Look Inside: MAXIMIZE YOUR CHILD'S BILINGUAL ABILITY

Video

Posts on raising bilingual children that feature video.

Since my book about raising bilingual children was released in the spring, I’ve been interviewed a number of times. These videotaped conversations—connecting me, in Hiroshima, Japan, to kindred spirits in other parts of the world—have been a real joy for me and I’ve been grateful for the invitations to speak about this subject.

The truth is, I’m generally not a big talker, but when the subject is bilingual children, which I have a boundless passion for, I’m afraid it’s hard to get me to stop!

Amanda Hsiung Blodgett, popularly known as Miss Panda Chinese, learned that recently when we spoke for almost an hour about a range of issues related to raising bilingual kids. It was a very lively discussion (watch out for my annoying puppet, Princess Pup!) and I’m happy to now share it with you.

Watch this video at Miss Panda Chinese.

This is a video I just had to share. It had me laughing a lot, until the very end…when it moved me so deeply, it made me cry. It’s well worth three minutes of your busy life…

Warm thanks to Mayken Brünings for first sharing it with me!

My Favorite Metaphor for Raising Bilingual Children

Note: Today’s post is from the preface to my book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids, available worldwide at Amazon and other retailers.

Not far from my house in Hiroshima, Japan are several wide rice paddies nestled among apartment buildings and homes. In the autumn these fields are thick with tall, green stalks, nodding their heavy loads of rice.

Growing a good crop of rice isn’t easy. Rice farmers spend long hours preparing the land, managing the water level, planting and fertilizing and weeding. And the farmers who do all these things a little more effectively, a little more diligently, day by day, end up harvesting a larger crop.

Their yield is bigger.

I can think of no better metaphor for raising bilingual children. The truth is, if we, too, pursue the range of daily efforts for nurturing language development a little more effectively, a little more diligently, our children’s bilingual ability will grow better, stronger, over the years of childhood.

By providing ideas and inspiration to help you become more effective and more diligent in your efforts, this book will serve to strengthen your children’s language development and maximize their bilingual ability.

The question is: What actions can a busy parent take to optimize the growth of a child’s bilingual ability? At the same time, how can this be done in fun, child-friendly ways?

I’ve spent 20 years seeking answers to this question. This book holds the fruits of what I’ve found.

Get the book at Amazon.

Learn more about it.

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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When it comes to the endless challenge of providing our children with exposure in the minority language, short-term projects can be a very productive way of enhancing our usual daily efforts.

Examples of short-term projects include: making videotaped interviews or “dramatic” films; creating a picture book or comic book; writing and performing a short play; singing and recording a favorite song (even making up your own); inventing a new game and playing it together; compiling a photo album and adding captions; pursuing crafts or a building task; researching and reporting on some subject of interest; and many more.

One mother even pursued a year-long project by sending a stuffed alligator on a worldwide trip where it enjoyed “homestays” with a number of families in different countries who reported on their experiences. She and her two children blogged all about the alligator’s adventures—in both of their languages—and it turned out to be a really fun and effective project. To learn more about it, see How a Globe-Trotting Alligator Helped One Family Find Greater Fun and Success On Their Bilingual Journey.

Well, although my daily efforts have been quite proactive and persistent for many years, it’s also true that I haven’t really taken advantage of the potential of short-term projects to the extent I could. For a long time I wanted to pursue a film project with my kids, which would not only enable us to engage in using the minority language together to execute the project, it could produce a fun result—a little movie starring their childhood selves—that they would fondly remember, and laughingly view, for the rest of their lives.

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

My kids are mad.

My students are mad.

But that shouldn’t be a surprise, really, because all children are mad.

Let me give you a good example.

Popcorn battles

Yesterday my seven-year-old son comes home from school and my wife makes popcorn for an afternoon snack. Roy and I are sitting together at a low table on the living room floor, each with a bowl of popcorn before us. But the way we’re eating this popcorn is profoundly different.

I’m munching the pieces of white, fluffy popcorn one after the other, intent only on eating.

He’s studying the size and shape of each piece, separating the bigger pieces from the smaller pieces, eating those smaller pieces first, then taking one bigger piece in each hand and crashing them together in battle, complete with lively commentary and sound effects. The pieces break apart into bits, which he sweeps into his hand and gobbles down. Then the next battle begins.

I finish my bowl of popcorn in little more than a minute.

It takes him ten because he’s not only eating, he’s playing.

Wonderful madness

Children are mad—in the most wonderful way possible—because they’re constantly pursuing play. This is how they engage with the world and express the basic joy of being alive, a hard-wired force that’s so potent in childhood but seems to dim over time as children grow into adults. In fact, adults are also held to very different standards when it comes to play. For us, engaging in play beyond bounds held acceptable by our society becomes a cause for concern to others.

Just imagine me at the table there, a middle-aged man waging war with pieces of popcorn. :mrgreen:

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.

Click to see a fun video with my toothless son →