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!

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:

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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How High a Priority is Your Bilingual Journey?

This question cuts right to the heart of the efforts you make and the results you produce. If you’re not satisfied with those results, it would be wise to look long and hard at how high this priority really is in your life.

“We realize our dilemma goes deeper than shortage of time; it is basically a problem of priorities. We confess, we have left undone those things that we ought to have done; and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.” —Charles Hummel

The other day I posted a new challenge at The Bilingual Zoo…

Challenge #8: Make This the Highest Priority You Can

This challenge has prompted a wave of constructive thinking and discussion among members of The Bilingual Zoo community. If, like most of us, you must work hard to maintain sufficient exposure to the minority language, amid busy days in a majority language environment, this is a conversation worth joining. And, in particular, if you feel dissatisfied with the results you’ve achieved to date, I urge you to pause and pursue this challenge. After all, if you’re not realizing your hopes for your children, isn’t it best to either make this a higher priority—and make more proactive efforts—or, otherwise, set lower expectations for the outcome?

“Don’t waste your breath proclaiming what’s really important to you. How you spend your time says it all.” —Eric Zorn

To see all the current challenges at The Bilingual Zoo—challenges that can empower your efforts and boost your children’s bilingual development—visit the Take a Challenge board.

Becoming a member of The Bilingual Zoo is easy and free: just register for an account and complete your profile. (An annual donation to help support the site is encouraged, but not required.)

“Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow. Success depends upon using it wisely—by planning and setting priorities.” —Denis Waitley

Check out this important new challenge now…

Challenge #8: Make This the Highest Priority You Can

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…

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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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Eugene Ryan is a university teacher in Japan and a researcher studying the effects of bilingualism on the linguistic and cognitive development of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). He is also the father of a bilingual child with autism. In Part 1 of our interview, he generously shared the early struggles and successes that he and his wife experienced in their quest to support their son’s language development. In Part 2, now 16 months later, Eugene describes the latest stage of their bilingual journey together. Again, my warm thanks to Eugene for offering his experience and insight to others.

Eugene and his son

Eugene and his son

It’s been over a year since our first interview. What has changed for your family since then?
Teeda is now getting ready to go to elementary school, and his little sister Ursula is a very verbal, sly 4 year old. What hasn’t changed is our commitment to raising both of our children bilingually. Thanks to my shorter commute, I get to spend more time with the kids than my partner, so breakfast, school runs and so on are all in English with Dad. Their schooling and almost all of Teeda’s therapy are in Japanese. My wife and I speak English to each other, and both of us speak to the children mainly but not exclusively in our native language.

“…code mixing is a normal and even beneficial part of multilingual development.”

Is there any confusion from this mixture of language exposure?
Not for the children, no, but we as parents went through a period of being pretty mixed up ourselves. In the beginning I tried a complex system of dividing language use at home by days between English and Japanese. It soon became clear that this was absurdly unrealistic. At that time a friend advised that we each simply stick to one language. We tried this approach, which had the winning virtue of simplicity, and was positive in that both of us could then be relaxed about using our native language in conversations with Teeda.

Research suggests that parents using their native tongue with their children is beneficial both in strengthening family bonds and developing the child’s linguistic ability. (Cummins, 2001) It was still hard though to maintain a pure split, and we were also worried that Teeda was often mixing languages in the same sentence. A research colleague was later able to assure me that provided each part of the sentence is grammatically correct, this kind of code mixing is a normal and even beneficial part of multilingual development. (Li & Oi, 2014) This new knowledge has helped us enjoy listening to what he wants to say—phrases like “I ate ten ichigo (strawberries). I get very dirty.”—without getting hung up on the language.

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Little Lexicon

Although I’ve been keeping a journal about my kids since they were born, one thing I wish I had done with more discipline was making notes about their first words—even their first half-formed words.

For example, when Lulu was about 18 months old, I wrote…

Lulu’s first sign of distinguishing English and Japanese occurred in February 2006 when she began, but not always accurately, using “up” to me when she wanted me to pick her up and “dak” (for “dakko”) when making the same request to her mother.

However, I know there were many more of these first words that were lost to the busy days of early childhood…and I’m afraid I made even fewer notes like this about my son, born nearly three years later. (There’s always less enthusiasm for the poor second-born children!)

So when Ryan Cole, an American designer now living in the Czech Republic with his Czech wife and their two young sons, told me about his creation—a fun, innovative app that not only enables parents to more easily note their children’s first words, it even translates these words into other languages so loved ones can comprehend them, too—I thought it was a solution well worth sharing. (I even considered having a third child just to use it myself, but my wife was against the idea.)

I’ll let Ryan tell you more about Little Lexicon, in his own words…

1. Could you give us a Tweetable idea of Little Lexicon? What is it?
Little Lexicon lets you collect and share your bilingual toddler’s first words with those you love. At it’s core, it’s all about helping your family and friends understand what your kid is saying. It’ll also make sure you don’t forget those first words.

Click to continue my interview with Ryan Cole →

The Bilingual Zoo is open!

What is the Bilingual Zoo?
The Bilingual Zoo is an online community for parents and teachers of bilingual (and multilingual) children. The kind support of the Bilingual Monkeys audience has enabled me to develop a friendly forum to complement the information found on this site. The forum provides a space for us to interact more directly and personally, thereby overcoming distance and isolation and empowering our mutual success on the bilingual journey.

What are the benefits of becoming a member?
You don’t have to become a member to access the Bilingual Zoo, and read the content on the forum boards. The intent of the site is to be helpful to all, whether members or guests.

However, registering for a free account, and becoming an active member, offers a number of important benefits:

You will no longer be alone on your journey. You can be part of a helpful worldwide community of parents and teachers of bilingual (and multilingual) children.

As a member, you will be able to make posts to the forum. (Guests can read posts, but cannot make posts.)

  • You can ask questions and receive support from others.
  • You can exchange useful strategies, ideas, and resources.
  • You can find friends, near or far, who share your same circumstances or difficulties.
  • You can feel more accountability by reporting your aims and your actions to the group.
  • You can join regular “challenges” that will strengthen your knowledge, your skills, and your efforts.
  • You can respond to others with advice and encouragement.

In addition to making posts on the forum boards, members of the Bilingual Zoo community are able to send “private messages” to each other, a powerful feature for networking and support.

Members will also be eligible to enter special giveaways and receive other perks that are not available to guests. (Like the big opening giveaway described below!)

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Bilingual Style

What is Bilingual Style?

Bilingual Style is an online store with fun, one-of-a-kind products for parents of bilingual (and trilingual) children. (Teachers and adults with more than one language may find something they like, too!)

Products from Bilingual Style are not only unique and appealing, they are designed to celebrate your family’s bilingual identity and support your long-term success by serving as daily reminders of your mission.

Who is behind Bilingual Style?

Bilingual Monkeys has partnered with Zazzle, an online retailer, to open the Bilingual Style store. Adam Beck, the founder of Bilingual Monkeys, creates the designs and Zazzle manufactures the products in the United States.

Do you ship internationally?

Yes! Zazzle ships worldwide so, no matter where you live, you can get whatever you like from Bilingual Style! (And all products are backed up by Zazzle’s “100% satisfaction” guarantee.)

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