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My “Bilingual Resolutions” for 2014 (Tell Me Yours and Win a Prize!)

January 7, 2014

Bilingual Resolutions for 2014

Drawing for the New Year's giveaway!

The winners are in! Lulu and Roy chose 10 names from the entries in our special drawing on the bedroom floor!

Afterward, though, as I was picking up the other entries, and again reading the heartfelt resolutions, I changed my mind about the drawing… Instead of 10 winners, I’ve decided to make everyone a winner! That’s right! Everyone who entered the giveaway and shared their “bilingual resolutions” for 2014 in the comments below will receive my “mysterious new resource” when it’s ready!

At this point, I’m aiming for March, so if all goes well, I’ll be contacting each winner then to present your prize. My hope is that this unique resource will help empower your efforts and enable you to fulfill your resolutions for this year. (I’ll also make the resource available to everyone else after receiving some feedback from the winners of this giveaway.)

The start of this new year is an ideal time for reflecting on the year behind us and resolving to strengthen our efforts in important ways over the year ahead.

One year ago, my main resolution for 2013 was to be more proactive and persevering, especially in response to dissatisfying results. (By the way, if you’re curious to learn how I spend every New Year’s in Japan—including why I roam through old, crumbling graveyards during this time—just see that post.)

How did I do with my resolution in 2013? Well, I’d give myself a “B” (and I’m being kind).

The truth is, I don’t always make the best use of my time. Over the course of the year, I squandered far too many hours through a lack of firm attention and commitment to my higher priorities.

What, then, are my resolutions for 2014 in connection with my kids and their bilingual development? And what sort of prize can you win—there will be 10 winners!—for sharing some of your own resolutions in a comment below?

Making conscious vows

No matter how you feel about the trite idea of “New Year’s Resolutions,” let me suggest that making conscious vows to strengthen your efforts when it comes to your children’s language development is always a good thing and should be a persistent part of your bilingual journey.

In my case, blogging has come to serve this purpose well, as I’m continuously looking at aspects of my own journey that I might strengthen in certain ways, and then reporting on my experiences in these posts. Moreover, the fact that I do this quite publicly makes me feel far more accountable for my action (or lack of action!) than I otherwise would if I was simply declaring my intentions privately. And because I feel more accountable, I work harder at this aim.

I realize, of course, that not everyone will want to share their resolutions for 2014 below—and that’s perfectly okay—but I suspect that if you make use of this opportunity to state your vows publicly, you’ll feel a deeper sense of accountability, which could help fuel your efforts this year. (And remember, you could win a great prize, too!)

My “bilingual resolutions”

First, though, I give you my own “bilingual resolutions” for 2014…

1. Seize the day, even stronger
If you’ve been following this blog, you already know that “seizing each day” is at the heart of the life I strive to lead, both as a person and as a parent of bilingual kids. At bottom, I believe that living a fulfilling life, and making solid progress on the bilingual journey, are tied to the same basic ideal: mindfully seizing each day and doing our best to make that day count when it comes to our higher priorities.

The thing is, unless we happen to be a Zen master who fully inhabits the present moment, there’s always room for improvement in this quest to consciously command the day, and that’s certainly true in my case (as evidenced by my “B” in 2013). And so I resolve, for 2014, to make progress in this essential area (at least a “B+”), awaking each morning with one vital, single-minded thought: Seize the day.

2. Encourage more independent reading
At this point, my children have become competent readers for their respective ages (9 and 6), and I continue to read aloud to them each morning in English, our minority language, and pursue “shared reading” with them later in the day (where we read other books, taking turns, page by page). Although I’m pleased with this routine, the fact that they attend a Japanese elementary school, and have a substantial amount of Japanese homework each day, leaves them with little time and energy for further, independent reading in English.

However, I’ve experienced a recent breakthrough in this area by adding to our collection of graphic novels (comic books). In fact, Santa brought us a tall stack of graphic novels for Christmas, and my kids consumed them even more quickly than I expected. (I’ll devote a whole post to graphic novels soon.) My sense is, if I can keep a fresh supply of appealing books like these on our shelves, that even amid the busy school week they’ll probably be tempted to pick them up. And so I resolve, for 2014, to continually seek out good graphic novels that can move my kids to read more in the minority language.

Top-secret project

While my first resolution reflects what I see as the bedrock for long-term success on the bilingual journey—one’s spirit—my second resolution concerns the practical level of strategies and resources, which naturally also demands our attention. To my mind, our most effective efforts are a strong marriage of these two realms: our spirit and our practical actions.

Because our spirit has so much to do with our success—and yet I rarely see this issue addressed in terms of raising bilingual kids—I’ve been working on a top-secret project. I’m developing a unique resource that’s expressly designed to empower the spirit of parents raising bilingual children. (I don’t want to say too much about it now—a little mystery will make this more fun.)

And by simply sharing your resolutions below, you’ll have a chance to win this mysterious resource! That’s the prize in this giveaway, and there will be 10 lucky winners! (I’ll hopefully have it ready within the next few months, to help you sustain your resolutions for this year!)

Win my mysterious new resource!

Entering the giveaway

To enter the giveaway, just follow these simple steps…

1. Entry is open to all subscribers of my free newsletter. If you’re already a subscriber, romp right ahead to step 2. If you’re not yet a subscriber, just click the big link below to enter your name and email address. The weekly newsletter is an important part of my efforts to encourage parents to stay as conscious and proactive as possible, day by day. (You can learn more about the newsletter—as well as the fun download for subscribers—at the Subscribe page.)

Get my free newsletter!

2. Leave a comment below with this information:

1. Your first name and where you live (Example: Helen in Spain)

2. Your children’s ages (Example: Girl, 7; Boy, 4)

3. Your two (or more) languages (Example: Spanish and English)

4. What are your two (or more) biggest resolutions for 2014, in terms of your efforts to raise bilingual children? (Feel free to make resolutions about things related to spirit, or things involving the practical side of strategies and resources. As I did, be sure to tell us your thinking behind these resolutions with some explanation. Also, please proofread your comment, before submission, to check that the information is complete.)

3. All entries must be submitted by the morning of Saturday, January 25 (Japan time). On that day, the comments will be printed out and cut apart to serve as entry slips for the drawing. This time, though, the drawing won’t involve our big tub of Lego. Instead, I’ll spread the slips over the floor, put my kids (blindfolded) in the center, spin them around madly, then have them grope about and pick one. We’ll do this 10 times (really!), and Lulu and Roy will take turns choosing the 10 winners. As promised, each winner will receive my new resource for parents, when it’s ready. (All I ask of the winners is that they offer some feedback about it before I share it with the wider world.)

Although I won’t respond to your resolutions here, don’t be surprised if I appear later via email (or on your doorstep) to ask: So how’s it going, fellow parent? (Just to help keep you accountable as the year rolls on!)

Thanks for sharing your resolutions! (And if you’d like to explore my many posts on the subject of spirit, please see the Deeper Inspiration page.)

1 Mayken January 8, 2014 at 6:22 am

Mayken in France
Girl, 3 1/2
French and German (minority language)

1) Now that my mom has Skype, arrange a regular (ideally weekly) Skype chat between my daughter and her grandmother.

2) Get the Dad to agree to spend another summer holiday in Germany and maximize daughter’s exposure to monolingual German kids there, to prepare her for the admission interview of the bilingual school.

Reply

2 Tatyana January 9, 2014 at 6:13 am

Tatyana from United States
Girl1 – 4.5 and Girl2 – 16 months
English and Russian

1) For Girl1 I plan to focus on grammar and literacy this year. My goal for her was to be able to use Russian comfortably. She achieved it this past August and since then we’ve been slacking off. Time to get back in gear and not only speak comfortably but also correctly. She also has started reading in Russian so I think this year is the year we’ll try to establish a habit of daily shared reading.

2) Girl2 has been neglected I fear. I haven’t found time to give her individual attention and quality Russian interaction she deserves. So for her I think the key will be figuring out fun games/lessons we can do with Girl1 involvement so that I don’t have to constantly bounce my attention between the two.

3) My stretch goal, because everyone needs a stretch goal is to see if I can produce easy reader books of my own that Girl1 would be able to read. Russian early readers seem to lack Disney princesses and ballerinas which seems to be the only thing holding her attention.

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3 kiara January 9, 2014 at 6:30 am

Kiara in Italy
Viola, 3 and a half; Matteo, almost 2
English, Italian, Spanish

This year I want to find a way to make my kids listen to me while I’m reading aloud. I thought something even funnier of what I’m already trying. I play rolling, jumping, and catch me if you can. They agree eating healthy food. They watch Disney cartoons. They listen to English songs at home and driving. They even listen to stories in the car. But I will perform a real funny show every time I will read their books, with funny outfits and dancing and singing. They are always running around and they never sit quiet.

I will save money to go to Great Britain, maybe at Peppa Pig Fun Park so they will be surrounded by English kids.

I’ll go on asking and hope very soon in this little town they will open their mind and let me create a group where I can teach English and
Spanish to the kids and of course play with them.

There are so many things I would like to do but I’m waiting till they will start reading and writing.

Of course, I will put some more Spanish day by day.

The last thing, I will force my boyfriend to help me in this journey and I think this will be the most difficult task.

Reply

4 Carolina January 9, 2014 at 10:29 pm

Carolina in Rabat, Morocco
2 twin boys – 18 months old
English, Spanish, French

I will continue to read to my children every night in the three different languages. We will continue watching videos as well. My friends were kind to get us some new books for Christmas!

I plan to change nannies (since I work full time and am a single mom) and hope to find one who speaks mostly in French to them (vs Arabic, I don’t want to get that in the mix right now). They already attend a French-speaking daycare in the mornings.

We plan to attend more playgroup dates with English speaking babies from the US Embassy.

Skype more (in Spanish) with grandma and aunties/uncles.

I like your idea of taping myself reading stories or singing songs to them. I will do that so that they can be played by the nanny while I am not at home.

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5 Kikirime January 12, 2014 at 4:17 pm

Marta in Germany
Boy (5), Girl (1)
German and Spanish (minority language)

My resolutions for 2014
1. Read aloud books appropriate to each child every day.
2. Teach my son to read in Spanish.
3. Read more about bilingualism. I have in fact a goal of reading all the posts of your blog, making notes on what ideas I would like to implement for our family and how we will implement them. I have already started and for example from the idea on how you cloned yourself reading stories for your children I have decided I will do an audio CD for our car trips where the whole Spanish family reads stories or poems they liked from their childhood for my children. I have already shared the idea with my family in Spain and they are all really excited about it. :-)

Keep the good work, I love your blog and I find it really helpful.

Reply

6 Evan Jones January 12, 2014 at 4:29 pm

Evan in Hyogo, Japan
Girl 13, boy 11, boy 8
English and Japanese

Last year I started trying harder to encourage my kids to read a little several times a week. I resolve to double my efforts this year. I’ll prepare more reading material, and try to establish a 20-minute silent reading time for the whole family after dinner each evening.

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7 Alisa January 12, 2014 at 4:46 pm

Alisa in France
Boy 8, Boy 5
English & French

This year, I resolve to read more with my kids. I prepared for this by stocking up on English books at the thrift stores while I was home, and I’m making a more conscious effort to take the time to read with them more often, in the hopes of getting them more interested in reading in English on their own as well. I’ll be looking forward to your next graphic novel post, because my 8 year old particularly liked the series of graphic novels I picked up for him.

Secondly, I’m redoubling my efforts to speak English daily at home and encouraging my husband to do the same. Since I’ve always spoken French with my husband, it’s second nature to fall back into French, lazily. But we have so few English speakers around, I need to keep the English going at home!

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8 Marta Arenaccio January 12, 2014 at 6:17 pm

Marta in Italy
Girl, 14 months
Italian, English, Bulgarian

My resolutions for 2014
1. Establish a daily reading routine (now that she devours books!)
2. Buy more Bulgarian resources
3. Plan a trip to Bulgaria to visit parents
4. Encourage my dad to speak English with her

Thanks for your blog! I love it!

Reply

9 rosa volpe January 12, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Rosa in Italy
Two boys, 4 1/2 and 6 1/2
Italian (ML); English (ml)

My two main resolutions for the year 2014 are:

1. To follow with higher commitment and more consistency all the beautiful hints and great suggestions of a very interesting blog I have found called “Bilingual Monkeys”, I do not know if you are familiar with it… It is a source of inspiration, creativity and, last but not least, it is fun to read: no risk to get bored when reading it because the writer keeps it enjoyable with his sense of humor.

2. To stop only envy a certain guy called Adam Beck for how perfect he is (at least in my eyes) and how great his bilingual kids do and start thinking with more confidence that I could reach some good goals with my kids as well! All I need to do is to keep in mind this guy’s tips and stay focused on bilingualism (maybe a little less house cleaning and longer “kids time” will help!).

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10 Amy January 12, 2014 at 8:34 pm

Amy in the United States
Girl – 3 years; Boy – 4 months
English & Japanese

1. Ensure that our daughter has opportunities each day to read books written in both languages.
2. Take the “next step” with some of the other children at our bilingual preschool and arrange playdates for our daughter with other children who speak both languages
3. Expose our son to songs in both languages.
4. Continue having one of us speak only English to the children, the other speak only Japanese.

Reply

11 Melanie January 12, 2014 at 9:19 pm

Melanie, moving from Tanzania to Germany on January 15
Boy (6), Girl (almost 5), Girl (3), Girl (1)
German, Mennonite Low German (Plautdietsch), English

My resolutions:
1. Since we are about to move to Germany, the kids will be losing their natural English speaking environment, made up of the expat community in Tanzania. Until I spoke German most of the times, but halfheartedly tried to enforce the rule to speak English whenever I was home alone with the kids. However, whenever I was tired or stressed or the kids were tired or stressed I turned back to German. My husband speaks Plautdietsch with them at all times. One of my resolutions therefore is to really enforce the rule of “English whenever home alone”, which means no matter if someone is tired or stressed or whatever.

2. I really want to put into practice the idea of “captive reading” you mention so often in your posts (in German – they haven’t started reading English yet). Once we are settled in Germany, I want to regularly put up notes in the bathroom for the kids to read, lie out books within view of the kids during rest time, writing notes to the kids or anything else I can think of.

3. I will focus on the trilingual development of our youngest, who will most likely start speaking soon. That means enforce even more the “English whenever home alone” rule. However, it’s not only a chance to get her to speak English right from the start instead of learning later, but also one more chance to get one of our kids to answer my husband in Plautdietsch, instead of just using a passive knowledge of the language like her siblings do. And that in turn might be an incentive to the older kids to actually use the language…

Reply

12 Patrick January 12, 2014 at 10:13 pm

Patrick in Brittany
girl: 3 years; boy: 2 months
family speaking Breton in Brittany, in a French language society

1) make sure my girl only speaks Breton with her little brother;

2) make my girl speak Breton at school with other pupils learning this language (I’m her teacher!).

Reply

13 Elena January 12, 2014 at 10:40 pm

Elena in Belarus
Tony, 2

Year 2014 will be in a way a transitional year for our son from predominantly home environment with exposure to English from me to the big world outside and a kindergarten in particular. As places with English speaking environment are really scarce in Belarus my resolution is to find and create as many opportunities as I can for my son to practice his English outside home while continuing to do my best at home.

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14 Reina January 13, 2014 at 5:34 am

Reina in the Netherlands
Twins-boys (6 yo)
Dutch and Spanish

1) Weekly contact with grandma back in Spain so kids can talk to her (now is every 2 weeks).
2) Continue with our reading out loud work and even increasing the time so I would also have the chance to read out loud in both languages (now is about 90% Spanish and 10% Dutch). We read around 30-45 minutes a day.
3) From August on, my kids will start reading at school in Dutch. I want to introduce reading to them in Spanish at the same time so I need to prepare some material to be ready for that moment.

Thanks, Adam, for your blog. :) I really enjoy it. :)

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15 Isabelle January 13, 2014 at 6:43 pm

Isabelle: I am French and live in Ireland
My children are 16 and 14
Languages: French / English / Irish (we also try and practice German and Dutch)

Resolution for 2014 as a mother of trilingual children.
Never ever took resolutions in my life. So…never had to try and keep them…
However, I have decided that in 2014, I will write more in my blog. Share more with everybody about what I do and can do to help (I have many tools, many advices and I can also help bilingual families when one the child has dyslexia or any other problems.) So why keep it for me???
Reaching out to more people than just the small group around me is important to me.
It is a huge work, a huge resolution, but I will be committed to it!!

As for my own family, my kids are teenagers and fully trilingual—they have no trouble learning new languages at school and outside school. Great job and they are so happy to be able to speak with so many people around the world.

Reply

16 Marie Louise McKendry January 13, 2014 at 8:27 pm

Marie Louise in Ireland
With Bella (4) and Cormac (1)
English and Spanish

1) I definitely want to use more bilingual songs in the car.
2) We will try simple literacy based worksheets in the target language.

Reply

17 Jeannie January 13, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Jeannie in Virginia (USA)
Girl, 5 months
English & French (minority language)

My Main Resolution for the New Year: Organize my French language resources so that they are easily accessible and navigable! The sub-resolutions to make that possible are as follows:

1. Create a comprehensive youtube playlist with age appropriate French cartoons that have already been uploaded for when she is a bit older.

2. Create playlists on my iPhone of French lullabies and nursery rhymes for easy access during feeding and playtimes.

3. Organize the French books that I already have by level and start to seek out more for purchase on ebay.

Reply

18 Bella January 14, 2014 at 6:55 pm

Bella in the UK
Girl (4) and boy (2)
German (both parents) and English

My two resolutions are:

1. Speak German at home more consistently! I demand this of my children, but since I spend the whole day at work in an English-speaking environment, I come home and mix a lot of English in… Stop doing that!

2. Seek out German friends or groups for my children to have German peers.

And of course continue to do literacy in both languages with the 4yo and take them both to Germany for the summer!

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19 Len January 16, 2014 at 12:12 am

Len in San Antonio, Texas (USA)
Two girls, ages 7 and 9
English, Spanish, German and Mandarin

My resolutions for the year are:
1) finish my book on how ordinary (monolingual) families can raise multilingual children
2) focus on my daughters’ German as it has temporarily taken a back seat
3) promote my book! https://www.facebook.com/trilingualbysix (sorry)

Reply

20 Mandy Stewart January 21, 2014 at 12:18 am

I left you a message on FB. Maybe since I’m in Fort Worth, Texas our paths will cross. I look forward to reading your book and learning from your experiences.

Reply

21 Corinne January 17, 2014 at 1:01 am

Corinne in London area, UK
One child, 21 months boy
French and English

2014? Easy! Spending more time with my child while he develops his language!

Attending French toddler class, reading good bilingual books like Be Bilingual and keep up to speed with Bilingual Monkeys!

Also, deciding on a long term strategy with schooling and languages. Vast programme!

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22 Margaret January 17, 2014 at 2:28 pm

Margaret in USA
Girl, 4, Girl, 1
English and Mandarin

In 2014, I plan to take my own Mandarin class to catch up with the 4 yr old. We will return to practicing Mandarin more each day starting with breakfast.

I have found a few communities where we can have more exposure and interactions with native speakers. I will schedule time for this at least twice a month.

Reply

23 Akiko January 17, 2014 at 3:19 pm

Akiko in Australia
Boy, 11 months
Japanese and English

My resolution for 2014 is…

1) Give my son more opportunities of Japanese outside home.
I’m the only one Japanese input at home, and my son is always surrounded by his father and his family who speak English. So, English already seems dominant than Japanese. I want him to have a solid foundation of his bilingual journey, so I think he needs more Japanese input. Start from going to Japanese play group, seeing my Japanese friends and doing more Skype with my family in Japan.

2) Set up home library with lots of Japanese books
We live in a rural area, so we don’t have much access to Japanese book collection like in a big city, where there’s big library or book store with many Japanese books. I started monthly picture book delivery from Japan for my son. It’s so exciting!

3) Go outside and play
Healthy body has healthy brain… Now that he started walking, it would be nice to go out and play in the sun more often.

Reply

24 emilia January 17, 2014 at 6:06 pm

Emilia, Italy
girl 12 yo, boy 10 yo, girl 2 yo
Italian and Spanish

For this year my resolution (dream!) is to take my children to Spain in June when school is over in Italy but not yet in Spain, and make them go to school in Spain for a couple of weeks as auditors.

If they like it and if they feel ok I would love to take them also to a summer camp in Madrid to make them play with other kids.

All the rest of the year I make a resolution to go on teaching my first two kids English and German while speaking Spanish to relax and to communicate all the time we are with the youngest. Sounds like a mess but it will eventually work!

Greetings from Rome!!!!

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25 Susan January 19, 2014 at 6:15 am

Susan in USA
Girl, 10; Boy, 9; Boy 4; Girl 9 months
English and Spanish

Our resolutions are to write to our family in Bolivia more and consistently speak Spanish at home. For my four year old, I’d like him to learn a new kid song in Spanish each week or two. We don’t sing enough songs.

I just stumbled upon your blog and love it! Thank you so much for all the ideas! Looking forward to reading more!

Reply

26 Anna Baum January 20, 2014 at 8:58 am

Anna in Hamburg, Germany
Mila, girl 5 months old
English, Catalan, Spanish and German

As I am facing this journey only recently, (my daughter is 5 months old) my resolutions are mainly set up on the future. For this 2014, I mainly would try to:
—Be very consequent with the use of each language and don’t mix them. Concentrate on speaking always Catalan when we are alone and English when the father is there. No German at all only to be polite to the people around us on the street.
—Make sure she has enough variety of resources (music and books mainly) in all four languages, but above all in Catalan, English and Spanish (for the German we have plenty of libraries around)
—Make a “Facetime” connection once a week at least so that my Catalan family can speak to her so that she hears other people talking in the minority language

Adam, thanks again for your blog, it is such an inspiring reading!

Reply

27 Justin January 20, 2014 at 7:25 pm

Justin in Russia
Girl, 3 weeks
Russian (majority) and English (minority)

My daughter was born on December 29th. About a week later I discovered this blog. I guess my biggest goal this year is to hit the ground running. This means a few things, including:

1) Breaking myself out of my “all Russian all the time” paradigm
2) Getting the proper support from my extended family
3) Convince myself on a regular basis that this is something that is important for me and the future of my daughter

Another, more concrete, thing I would like to start is regular Skype conversations with my parents in America, so that their granddaughter knows them and has more access to spoken English from various sources.

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28 Junia January 20, 2014 at 9:54 pm

Junia, US
Girl 2 y/o & girl 7 m/o

Portuguese, Spanish & English

1) continue to speak in Portuguese only with both girls.
2) stop speaking in English with husband. Use Portuguese, and when he can’t understand use Spanish.
3) start video chatting with family and friends in Brazil, hopefully have a long vacation there this year.
4) figure out how to make movie night not in English
5) once she is a little bit older, get her a pen pal. I have lots of friends that have kids her age. :)

Reply

29 Mandy Stewart January 21, 2014 at 12:08 am

Mandy in Texas, USA
Raising a 6-yr-old boy and 3-yr-old girl
English (majority language and all of our dominant language) Spanish (minority language and my L2)

1. Read to my children more in Spanish and do more activities with them in Spanish about the books. I especially want to do this around themes to help with repeated exposure to vocabulary. Then, I want to take the theme and plan a trip around it. This leads to #2:

2. Speak in Spanish with my children in public more, like at the zoo for a field trip. This is odd for me because I am blonde, so I do not look like most Spanish-speakers in Texas. But, who cares?! People look at me funny, but I should get over that. My husband does not speak Spanish either, but I should still commit to speak the minority language with my children in his presence. He can learn!

3. Introduce my children to Korean through some fun DVDs and curriculum I bought. I do not expect us to become fluent, but to have a basic knowledge of the language. They need to know how diverse and rich languages are. Not all use the Roman alphabet—imagine that! This is breaking news for those of us in Texas, USA where the world certainly revolves around us!

I’d love to expose them to more bilingual books in English and languages other than Spanish. Suggestions? Tweet me: @drmandystewart. I’d love to learn about books you love to read your bilingual monkeys!

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30 Reina January 29, 2014 at 4:54 am

Thanks Adam. :) I loved that we all won. :) I am now terribly curious what it is…

Reply

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