Play This Great Indoor Game with Your Kids (And Get Them Eagerly Reading, Too)

The other day at The Bilingual Zoo, one mother (thanks, Judit!) described a game she was playing with her young son in the house and how much fun it was for them both. And, at the same time, how it got him reading eagerly in their target language.

Reading about her experience, I fondly recalled the times I played this game with my own kids when they were small. And I thought: “Yeah, they’re now teenagers, but I bet they would still enjoy it, and since they’re here at home, day after day, and getting a bit bored, maybe this would liven up their afternoon.”

And so I picked up some treats from the store—the motivating rewards—and sat down to prepare the game for them, which took about 20 minutes or so. Then I got them going (with the promise of prizes) and, yes, even these sometimes-moody teens were all smiles as they raced through the house on their hunt for treasure.

Because that’s what this is: a treasure hunt game.

And here’s how to play…

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**Finalist in both the Readers’ Favorite 2019 International Book Award Contest and the 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards.**

How I Lost My Ear

“How I Lost My Ear is an extraordinary imaginative achievement.”

“Adam Beck is a master storyteller, a master of invention.”

“Reminds me of the best of Roald Dahl.”

Friends, it’s hard to say how long we’ll be sheltered at home because of the coronovirus, but as long as this lasts, I’m making the digital version of my fun-filled novel available for free for anyone who would like to read it, with the hope that it can add some joy to your days. “How I Lost My Ear” is an engaging tale for both children and adults, for reading alone or reading aloud. (This digital version contains the full story and all 136 illustrations found in the paperback.)

To download the book for free (until June 30), just click right here, choose “I want this!” on the book page, then use the discount code “free” at check-out.

Please also feel free to share the download link and discount code with others, something like:

Adam Beck’s fun-filled novel for children and adults is now available for free. Download the digital version of “How I Lost My Ear”, which contains the full story and all 136 illustrations found in the paperback, by going to https://gum.co/how-i-lost-my-ear and using the discount code “free“.

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The epic, laugh-out-loud novel from author Adam Beck and illustrator Simon Farrow. A wildly entertaining page-turner for both children and adults, to read alone or read aloud. Finalist in both the Readers’ Favorite 2019 International Book Award Contest and the 2019 IAN Book of the Year Awards.

Grandpa Gristle spins the story of a book-loving boy and his spiraling adventure with a state champion marching band, a moody grandmother with beautiful blond curls, a long-lost hero and his three-legged moose, a dancing bear, a poisonous spider, a baby-snatching owl, a shaggy yak of a man and his snapping turtle, a cold-hearted sheriff and his grinning deputy, a herd of 144 spitting llamas—and a very large, very hungry ogre.

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“Brilliant…an extraordinary imaginative achievement, utterly delightful, and a pleasure from start to finish. One minute it’s laugh out loud stuff, the next it’s heart in the mouth tension, and then it can be suddenly rather moving… It is wonderful, wonderful stuff.”
—Andrew Norriss, children’s author and winner of the Whitbread Award for Aquila

“Powerful, whimsical, and utterly hilarious. It reminds me of the best of Roald Dahl with a little bit of J.D. Salinger thrown in. You will love this book!”
—Josh Selig, Emmy Award-winning creator of “The Wonder Pets” on Nickelodeon

“Adam Beck’s How I Lost My Ear is a marvelously comic, wonderfully wise, delightfully imaginative and deliriously unpredictable epic adventure. The drama is high, the pathos is non-stop, and the comedy is as whimsical and witty as any to be found in the realm of fiction for the young. Although listed for pre-teens, it has much to offer readers of all ages. Adam Beck is a master storyteller and a master of invention, and How I Lost My Ear is un-put-down-able.”
—Rich Follett for Readers’ Favorite

“Wackiness that I love, and done so well. Such an enjoyable book.”
—Bill Harley, Grammy-winning children’s musician, storyteller, and author of the popular Charlie Bumpers series

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Bearded Dragon Daydreams Coloring Book is now available worldwide at Amazon, Amazon UK, the other global Amazon sites, and other booksellers!

Fifa, our bearded dragon

What a surreal six weeks since my last post.

The swift, worldwide spread of the coronavirus has abruptly upended the lives we had grown so accustomed to living—and has even stirred deep pangs of existential anxiety about survival itself. (Full disclosure: I have a congenital heart condition—which I only found out about two years ago—and though I’m still reasonably healthy, this probably puts me at a higher risk of more serious illness.)

Still, as trying as this time is, in so many ways, we can only carry on as best we’re able while continuing to hope that we’ll see the light at the end of this dark tunnel before too long. Toward that end, the outpouring of mutual support at The Bilingual Zoo, from parents around the world who are hunkered down in their homes with their children, has been very encouraging.

Along with a range of practical ideas and helpful resources for families on lockdown (see this thread), the personal experiences that many parents are sharing (see this thread and this board) also point to what seems to be the most healthy perspective we can adopt at this time:

As terrible as the pandemic is, this situation can nevertheless be viewed as an opportunity to take new actions that could well benefit both the emotional bond with our kids and the ongoing growth of their bilingual or multilingual ability.

A new creative project

In my case, along with my efforts to provide my kids, 15 and 13, with daily input in English (our minority language) through ample speech, reading aloud, playing games, and homework tasks that involve reading and writing, I’m also trying to engage them in some creative projects.

For example, here’s a new project that I’m now pursuing with my son…which was inspired by our bearded dragon named Fifa! (The name came from Roy’s love of soccer.)

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Big News About My Blog!

February 20, 2020

Big News About My Blog!

Friends, I have big news!

Nearly eight years have passed since I founded the Bilingual Monkeys blog. I somehow managed to build the site myself, and keep it running longer than I expected, but over these years the technology behind it has grown old and it doesn’t perform very well these days.

So I’ve finally come to a crossroads: either I renew the site—and that means redesigning it completely, which, considering its size now, is a pretty massive task—or I let it slowly wither away.

To be honest, I struggled with this choice. Since I don’t have the desire or expertise to redevelop the site myself, I knew I would need to bring in a web designer to do the technical work for me while I guide every detail, large and small, toward a clear vision for this renewal. In fact, the prospect of investing considerable time and treasure in order to modernize the site kept me dithering about it for the past several years.

But I finally made the choice…to let it wither away.

Just kidding! I’ve decided to renew it! And actually, I’ve already found a good web designer and we’re now moving forward with this project! I’m not sure how long it will take, but hopefully I can unveil the sparkling new site in March or April.

And toward this end, please let me ask a special favor.

For the new site, I’d like to share some comments from parents, describing the impact my work has had on their family’s bilingual or multilingual journey. If my work has had a positive impact on your journey in some way, I’d be so grateful for your support!

Here’s how to help…

1. Write as much as you like, long or short, in response to this:

Describe the impact, or value, my work (any of these: my blog, forum, books, newsletter, YouTube channel, coaching, etc.) has had on your bilingual or multilingual journey with your children.

2. Add your first name and the country where you live. If you’re willing to attach a photo of your smiling face, too, I’d love to include that with your comment, but a photo isn’t required.

3. Email everything to adam[at]bilingualmonkeys.com. I will respond to every email, with my personal thanks, within 48 hours. If you don’t get my response, it likely means that your message to me somehow got lost along the way. In that case, please try resending it to adambeck.jp[at]gmail.com.

If at all possible, please send your comment to me by Sunday, March 1. (I’ll be happy to accept comments after this date, too, but your timely response will be very helpful for this renewal project.)

Thank you! I’m really looking forward to reading your comments! (Again, please email them to me at the address above; don’t add them below this post.) While I do hear positive feedback from parents from time to time—and it always lifts my spirit—this is my first open appeal to everyone for your comments on my work. After nearly eight years of Bilingual Monkeys and the rest of my efforts to support bilingual and multilingual families around the world, I’d be thrilled to know what you think. :mrgreen:

My Daughter Hits the Biggest Milestone of Our Bilingual Journey Together

My daughter, Lulu, will be 16 in a few months and this blog has followed her progress as a bilingual child in Japanese and English (trilingual, if we count her growing Spanish, too) over the past 8 years. There have been a lot of large milestones over these years—both in her language development and in her rising maturity—and I’ve shared many of them, including…

“I Can Help People”: I Interview My Daughter on Being Bilingual (March 22, 2013)

Big Breakthrough with My Bilingual Daughter? (December 29, 2014)

VIDEO: Wacky Interview with My Bilingual Daughter (April 28, 2015)

How I Got My Bilingual Daughter to Eagerly Do Her Homework in the Minority Language (February 1, 2017)

My Daughter and I Hit a Big Milestone on Our Bilingual Journey Together (March 23, 2017)

My Bilingual Daughter Is 13. My Bilingual Son is 10. So Why Is Their Level in the Minority Language Basically the Same? (January 26, 2018)

Update on My Daughter’s Bilingual Life at 14.5 Years Old: High School, Tears, and English Tests (December 6, 2018)

On Friday, though, came news of the biggest milestone yet.

Working hard for her dream

First, though, let me back up a bit and tell you that Lulu’s last year of junior high school has been very tough, very stressful. (In Japan, elementary school is six years, followed by three years of junior high, then three years of high school, with the school year running from April to March.) The truth is, I’ve watched her study much harder than I ever studied when I was a teen, not only studying constantly at home but also regularly attending a neighborhood juku, or cram school, in the evenings and on weekends.

At the same time, as I recently described in This Is the Bottom Line for Success at Raising Bilingual Kids, she also took part in an English speech contest for junior high students in western Japan and practiced hard for that as well. (Spoiler alert: She won!)

The larger aim of all these efforts was the dream she has pursued for the past three years: to attend her first choice of high schools in Hiroshima, one of the better high schools in the city, and, more specifically, that school’s special international program where the students study English more seriously, engage in cultural exchange activities, and even go abroad on short trips.

I was certainly behind her drive to enter this school (and my wife was, too), but, to be honest, we were also somewhat concerned because Lulu didn’t really want to attend any other high school. Her heart was set on this particular school, this particular program, and if she didn’t get in, it would no doubt be a crushing blow to her young life.

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ADAM’S NOTE: I often suggest that one of the most powerful ways of staying mindful and proactive, and thus effective, on a bilingual or multilingual journey is by writing about your experience in some way. In today’s terrific guest post, Vivien Won shares her story so thoroughly, and eloquently, that I think it serves as a standout example of “writing about your experience.” I expect the process of writing this article was empowering for Vivien herself, and I’m certain it will be an encouraging read for many parents out there in the world. Thank you, Vivien (and Julien!), for offering such a vivid and thoughtful account of your experience to date! :mrgreen:

Guest Post: The Multilingual, Multicultural Life of a Third Culture Kid

Vivien Won was born and raised in Singapore, where she met her husband and had their son, Julien, now almost 9. Her former career in the foreign service took her and her family from Singapore to Belgium. After two years there, they moved back to Asia when her husband, who is German and worked for a clinical management software firm, was posted to Malaysia. Three years later, the family jumped at the chance to relocate to Germany, where they have been living since. Julien speaks, reads, and writes in English, Mandarin and German. Vivien communicates with her husband in English, her native language. She also speaks Mandarin, Cantonese, French, and German. She now works freelance as an English teacher.

The life of a Third Culture Kid (TCK) can be fraught with the challenges of speaking one or more (often, minority) languages and straddling two or more cultures. When a family with a TCK finds itself moving across countries frequently, this adds more complexity to the family dynamic in terms of language and communication. Like many families out there, our family has had to respond to these complexities each time we have moved. And we have moved countries three times since our 8-and-a-half-year-old son Julien was born! We’ve had to make decisions about which school Julien would attend (German or English, public or private), whether we would keep using the same languages with him, and how we would traverse the communication minefield of having third parties—his friends, or our friends—present who didn’t speak our home languages.

When we had our first and only child back in 2011, we had decided definitively to use the One Parent One Language (OPOL) method, with my husband speaking in German, his native tongue, and me in Mandarin Chinese, my second language. It was an unconventional choice for someone like me, born and raised in Singapore, a postcolonial, multicultural city-state with 4 official languages. This is because Mandarin Chinese is but one of 3 state-sanctioned “ethnic mother tongues”, corresponding to the 75% ethnic Chinese population, with English being the language of government, business, and education. In effect, Mandarin and the other ethnic “mother tongues”, Bahasa Melayu (spoken by ethnic Malays), and Tamil (spoken by ethnic Indians), have been somewhat relegated to a secondary status with most people who were born after the 1970s speaking primarily in English.

Even though my parents are both Chinese Singaporeans, I am, in fact, a product of a bicultural upbringing. My mother’s parents, who were immigrants from Guangdong province in southern China, spoke only Cantonese—which became the very first language I spoke, having been raised by them from birth till age 3. My father’s parents had emigrated from Hainan island, also in southern China, and had spoken only Hainanese. My parents, having married outside their respective ethnic-language groups, communicated with each other in Mandarin, the language that would unify disparate immigrant Chinese groups in post-independence Singapore. My father spoke to my sister and me in Mandarin, and my mother—who is an English teacher—spoke to us in English. I retained my Cantonese, having had 16 years of contact with my maternal grandparents; but my sister, alas, could not speak any Cantonese and was unable to have much meaningful communication with our grandparents before they passed.

I write the above to set the backdrop to Julien’s multilingual journey. My own experience being trilingual from a very young age had been shaped by external forces: national, social, and familial. I grew up with a 3-way OPOL situation, and I thought nothing of it as it had been the reality for many third-generation families growing up in an immigrant society of many cultures and languages. Hence, when our child came along, I was more than a little convinced that OPOL would not only work on him, it was the only way that Julien would learn Mandarin and German in addition to English.

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All the Crazy Mischief I’ll Be Making in 2020

Friends, I hope the new year has begun well for you and your family and that you enjoy a lot of rewarding progress on your bilingual or multilingual journey in 2020! The many resources I offer are always available to you and, beyond that, I’m just an email away!

For me, it looks like 2020 will be a busy year of mischief making because I’ve decided to focus as fully as I can on my work in the field of bilingual/multilingual children. The truth is, this year is a kind of crossroads for me because either I’m able to make more progress toward the greater goal of doing this work in a sustainable way or I may need to consider other options. But before it comes to that, I want to give my goal of sustainability in this field the best try I can. So 2020 is an important year and my efforts will include…

Renewing the Bilingual Monkeys website
I launched Bilingual Monkeys in the fall of 2012, so it’s now over 7 years old and the tech side of the site is aging badly. This means that it isn’t growing or performing as well as it could. While I was able to build this blog myself (using WordPress), it’s now a pretty big site, with 435 posts and 3420 comments, and I’ll need to bring in a web designer/developer to help me with this project. I can’t say I’m looking forward to it—I fear it will be a lot of work—but it has to be done!

Writing and publishing three new books
I’m now working on three new book projects for my Bilingual Adventures publishing imprint: two of them are of moderate size but the other is a huge challenge.

Bilingual World (tentative title) is that huge challenge. This book is a collection of “success stories” from parents of bilingual and multilingual children around the world. While I love the work itself—particularly the engaging conversations I’ve had with so many parents, in person and via Skype—it’s *a lot* of work. For the next few months I’ll be spending 20 hours a week at the college library in my area so I can concentrate on writing, writing, and writing.

I’M SO GLAD I’M BILINGUAL! will be a follow-up to the “picture book for adults” that I recently released titled I WANT TO BE BILINGUAL!. This new book will also be a picture book, but it’s for children and their parents or teachers. The aim of the book is to help children recognize and appreciate the many positive things about being bilingual, which I think can fortify their self-image and motivation for this journey.

Bilingual Fairy Tales & Fables will offer 30 well-known stories, in both English and Spanish, at an easy-reading level for children and language learners. I’ve already written the stories in English and Delia Berlin, an accomplished bilingual writer, is now working on the Spanish translation. If this book turns out well, I may consider publishing the same book in more language combinations.

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I Did Something the Other Day That I Thought I’d Never Do

The other day I took my son to the library.

No, going to the library isn’t the thing I thought I’d never do. In fact, I used to go to the library all the time—every week, like clockwork—to borrow books to read to my kids.

So it isn’t the library itself—it’s why we went to the library.

For the sake of the minority language

The library is downtown, sitting in a small park, and the parking lot is some distance away. It was a sunny morning and I was feeling kind of nostalgic as we walked toward the building, which I had visited so regularly in the past but hadn’t been to in several years.

As I thought of the reason I was now returning to the library, I recalled the blog post I had written when my kids were still in elementary school:

Why I Don't Want My Kids to Do Well in School

The point I made at the time was that, for the sake of the minority language (English), I felt it was better if the majority language (Japanese) didn’t progress too quickly. I was being facetious, of course, when I said that I didn’t want them to do well in school. I wanted them to do well, but as long as they were doing well enough, that was fine and probably best for the larger arc of their bilingual development. I didn’t want them to do too well back then because I hoped to keep their English side as strong and as active as their Japanese side, at least as long as I possibly could.

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ADAM’S NOTE: During my recent travels in Europe, I met several non-native speakers of English who are making determined efforts to raise their children in this language. I even had the chance to stay with a family in Poland and see the fruitful progress that they’re experiencing. Today’s guest post, by Elzbieta Rzeszutko, another parent in Poland using English with her kids, calls this “intentional bilingualism,” which I think captures the essential spirit of a non-native aim, in any language, very keenly. In fact, whether we are native speakers of the target language or not, being “intentional” about our efforts—day by day and year by year—is the overarching key to success. Elzbieta, thank you for sharing your encouraging story with us! :mrgreen:

Guest Post: Non-native Speakers Can Bring Up Bilingual Kids, Too!

Elzbieta Rzeszutko is a Polish mother, in Poland, raising her two children, 5 and 3, in English. Though not a language teacher, she has a passion for teaching and a mission to persuade people that education can be fun. She shares her proactive approach with others through her popular blog At the Tip of My Tongue (written in Polish, this is the English translation of the Polish name) and through media appearances.

Elzbieta RzeszutkoThough my husband and I are Polish, and we live in Poland—a largely monolingual country—the language that we use with our two children is English. Because we believe strongly that bilingualism is so beneficial, we think it’s worth pursuing even if your knowledge of the target language isn’t “inborn” but acquired. In other words…

Non-native speakers can bring up bilingual kids, too!

And I’m happy to say that we’re experiencing success at our bilingual aim. The other night I was carrying my five-year-old daughter to the loo and her limp body, hanging loosely over my shoulder, suddenly mumbled: “Fox in socks on box.” A half-conscious child at this age who starts rhyming in the minority language is living proof of success to me.

[Adam’s note: This snippet of rhyme is from a wonderful Dr. Seuss book called “Fox in Socks” that I read many, many times to my kids when they were small!]

So, yes, I’m a non-native speaker of English and our approach is most frequently referred to as “non-native bililingualism.” However, I much prefer to call it “intentional bilingualism” because I have been as intentional as I can be about my efforts.

In this post I’ll share with you some of the ideas and strategies that have made up our bilingual journey to date.

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Lulu giving her speech in the finals of the speech contest.

Two threads of my life, both of them months in the making, have suddenly come together with the same message.

The first thread involves my 15-year-old daughter and an English speech contest (recitation contest) that took place on Saturday. This event was the culmination of a long process that began in the spring, when her English teacher at school encouraged her to take part.

When Lulu, now in her third and last year of junior high at a public school here in Hiroshima, told me about it, I first expressed surprise that I hadn’t heard anything about this speech contest in her first and second years. (I’m always the last to know things around here!) But then I, too, encouraged her to participate.

Writing the speech

The contest involved writing a short speech—to be presented within a time limit of five minutes—and giving this speech at the city-wide competition involving students representing junior high schools in Hiroshima. (Hiroshima has over a million people so there are a lot of junior high schools.) The winners from this round of city schools would then go on to the finals that brought together the winners from the junior high schools throughout Hiroshima Prefecture, which covers a sizable chunk of western Japan.

It was the finals that took place on Saturday.

But first, back to last spring. Before Lulu could even enter this speech contest, she needed a speech. So we brainstormed together and came up with a theme. Then I asked her to write a first draft. While it’s true that this first draft was a mess, I also knew that, as long we both stayed persistent, it could be improved through draft after draft.

And that’s what happened.

The date for the contest

So, finally, she had her speech—and I’ll share the full text with you below, so you’ll know what she spoke about.

At that point, in late May, we still hadn’t received information from her English teacher about when the city-wide round would take place…and then suddenly her teacher was on leave, awaiting the birth of her first child.

As it turns out, it took far more effort than expected to get that information from the school, but we eventually learned that the city-wide contest would be held on September 7, after the summer break.

Unfortunately, I would be out of town on that date, having already made plans for a trip to Europe to interview parents for a new book on raising bilingual and multilingual children.

Practicing the speech

Still, I could help her prepare for the contest and so we began practicing her speech. (I also have a background in theater arts, so I was eager to work with her in this way.)

First thing to know: Lulu has been terribly busy this year, not only studying hard for school but also studying hard for high school entrance exams, which will take place early next year. In fact, most days she attends a juku (cram school) in the evening, which means that we could only practice together after that, when both of us were tired. But night after night (with only rare exceptions, when she was just too tired), we did.

Second thing to know: Lulu isn’t very big, but she’s brave. She’s been in the public eye before on a number of occasions—dancing, playing piano or guitar, reading aloud at presentations (sometimes in Japanese, sometimes in English)—but this was the very first time she would be memorizing a speech and standing on stage alone to deliver it. And, frankly, when we first began practicing, her presentation left a lot to be desired. I mean, she could recite the words well enough, but her delivery was so wooden, so stiff.

In fact, I wasn’t sure how successful I could be in getting her to open up and express herself more fully and naturally, but since the writing process had also been a test of persistence, I figured that we would surely make progress over time, no matter how far she finally got.

And so we both stuck with it, though it’s true that this process was made more difficult by the fact that she insisted on practicing the speech with her back to me…because she would break out giggling when she faced in my direction.

Results of the first contest

Finally, I left for Europe on September 2, which meant she was on her own for the last few days. On September 7, my wife took her to the city-wide contest, held at an auditorium in downtown Hiroshima. Considering the time difference between us on that day—I was in England and she was in Japan—it’s hard to say exactly what I was doing when she was standing on stage, delivering her speech, but perhaps—and fittingly, as you’ll soon see—I was in the midst of interviewing a parent about their bilingual or multilingual journey.

Soon after, though, I received the news by text: Lulu had won the contest in Hiroshima and would advance to the area-wide finals, scheduled for December 7.

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ADAM’S NOTE: Over the past few years, Tiara Harris has sometimes shared video clips with me of her super-cute kids speaking Japanese and I came to admire the very proactive efforts she is making so that she and her children can both become bilingual in this language and their native English. As a result of the success she’s experiencing, Tiara is also becoming a growing force at YouTube with a variety of helpful and appealing videos at her Chocolate Sushi Roll channel. Thank you for sharing your encouraging story with us, Tiara! And keep up all your good efforts, for your family and for families out in the world!

Tiara and her children

Tiara Harris is a native English speaker from the U.S. state of Georgia raising two bilingual children. As a military family, they frequently must relocate, but Tiara is determined to maintain the goal of having a bilingual family. Currently, they live in Japan and Tiara is making efforts to foster her young children’s ability in Japanese while studying Japanese herself and teaching English to Japanese children. She created a YouTube channel, called Chocolate Sushi Roll, to inspire other monolingual families to be brave and take the leap toward bilingualism.

Konnichiwa! (That’s hello in Japanese!)

If you had met me four years ago, I could only have greeted you in English and (maybe) Spanish…from the few Spanish words I learned from sleeping through my Spanish class in high school. I wasn’t interested in learning another language and never realized the opportunities and depth that can come with it.

Moving to Japan

I am—well, was—a monolingual mom from a completely monolingual family. We’re a military family and, to our dismay—at least at first—we became faced with relocating to Japan. To be honest, I dreaded going and was even refusing to go until one month before the move because I love living in America and I wanted to stay close to my family. But my husband urged me to come with him so he wouldn’t have to be stationed in Japan by himself.

So we went to Okinawa in 2014 and we were there for two years. I became a tour guide for Americans and learned about the culture and history and a lot of fun facts for the 30-minute bus tours. But I still had no interest in learning to speak Japanese.

Then, during our second year in Okinawa, we were blessed with a baby boy, Jason.

And my whole perspective changed.

At that point, because Jason was born in Japan, I decided that he should speak the language. And, in fact, before I even realized it, this was already starting to happen. I had been taking Jason to baby play classes with native Japanese mothers and their babies. One day I noticed that when the teacher said to clap, Jason clapped. And when the teacher said to clean up, his little hands started reaching to clean up. I was so surprised! This baby is learning Japanese!

By then, though, Jason was already a year old and it was time for us to return to America. And I was now pregnant with a baby girl.

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