme. While reminders of the happy, positive side of raising bilingual children are important year-round, spotlighting the things we love about multilingual kids is a natural fit for Valentine’s Day.

So I’ll first set the mood by offering an infographic I made for Valentine’s Day last year, “10 Things I Love About Bilingual Kids.” Then I’ll step back and let others tell you what they love, too. Finally, I’ll wrap up this post with a new infographic, “10 MORE Things I Love About Bilingual Kids.”

I hope you enjoy this blogging carnival! And if you do, please share the link with others:

http://bilingualmonkeys.com/the-many-things-we-love-about-bilingual-kids

10 Things I Love About Bilingual Kids

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The Emotional Challenge of Speaking the Minority Language in a Majority Language Environment

One of the most-visited posts at this site is What Language Should I Speak in Public with My Bilingual Child?, which has also generated a rich conversation of more than 80 comments to date. The interest in this question surely stems from the fact that this is an issue which in some way, to some degree, affects the great majority of parents seeking to raise a bilingual child.

In fact, scratch the surface of this broad question and you discover the more specific concerns tied to the individual parent and his or her circumstances. These concerns are reflected not only in the comments made beneath the post at this site, but also at a lively thread at The Bilingual Zoo, the forum for further interaction among this audience.

I want to highlight this thread in a blog post because I believe the parents there have done a real service to us all in sharing, very candidly, their thoughts and feelings surrounding what many experience as the emotional challenge of freely speaking the minority language in the midst of a majority language environment.

Like me, I think you’ll find wise and encouraging food for thought in the many perspectives offered in this thread:

Embarrassment over speaking a “foreign language” in public

At the same time, I see this discussion as a glowing example of the value of this forum—the value of community—in considering widespread concerns from a wide range of views. While I hope my blog and forum are a source of support to other parents on their bilingual journey, the truth is, the experiences and perspectives shared by this audience are a continual source of support to my own journey as well. For this, I feel blessed and grateful.

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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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