Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability

The Most Important Point on Our Long Bilingual Journey

Recently, in My Daughter and I Hit a Big Milestone on Our Bilingual Journey Together, I shared how Lulu had graduated from elementary school and would now be entering junior high. (The school year in Japan ends in March and starts up again in April.)

In my mind, I’ve always viewed this transition to junior high school as perhaps the most important point on our long bilingual journey: If I could just sustain my persistent efforts until this point, and nurture a firm, active foundation in the minority language by the time my kids became teens, our bilingual goal would largely have been accomplished. And now that Lulu has begun junior high, and turns 13 soon, I’m happy to report that we’ve essentially fulfilled this aim.

No, this doesn’t mean I’ll dash out today and buy a hammock, then do nothing more but lie there and eat brownies. (Much as I’d like to.) In fact, I’ll continue eating my brownies on the run, doing what I can to help advance my children’s trilingual ability (along with Japanese and English, they’re learning Spanish) through the teenage years, too.

Click to continue →

Bilingual Kids and Grandparents: Make the Most of This Opportunity

This week the cherry blossoms are blooming in Japan.

This week is also my father’s birthday. (Happy birthday, Dad!) He lives in Quincy, Illinois, the town in the U.S. Midwest where I grew up.

In a way, there’s a profound connection between the two because the short-lived cherry blossoms—they bloom beautifully for just days before they fall—are a sharp reminder of how precious and fleeting our lives actually are.

Bilingual Kids and Grandparents: Make the Most of This Opportunity

My father—and my mother, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee—are now both in their 80s. To be honest, although I’ve spent 20 good years in Japan, the fact that we live so far apart has been the deepest downside of this bilingual and bicultural journey. While I regret that the reality has left much to be desired—that we couldn’t have lived closer than half a world away from one another—at least I hold no regrets over the efforts I’ve made to help bridge the distance between us. With the blessings of modern technology (how much more difficult it would have been just a generation or two ago!), I’ve done what I can through return trips, Skype chats, phone calls, photos and video clips posted online, and even old-fashioned letters and postcards.

My main motivation for all this has been, of course, to nurture a relationship, a loving bond, between my children and my parents. Despite the daunting distance, I’ve wanted my kids to know their special grandparents in the U.S., and gain fond, lasting memories of them, while giving my parents the chance to share in the joys of their grandchildren’s young lives.

At the same time, it was also clear to me from the start that these interactions—and the minority language exposure they provide—would help advance our bilingual aim. Thus, hugely positive results could be realized in both ways, simultaneously, as long as I made this a high priority and kept up my efforts to maintain these connections.

Though there’s always been an undercurrent of sadness to this situation, I still feel fortunate to say that these twin goals—fostering an emotional bond while fueling language development—have been largely achieved.

Click to continue →

ADAM’S NOTE: In considering a language strategy for your family’s bilingual journey, the highest aim for this important decision is choosing an approach that will be most effectively geared to your particular circumstances and goals. And in some cases—as in Bea Sieradzka’s family—that choice involves consciously modifying traditional methods. Read Bea’s thoughtful guest post for an encouraging look at how one parent made a proactive decision that has paid off in strong bilingual success. Thank you, Bea!

Bilingual Success with a Proactive Language Strategy

Bea Sieradzka is a Polish mother living in the United Kingdom and raising a bilingual and biliterate son, now almost 7 years old. Based on research studies in bilingualism and her own background in linguistics, she introduced two languages from the time he was born: her native Polish and her second language, English. She is now supporting him in learning a third language, Chinese.

At her blog, Born Bilingual, Bea shares information and ideas to help immigrant families succeed at nurturing their children’s bilingualism: introducing the community language from birth, along with their heritage language, and fostering good ability in both languages.

Bea SieradzkaEven before my son was born, now seven years ago, I knew that one day he would be bilingual. Born in the United Kingdom to Polish parents, he had the opportunity to learn two languages at the same time. The question we asked ourselves, though—like so many other parents who have immigrated to the U.K. and speak English as a second language—was how to actually manage the process of his bilingual acquisition.

The downside to a common method

The conventional wisdom in this sort of situation is to speak to your child in your mother tongue, and allow them to learn the majority language out in the community. This is a common strategy known as the “minority language at home” approach. It sounds, at first, like the perfect solution.

The problem with this approach is that simultaneous bilingual acquisition only works if your child is regularly exposed to both languages for a sufficient amount of time. Research that includes The relation of input factors to lexical learning by bilingual infants (Barbara Zurer Pearson), The relationship between bilingual exposure and vocabulary development (Elin Thordadottir), and A Short Guide to Raising Children Bilingually (Fred Genessee) indicates that children need to be exposed to each language for a minimum of 20-30% of their waking hours, and ideally even more than that.

Click to continue →

My Daughter and I Hit a Big Milestone on Our Bilingual Journey Together

Happy smiles from Lulu and her classmates as they proudly show their diplomas after the graduation ceremony. Her teacher (in the white tie) is being lifted up in the back.

My 12-year-old daughter graduated from our local elementary school the other day. It was the 139th graduation ceremony at this school (really!), which means that the first class of graduates are now 151 years old (really?).

In Japan, children attend elementary school through the sixth grade, then begin going to junior high school. And since the school year runs from April to March, graduation ceremonies—for schools everywhere—are held at this time of year.

Smiles and tears

At Lulu’s graduation ceremony, Keiko and I were sitting in the school gymnasium, toward the back, but were still able to spy her smiling face among the other roughly 150 sixth graders. It was a long ceremony of speeches and diplomas then toward the end, when the students stood and sang a moving song, the tears began to flow from both the children and their parents. Until then, I had been keeping it together pretty well, but seeing Lulu cry while continuing to fight her way through the song, I got really choked up, too.

And I found myself flashing back on her life, from the day of her birth, when I first held her in my arms, to this large milestone, the day she graduated from elementary school.

My Daughter and I Hit a Big Milestone on Our Bilingual Journey Together

The day my daughter—our first child—was born, almost 13 years ago.

Click to continue →

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 41-50, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 31-40, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 21-30, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 11-20, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

NOTE: This video series is from My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, the most popular blog post at Bilingual Monkeys, with a free PDF that includes all 50 tips and links to further information.

Watch this video, with tips 1-10, at Bilingual Monkeys TV (my YouTube channel).

Watch a playlist of all 5 videos to see all 50 tips.

Subscribe to Bilingual Monkeys TV at YouTube.
(And please “like” your favorite videos! Thanks! :mrgreen: )

Maximize Your Child's Bilingual AbilityBREAKING NEWS: There’s a wonderful new review of my book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability: Ideas and inspiration for even greater success and joy raising bilingual kids at the popular site Spanish Playground. This review is especially gratifying to me because Jennifer Brunk has captured the content and spirit of the book so well in her impressions.

Here’s the first part of her detailed review…

Not long after I started Spanish Playground, Adam Beck began writing his blog Bilingual Monkeys. As I read his early posts, I recognized a talented educator and a kindred spirit. His book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability was released last year, and since then I have recommended it often to parents raising bilingual children. Without fail, their reaction is “Thank you. This is exactly what I need.”

Raising bilingual children is the right thing to do, but not an easy thing to do. In my experience, the biggest obstacle for most families is that they simply don’t know how – how to start, how to sustain the effort and how to cope with all of the complications and obstacles that inevitably arise. Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability teaches parents what they need to know.

Adam Beck is a teacher and parent raising bilingual children with a passion, playfulness and kindness that mirrors my own approach. He also has a deep understanding of how children acquire language. In the book he shares his genius for applying that knowledge to everyday family life.

To read the whole review, please visit this page at Spanish Playground…

Raising Bilingual Kids: How to Succeed
http://www.spanishplayground.net/raising-bilingual-children-how-to-succeed/
(Please share this link!)

To read more reviews of my book, see the links at…

What the World Is Saying About My Book On Raising Bilingual Children

To get your copy, head to Amazon or another bookseller. Thank you! :mrgreen:

ADAM’S NOTE: Among the many helpful guest posts at this blog, the articles written by trilingual speech-language pathologist Ana Paula Mumy should be considered must-reads. Her first guest post was Speech-Language Pathologist Tells All About Bilingualism, Speech, and Language Delays, and the second was Battling the Majority Language Giant (While Feeling Like a Minority Language Gnome). In this third guest post for Bilingual Monkeys, Ana Paula writes from personal experience about the widespread challenge of engaging children in the target language and sustaining steady progress. It’s another witty, insightful post and I’m grateful to Ana Paula for sharing her expertise and perspective so generously. :mrgreen:

Engaging Your Incredible Bilingual Child in the Minority Language

Ana Paula G. Mumy, MS, CCC-SLP, is a mother of two bilingual children, a trilingual speech-language pathologist (SLP), and a clinical assistant professor in the field of speech-language pathology. She has extensive experience working with individuals with communication disorders, particularly bilingual children. She has authored numerous articles as well as intervention materials and guides for diverse populations, and her specialized interests include articulation disorders, stuttering, language-literacy, and bilingualism. Many of her resources for SLPs, educators and parents can be found on her personal website The Speech Stop.

Ana Paula MumyMy favorite line in The Incredibles movie is when in the midst of complete chaos at the dinner table, which goes seemingly unnoticed by Mr. Incredible, his wife Helen (aka Elastigirl) finally pleads for his intervention and yells, “Bob! It’s time to engage!

I have felt like Helen lately, wanting to plead with my children to engage in the minority language. Over the past 7 months, my children have undergone major life changes: moving to another state, mommy working full-time for the first time since they were born, and transitioning from homeschooling in Portuguese and English to schooling in English at a private school where they spend 7 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Needless to say, as the primary source of Portuguese in their lives, this stark reduction in teaching and interactions in Portuguese has caused them to disengage significantly despite my efforts to 1) continue reading instruction in Portuguese, 2) maintain daily reading routines in Portuguese, 3) speak Portuguese at home, in the car, when running errands, etc., and 4) maintain connections with any Brazilian cultural events or individuals in the area. I confess I have found myself discouraged in this season!

Click to continue →