Maximize Your Child's Bilingual Ability How I Lost My Ear

How the Minority Language Can Flower in Your Bilingual Child

Ten years have now passed since Lulu’s bilingual ability began to flower.

The new year has begun on a really lively note at The Bilingual Zoo forum. In fact, nearly 200 posts have already been made to the forum boards in little more than two weeks. I admit, it can be hard for me to keep up with all the action there! (I read every single post but I’m only able to respond to some of them.)

During this flurry of activity, I’ve again noticed a key principle of language development that I’d like to emphasize in this post. The truth is, while managing The Bilingual Zoo takes daily effort, it’s also enormously gratifying to me when parents share their breakthroughs: how their children are now making stronger progress and using the minority language more actively than before.

This has been the case with a couple of our “zookeepers” since the start of the year—happy updates from Sam in this thread and from Nellie in this thread—and, in both instances, I think their experiences highlight the principle I’d like to articulate today.

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My Kids Scream at Me Not to Lick Poisonous Mushrooms

Blame it on our fancy new couch.

This one here…

Our fancy new couch

In fact, I had been planning to write a more meaty post about the process of bilingual development…but when our new couch arrived on Wednesday afternoon, I got completely distracted.

You’re probably thinking I was sprawled out on this fancy couch for the rest of the week, nibbling crackers and caviar, but I swear that isn’t true. You see, when the new sofa was delivered, our old couch was taken away at the same time, to be discarded.

This one here…

Our old couch

I know, by comparison, it’s a pretty sorry-looking little couch, but the thing is, I was more attached to it than I thought…because it was full of stains.


Stains on our old couch

Now I realize that stains aren’t usually a very positive feature in a sofa, but these stains were actually a kind of time capsule of the past 10 years of my children’s lives. (They’re now 13 and 10.) The old couch may have been far less fancy than the new one (fancy furniture + small kids = large frustrations), but my children spent a big part of their early years sitting on it, lying on it, jumping on it, fighting on it, crying on it, spilling things on it, drooling on it, sweating on it, even bleeding on it.

So when the delivery men hauled it away and shut the door, leaving me alone with our fancy new couch, I slumped down on it and sighed. Then, with a few sniffles (I confess), I shuffled into my little home office and began gazing wistfully at old photos and videos on my computer.

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My Resolution This Year Is to Be Bilingual

A rollicking adventure for all ages, How I Lost My Ear is the captivating new novel from author Adam Beck and illustrator Simon Farrow.


The 10 Most Popular Posts at Bilingual Monkeys in 2017

I know I’m a bit early with this post—since we still have over a month until the year ends—but I plan to take December off and so I’ll share this list today.

It’s been a good year, but it’s also true that I’m getting weary and I need a little break from blogging. I’ll continue sending out my weekly newsletter, though, as well as mingling with my fellow “keepers” of bilingual and multilingual kids at my forum, The Bilingual Zoo.

Not only could I use more rest—lately, my body has been signaling for a slow-down by awarding me with various ailments (see Parents of Bilingual Kids, Take Time to Relax and Recharge Your Energy!)—it’s also true that I now need more time to focus on finally completing a big project that has been many years in the making…

My first novel!

This novel, which tells a fun, lively tale for all ages, will be available early next year. Titled How I Lost My Ear, it’s a rollicking adventure involving a book-loving boy, a 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 herd of 144 spitting llamas—and a very large, very hungry ogre.

With wonderful illustrations by the brilliant Simon Farrow, it’s a book that I’m excited to share with you very soon.

Illustration from "How I Lost My Ear"

The 10 Most Popular Posts

Now, without further ado, here are the 10 most popular posts of 2017, ranked, from 10 to 1, by the total number of page views and shares on social media. (Many thanks for sharing my work with the world!)

10. “A Little Monkey Business”: Another Fun, Productive Project for Language Exposure
This short film, improvised by my son and me, is a lively example of a short-term project that can promote language exposure.

9. Guest Post: Engaging Your Incredible Bilingual Child in the Minority Language
Trilingual speech-language pathologist Ana Paula Mumy offers another insightful guest post, from her personal perspective as a parent.

8. How I Got My Bilingual Daughter to Eagerly Do Her Homework in the Minority Language
This playful idea can help promote motivation in children and engagement in the target language.

7. This Key Principle for Raising Bilingual Kids Is a Vital Part of Our Efforts, From Babies to Teens
The home environment should be mindfully, proactively shaped (and reshaped), on an ongoing basis, to effectively support our bilingual aim.

6. This Is Embarrassing, But It’s a Story That Could Benefit Your Bilingual Journey (And Your Teeth)
There are two kinds of daily habits and these habits gradually lead, over time, to two kinds of longer-term outcomes: satisfying outcomes and dissatisfying outcomes.

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Burning Questions About Raising Bilingual and Multilingual Children

Questions about the process of raising bilingual and multilingual children—about approaches, tactics, resources, and many more aspects of this experience—are only natural. After all, this is a long journey, with continuous challenges, both large and small, and issues involving effective choices and productive efforts go to the heart of realizing greater success and joy over the childhood years.

This is essentially why I began this blog, Bilingual Monkeys, in 2012: My hope, in sharing my experience of working with bilingual and multilingual children for over 20 years, as a teacher and parent, has been to help answer the range of questions that parents often have and thus provide encouraging guidance that can make a positive difference in their bilingual or multilingual journey with their kids.

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Christmas Giveaway at Bilingual Monkeys

Want to win a cute, colorful charm for Christmas? There will be 5 lucky winners of these handmade charms, sent directly from our house in Hiroshima, Japan.

I stumbled across these charms the other day during a family trip. In fact, we spent a long while looking at the many delightful little creatures made by a local artist and this discovery turned out to be one of the day’s highlights for us all. So I asked my bilingual kids (now 13 and 10) to help me pick out 5 charms for this giveaway, then endow each one with “bilingual powers” by holding them tightly in their hands.

Maybe one of these charms from my family could help strengthen your mindfulness and your efforts each day, and ultimately, your long-term success? Or maybe you just want one ’cause they’re so darn cute?
FULL DISCLOSURE: My son was the hand model for these photos. I had to pay him a cookie.

Dolphin charm

Whale charm

Elephant charm

Giraffe charm

Snake charm


Here are the winners, picked randomly by my kids…

DOLPHIN: Tiara in the U.S.

WHALE: Laura in Puerto Rico

ELEPHANT: Jennifer in the U.S.

GIRAFFE: Angela in Italy

SNAKE: Magali in England

Congratulations! And many thanks to everyone who entered the giveaway. (I wish I had enough charms for all of you!) Happy, language-filled holidays from me and my kids! :mrgreen:

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This Christmas, Give the Gift of Greater Success and Joy on the Bilingual Journey

Get the book at Amazon.
(And see 50 five-star reviews from parents.)

Get the book at the Book Depository.
(And get free shipping to countries worldwide.)

Contact me to place a bulk order.
(Get a discount on every copy by ordering a larger number of books, for distributing or reselling.)

Learn more about the book.

Sales of this book help keep our online community going and growing! Thank you for your support (including your reviews, which I really appreciate)! And warm wishes to you all! :mrgreen:

13 Top-Secret Research Studies on Bilingual Acquisition in Children

Shhh… Just this morning I was handed a plain cream-colored folder from “Code Switcher,” my informant at the shadowy U.N. agency known as Bilingualism Research and Tracking Systems (BRATS). When I opened the folder (and got a painful papercut in the process), I was stunned to discover that BRATS is now investigating a range of provocative—some would say, even potentially dangerous—research questions involving bilingual acquisition in the world’s children. After I temporarily excused myself to bandage the papercut, “Code Switcher” urged me, in the interest of public safety, to divulge these top-secret research studies through this blog. I sneezed several times (I caught a cold last weekend), then quickly agreed.

13 Top-Secret Research Studies on Bilingual Acquisition in Children 1

13 Top-Secret Research Studies on Bilingual Acquisition in Children 2

13 Top-Secret Research Studies on Bilingual Acquisition in Children 3

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The Top 20 Languages in the World

According to Ethnologue, the foremost reference on living languages, there are 7,099 languages spoken in the world today and just 23 of these languages account for more than half of our global population of 7.6 billion people. (See the authoritative Worldometers for remarkable live statistics on our planet’s population.)

Among these 23 languages are Malay (#23, with 60.8 million first-language speakers), Persian (#22, with 61.9 million first-language speakers), and Italian (#21, with 63.4 million first-language speakers).

Below are the top 20 languages, by number of first-language speakers, ordered from #20 to #1. Make your best guess then click on the green “plus” sign to reveal each one. If you get a good score, feel free to boast in a comment below!

#20, with 68 million first-language speakers
Tamil (India)

#19, with 68.1 million first-language speakers
Vietnamese (Vietnam)

#18, with 69.1 million first-language speakers
Urdu (Pakistan)

#17, with 71.1 million first-language speakers
Turkish (Turkey)

#16, with 71.8 million first-language speakers
Marathi (India)

#15, with 74.2 million first-language speakers
Telugu (India)

#14, with 76.1 million first-language speakers
French (Countries include France, Canada, Belgium, and many others)

#13, with 76.8 million first-language speakers
German (Countries include Germany, Austria, Switzerland)

#12, with 77.2 million first-language speakers
Korean (South Korea, North Korea)

#11, with 84.4 million first-language speakers
Javanese (Indonesia)

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Don’t miss the companion post to this one!

19 Things You Need to Succeed At Raising a Bilingual Child

While there are certain things that you really need for the bilingual journey, did you know there are also plenty of things you DON’T need to raise bilingual kids? Here are 18 of them. (Animated GIFs courtesy of GIPHY.)







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