How I Lost My Ear Books by Adam Beck

You’ll find photos of the happy couple below!

I spent a week in China at the end of January. Despite the fact that I’ve lived in Japan for more than 20 years, and China is a just a few hours away by plane, it was my first time there.

I went to China because a close friend from college was getting married in Beijing and he asked me to be his best man at the wedding. Though he’s American, and lives in New York, he married a Chinese woman that he met through his international travels for work.

The wedding was a very joyful event, and that joy was experienced in two languages, with an interpreter providing the necessary Chinese or English through the proceedings. I speak only a few phrases of Chinese—so, of course, I was happy that I could also follow along in English—but I felt quite at home with the bilingual nature of the wedding.

And joy, I recognized clearly, needs no language at all to be felt by the human heart. Joy is an emotion, an experience, that’s beneath language, beyond language, a universal force that underpins and empowers the very different lives we live out all across this earth.

Joy, perhaps, is our basic reason for being.

And joy, as I continually stress, is also the most effective fuel for generating happy progress on this bilingual or multilingual journey. 😉

My first experience of China

While the day of the wedding was the height of joy felt that week, the whole trip was a joyful experience for me. Above all, I loved spending time with my friend—who I had only seen in person two or three times over the previous 30 years—and making new friends, too. I felt so comfortable with these people, so relaxed. The truth is, I tend to be more of a loner in my life offline so this feeling of close camaraderie was deeply appreciated and savored.

At the same time, everything else about the trip—the hotel, the food, the sightseeing, the weather—was fantastic. I honestly didn’t know what to expect when I was planning this trip, but my first experience of China was so positive that I’m already considering ways that I can connect my work with the people there and make more trips to China in the future. (Feel free to reach out if you’re in China, or have contacts in China, and you could suggest some possibilities!)

32 pictures and a special giveaway

Here are some photos from my week in Beijing. They’re in roughly chronological order except for the wedding, which took place mid-week and has been bumped to the top.

Below the photos, you’ll find a fun giveaway of golden coins for Chinese New Year. (Chinese New Year starts today and lasts until February 19.) In fact, there will be two winners in this giveaway: the first name picked gets the golden coins and the second name picked, the runner-up, gets…well, you’ll just have to scroll down to see the special prize that awaits the second winner. :mrgreen:

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“Bilingual Lives” is a series of profiles of interesting people who are leading bilingual (or multilingual) lives, both personally and professionally. This series was inspired by the memory of my mother, who began a bilingual life that she later regretted not being able to sustain into her adult years. If you would like your life and work to be featured in this series, please contact me.

Bilingual Lives: Beatrice Beckmann

To successfully raise a bilingual or multilingual child, the main requirement is language exposure: the child must receive an ample amount of meaningful input in the target language (or languages) on a regular basis. And the more of this input you can provide, from yourself and/or from other sources of exposure, the greater the odds of fostering active language ability.

The two central pillars for providing this exposure are abundant speech (from you or from other speakers of the target language) and a daily read-aloud routine.

But when it comes to reading aloud, finding suitable children’s books in your target language may be a challenge. In fact, I wrote a whole post about this problem, in which I emphasized the use of “wordless picture books” as one way to effectively address it. See What to Do When It’s Hard to Find Children’s Books in Your Minority Language.

Well, one parent has come up with another creative solution, a winning idea geared for families in the United States with German as a target language. Beatrice Beckmann, a mother of two who moved to New York from Munich, launched KinderBooks in 2016 to provide families with direct access to German picture books and chapter books. With a subscription to KinderBooks, parents can rent and read appealing books on an ongoing basis, and thus strengthen their read-aloud routine and their children’s exposure to German.

When I learned about KinderBooks, it struck me as such a helpful resource for maintaining a steady stream of children’s books into the home…and it’s a shame that there aren’t (yet) more services like this for other target languages, too.

KinderBooks

And not only is KinderBooks an affordable solution—with subscriptions starting at just $10 a month (free postage is also included for receiving and returning the books!), Beatrice is kindly offering readers of this blog a $20 discount to try it out. Just use the promo code BILINGUALMONKEYS (valid until March 31, 2019).

Learn more about KinderBooks.

And learn more about Beatrice’s life and work by reading the interview below!

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My Simple Message for the New Year (And Don’t Mind My Messy Hands)

We spent the last week of 2018 in Singapore, a long-overdue family vacation. (That’s me in the photo, licking chilli crab off my fingers.) We had a warm, wonderful week there—Singapore is such a lively multicultural and multilingual place—and it was hard to return to cold Japan and resume our “real lives” here.

Among the busy days of sightseeing, we also had the chance to meet up with a family that I became friends with through this blog. It was actually the second time we met because they first paid a visit to our home in Hiroshima when they were living here. That was nearly four years ago, when their son was just one, and now he’s five and has become a very talkative bilingual boy (English and Mandarin) while making steady progress in his third language (Japanese), too.

Honestly, one of the very best things about running this blog, and my forum, has been the opportunity to connect with kindred spirits who are also on bilingual or multilingual journeys. And because this aim is so central to our lives—it’s such a heartfelt part of who we are—these connections often feel deeper than other friendships, and this is true even when our interactions are solely online.

However, one of my high hopes for 2019 is that I’ll be able to travel to other parts of the world and meet more of you in person. In fact, I’m now scheming to make this happen so please stay tuned and I’ll share more about this when I’m ready to reveal my plans.

The “5 P’s”

For the moment, though, let me just offer a simple message for the new year. We can call them the “5 P’s” for bilingual or multilingual success.

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The Top 12 Blog Posts at Bilingual Monkeys in 2018

2018 was a long, tough year for me and it was hard to blog as frequently as I did over the previous five years. (Yes, Bilingual Monkeys is now more than 6 years old!) But I did what I could to keep the site reasonably active and helpful. Setting aside the sad posts I made about my mother and my father, let me round off the year with a list of the “top 12” posts at this blog in 2018. I admit, it’s hard to be purely objective about how I selected and ranked this list of posts. While I took into account how popular the posts were, in terms of traffic and shares on social media, I also gave some weight to my own subjective feelings about them. (Although I didn’t include any of the articles from the new Bilingual Lives series—to keep this list concise—I encourage you to see these interesting and inspiring profiles of the bilingual/multilingual lives of Delia Berlin, Ana Cristina Gluck, and Victor Santos.)

So, without further ado, here are the “top 12” posts in 2018, from 12 to 1. I hope they can contribute, in some small way, to the greater success and joy of your bilingual or multilingual journey with your children. :mrgreen:

12. My Kids Scream at Me Not to Lick Poisonous Mushrooms
Watch a short video of this memorable moment on our bilingual journey.

11. Fantastic Bilingual Book Project for Children and Parents
With the solid support of her mother, this nine-year-old girl has written and published a book in her two languages.

10. How the Minority Language Can Flower in Your Bilingual Child
The flowering of a child’s minority language depends on both nature and nurture.

9. How to Create Breakthroughs in the Language Development of Bilingual Children
I share recent breakthroughs with my own kids and explain how breakthroughs can occur in your own language journey with your children.

8. 7 Interviews with Adam Beck, Author of “Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability”
This post brings together seven interviews that I’ve given about raising bilingual and multilingual children through podcasts and video

7. VIDEO: Important Research on Successfully Raising a Bilingual Child
In this video I describe important research on success rates for raising bilingual children and explain the implications of this research for parents.

6. Feeling Discouraged About Raising Bilingual Children? Watch This Video.
If you’re feeling discouraged or frustrated about raising bilingual or multilingual kids, this fresh, empowering perspective can help.

5. Make the Most of Your Precious Time with Grandparents, Whether Near or Far
Your time with loved ones on this earth is finite, is fleeting, so do what you realistically can to maintain an active and loving relationship.

4. Something Strange Happened 2 Days After We Moved into Our New House (And Its Significance to Change and Transformation on the Bilingual Journey)
In this post I share an unusual incident and describe its deeper connection to raising bilingual and multilingual children.

3. 5 Ways for Your Bilingual Child to Interact with Other Speakers of the Minority Language
How can you strengthen your children’s engagement in the target language with other speakers of that language?

2. 12 Inspiring Real-Life Stories of Bilingual and Multilingual Families
Real-time case studies of how strong, steady progress is made at the bilingual aim, day by day, over the months and years of childhood.

1. Upset About Raising Bilingual Kids? That Might Be a Very Good Thing. (Really.)
The fact that you’re upset is precisely what will now enable you to move forward more effectively and experience the greater success and joy that you seek.

While Bilingual Monkeys may have been a little quieter this year, that certainly wasn’t the case at The Bilingual Zoo forum! What a lively year! (The forum is now 4 years old.) As of today, there are 971 members, 1018 threads on 11 boards, and 9436 total posts from parents worldwide. Remember, The Bilingual Zoo is a free service for all, members and guests alike. It continues to be a warm, empowering place for parents and I encourage you to stop by anytime for camaraderie and support. :mrgreen:

Update on My Son’s Bilingual Life at 11.9 Years Old: Funny Photos, Art Awards, and Junior High

It’s been a while since I simply shared news of my family’s own bilingual journey. Despite the heartache of this year for me, I’ve tried to keep up my regular efforts to nurture my children’s progress in our two minority languages, English and Spanish. In this two-part series, I offer updates on the bilingual lives of my daughter (here) and now my son.

Two plastic tubs

Lately I’ve been sifting through big boxes of old photos: me as a child, my parents and my siblings, my years as a young adult, my time in Japan, and my kids when they were small. In fact, I’m slowly putting together two plastic tubs—one for Lulu and one for Roy—that will contain an organized collection of their family history on my side, with photos, videos, audio CDs, letters, newspaper articles, and other documents.

The truth is, since they’ve lived in Japan all their lives and have made only a couple of short trips to the United States, their connection to my history, and my family’s history, is pretty thin. I continue to try sharing this history, as I’m able, but I know it feels distant to them, particularly now that they’ve become so immersed in their Japanese lives.

I guess these plastic tubs are my attempt to leave them with this legacy when they’re older, even after I’m gone. Perhaps they’ll spend time with the contents one day and come to feel a stronger connection to these roots; perhaps not. But it’s what I can do.

Funny photos

So this week I was looking through photos of Lulu and Roy when they were just babies. I was sitting on the floor of the living room as they were perched on the couch, watching TV. Occasionally I would flash a funny photo their way, like this one…

Here’s what Roy was thinking in his baby mind: “What?! *This* is the guy I have to live with for the next 18 years?!”

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

It’s been a while since I simply shared news of my family’s own bilingual journey. Despite the heartache of this year for me, I’ve tried to keep up my regular efforts to nurture my children’s progress in our two minority languages, English and Spanish. In this two-part series, I offer updates on the bilingual lives of my daughter and my son. First Lulu, then Roy (here).

High school on the horizon

Lulu is now 14.5 years old, a mostly upbeat young woman. Incredibly (at least to me), she’ll start her last year of junior high school next April, which means that she’s already begun the taxing process of getting into the high school of her choice. This involves studying a lot harder than I ever did as a young teen; attending a “cram school” several evenings a week to strengthen the subjects she struggles with most (like her numbers-challenged father, math is not her forte); and, eventually, taking an entrance exam for her chosen high school (as well as a back-up school or two).

At this point, she hopes to get into one of the most competitive high schools in Hiroshima, which offers an international studies program. Her chances are good, I think—and her English ability is a valuable factor on her side—but only time will tell if this aim can be fulfilled.

While it’s true that this process is forcing her to become more disciplined (I’m amazed, frankly, at how long she can study when she’s facing a week of tests at school), it’s a rather stressful experience, too, and I’m afraid her time and energy for our minority languages—not to mention other interests and pure fun—is being squeezed badly.

Still, on most days, she continues to complete the modest amount of homework that I give her in English and Spanish—a routine (starting with English) that began over a decade ago. (See Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 1.) And I remain mindful, too, of the importance of spending time with her—for the sake of our relationship as well as her English ability—and so I’m trying to make this an ongoing priority. (Lulu is a sporty girl and I’ve found that playing catch in front of the house is a good way to engage with her for short bursts of time.)

While I’m generally pleased with her level of English ability, it’s also true that her lack of time for reading and (especially) writing in English means that her progress in these areas is slower than I would prefer. But, considering that she’s always attended Japanese schools, her foundation for further growth into more advanced levels of literacy is now firm.

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Look! I’m Shaking Hands with a Kangaroo!

With the passing of my parents in the spring (my mother in March, my father in May), my main message for this year has been…

Make the Most of Your Precious Time with Grandparents, Whether Near or Far

This is important, of course, not only for the language exposure they can potentially provide, but, more fundamentally, for the fleeting chance to nurture a meaningful bond between grandparents and grandchildren.

With this in mind, I arranged for us to take a family trip with my wife’s parents—my children’s Japanese grandparents—this past weekend. In this case, there was no benefit of extra input in the minority language, but that naturally wasn’t the motive: while my mother-in-law and father-in-law are both pretty spry for their early 80s (they can still easily ride bicycles!), it’s also true that their health is now more fragile and it’s hard to know how many more trips like this we’ll be able to take with them.

So we went to the lovely, peaceful town of Hagi, located on the Sea of Japan, about three hours by car from Hiroshima. Hagi is an old castle town, remarkably well preserved and full of splendid sights.

In fact, Hagi is truly one of my very favorite places, not only in Japan but in the world. If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you may even recall that I shared our last trip to Hagi four years ago.

This post won’t include as much background about Hagi itself (so if you’re curious, please see that previous post) and, as always, I need to maintain everyone else’s privacy by not showing their faces too fully. Still, I’d like to invite you to join us, through photos, for a sense of our time together…and particularly, this memorable time my kids could spend with their grandparents.

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Bilingual Style is closing at the end of December! Hundreds of unique items, designed especially for bilingual and multilingual families (some in Spanish, too)! Get them now, on sale while they last, and give them for Christmas! Worldwide shipping is available!

Start shopping at Bilingual Style.

Start shopping at Bilingual Style.

You’ll find a variety of cute clothing for babies and children, clothing for adults, and useful items for the home, including coffee mugs, bags, and keychains—all featuring a bilingual or multilingual theme.

Start shopping at Bilingual Style.

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

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A child’s T-shirt from Bilingual Style is much more than a cool shirt: it’s a symbol of your identity and your dream. When worn by the child, the shirt serves a powerful purpose by deepening that important identity and reminding you to keep up your efforts to realize that heartfelt dream. In this way, products from Bilingual Style become special “charms” that will help fuel your success—and add to your fun—on the bilingual journey.

Start shopping at Bilingual Style.

Adults can proudly display their own bilingual or multilingual style, too, with fun clothing and accessories.

Start shopping at Bilingual Style.

All orders are backed by Zazzle’s 100% satisfaction guarantee. Proceeds from Bilingual Style go toward maintaining Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo. Thank you for your support.

Adam’s new novel for children and adults makes a great Christmas gift, too, and it’s also on sale in November and December!

Critics call How I Lost My Ear “utterly hilarious” and “an extraordinary imaginative achievement.”

Get the paperback for $10 at Amazon.

Get the e-book for $5 at Gumroad.

We moved in August and I’m now gradually organizing the many books and papers that I’ve amassed over the 22 years I’ve lived in Hiroshima. One box contains the early board books that I read to my kids—who are now 14 and 11—when they were just babies and toddlers. I’m in the process of repacking the box, to store safely away in a closet, but I thought I might stop and share with you the 10 board books that I read most often to my children (hundreds of times each!) and that I hope they will one day read to their own newborns and thus begin the journey of handing down the minority language to the next generation.

While these books were originally published in English, I’m sure many of them have been translated widely into other languages and may also be available as larger-sized picture books. And let me note, too, that while I naturally have a sentimental attachment to these books, I’m not suggesting that these are the “best” board books for small children. While I would certainly recommend each one, this is simply a humble list of the board books that I read most often to my kids during those early months and years. (In the comments below, please share your favorite board books, particularly newer titles that I’m not so familiar with.)

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar
One of the most popular children’s books on Earth, from the brilliant Eric Carle.

The Very Lonely Firefly

The Very Lonely Firefly
Another lovely book by Eric Carle. The last page contains tiny flickering lights, like fireflies.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt
So much fun to read aloud. As my kids got a bit older, they would even act out the story as I read it.

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Upset About Raising Bilingual Kids? That Might Be a Very Good Thing. (Really.)

While many people assume that children will automatically become bilingual if each parent speaks a different language, the reality is often far more challenging. In fact, it’s not uncommon for the parent of the minority language to suddenly experience a large shock, when the child is about 2 or 3, because the majority language seems to be progressing more strongly than the minority language. It may even be the case that the child is actively using the majority language but resists speaking the minority language, much to the dismay—even panic—of the minority language parent.

To help parents avoid this situation, before it evolves, I wrote the post Warning to New Parents Who Dream of Raising a Bilingual Child.

But what if this is already the case in your family? What should you do now? And why would I suggest that feeling upset about this is actually a good thing?

See the situation rightly

First of all, it’s important to point out that if you didn’t feel upset about this situation, it would mean one of two things:

1. You aren’t clearly aware of the problem.

2. You’re aware of the problem, but you don’t really care that much about it.

You see, if either one of these is true, then you wouldn’t be as upset as you are now. After all, we don’t generally get upset about issues that we aren’t aware of or that we don’t really care about.

The truth is, feeling upset about the situation is actually a very positive sign because it demonstrates that you are aware of the problem and that you do care about it. And because you’re aware, and you care, you now have the opportunity to do something constructive about the problem and improve the situation.

This is how a breakthrough begins.

So, first and foremost, I urge you to shift your perspective and see the situation rightly:

The fact that you’re upset is precisely what will now enable you to move forward more effectively and experience the greater success and joy that you seek on your bilingual (or multilingual) journey with your children.

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“Bilingual Lives” is a series of profiles of interesting people who are leading bilingual (or multilingual) lives, both personally and professionally. This series was inspired by the memory of my mother, who began a bilingual life that she later regretted not being able to sustain into her adult years. If you would like your life and work to be featured in this series, please contact me.

Bilingual Lives: Victor Santos

When Victor Santos contacted me earlier this year, to share the innovative language-learning flashcards that he and his wife developed for their young son—and now for children throughout the world—I was immediately impressed with the thought and creativity that have gone into them. The fact is, these flashcards are unique, unlike any others you’ll currently find on the market, and could well be a valuable addition to the resources you use to promote your target language(s).

I was also impressed with Victor’s multilingual and multicultural life. Not only has language long been at the heart of his personal life, it’s at the soul of his professional life, too. Originally from Brazil, Victor has lived in six countries and now resides in the U.S. state of Iowa with his wife, from Ukraine, and their two-year-old son and soon-to-debut daughter. His education, taking him from Brazil to Germany to The Netherlands to the U.S., where he earned his PhD in Language Learning and Assessment from Iowa State University, has continuously been focused on issues involving language. Meanwhile, in addition to teaching, he has worked in the field of language learning and assessment with five different companies.

In 2017, all this experience and passion for languages gave rise to Linguacious, his own language learning company, and its first product, the Linguacious flashcards, which are now available in a variety of languages and topics.

Linguacious

I interviewed Victor, by email, about his life and his work and how the Linguacious products can be of support to bilingual and multilingual families. He also kindly offered to contribute a deck of flashcards, in the language and topic of your choice, to two lucky winners of the giveaway below so be sure to enter your name by Friday, October 12.

And even if you aren’t a winner in the giveaway, Victor is also offering a 20% discount at the Lingacious store at Amazon, an offer that’s valid until December 25. (Perfect timing for Christmas!) To take advantage of this 20% discount, simply enter the code BILINGUALKID during checkout, in the field that reads “Gift cards and promotional codes.”

Now, over to Victor and a revealing look at a truly multilingual and multicultural life!

Interview with Victor Santos

Could you please share the highlights of your background?

I would be glad to and thank you so much for the opportunity to talk to you, Adam. I have followed your work for a while and am a big fan. So, I was born in Brazil, in a city called Belo Horizonte. From a very young age, I have always been fascinated by languages and have studied or dabbled in quite a few of them. I have a B.A. degree in Linguistics from the Federal University of Minas Gerais in Brazil (with a focus on indigenous languages), an M.S. in Language Learning and Technology from the University of Saarland in Germany and the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, and a PhD in Language Learning and Assessment from Iowa State University in the USA. I think it’s hard to hide my love for languages and helping others learn languages, right? 😉

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