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"Betty & Cat" bilingual books

Today I’d like to give a loud shout-out to author Hennie Jacobs and her uniquely bilingual children’s books. While it’s true that, as a rule, I no longer feature specific titles for bilingual children’s books at this site (continuing to do so is beyond my capacity), I feel that Hennie has taken an inspired approach to the challenge of creating “bilingual books” and I want to share her work with you.

What makes Hennie’s books different from the many other bilingual books I’ve seen is the way she incorporates the two languages in her “Betty & Cat” books. (To date, Hennie has produced three books in this series, in various pairings of these languages: English, French, Dutch, and Spanish.) While typical bilingual books for children will tell the story twice, with mirror translations of the text, Hennie has written books with two characters—“Betty” (a dog) and “Cat” (yes, a cat)—and each character speaks a different language. In other words, these stories are told through code-switching, with the dog speaking one language and the cat speaking the other language.

Here’s an example of this from the book she kindly sent to me, a Spanish/English version of At Home with Betty & Cat. Note that the dog speaks Spanish and the cat speaks English. Throughout the book, their voices—and the two languages—alternate in the same way.

At Home with Betty & Cat

First page from the book

Although this twist on traditional bilingual books may seem simple, it must be handled with considerable skill so that the story holds together well. My impression is that Hennie has achieved this aim admirably, creating clever and colorful books that bilingual families and schools will find fresh and fun as well as beneficial to their bilingual goal. (Kudos to artist Christine Duvernois, too, for her lovely and playful illustrations.)

At the same time, I should note that because the books contain no translation of the text, readers and listeners need to already have some ability in the two languages used, otherwise it may be difficult to enjoy them fully without a dictionary at hand.

To learn more about the appealing “Betty & Cat” books, read the revealing interview (below) that we pursued through an email exchange. You’ll find further information, too, at Hennie’s website.

Hennie has also agreed to provide free copies of her books to two readers of Bilingual Monkeys (and two books each!) so be sure to enter this giveaway, which closes on Friday, March 16.

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ADAM’S NOTE: As I often stress, when the basic circumstances of your life work against your bilingual aim, raising the odds of success involves two choices: 1) You can reshape those conditions in more conducive ways, and/or 2) You can be as proactive as possible in your daily efforts. This lively guest post by Matthew John Thoren is an encouraging example of that second solution, where the persistent efforts of a proactive parent have produced happy success through the important early years of the bilingual journey.

5 Key Strategies That Have Enabled Me to Successfully Foster My Son’s Bilingual Ability

Matthew John Thoren is originally from the U.S. state of Vermont and has lived in Japan for most of the last 15 years. While working full-time at a U.S. biotechnology company in Tokyo, he spends as much time as possible playing board games, riding bicycles, reading, and practicing living-room sumo wrestling with his 4-year-old bilingual son. When everyone else has gone to bed, Matthew is either (quietly) working on DYI projects in the family’s new home or shopping for fun English books.

This article describes five key strategies that have enabled me to successfully foster my son’s ability in the minority language, to the age of 4, despite being basically the only source of exposure to this language in my young son’s life.

My wife, my son, and I live in Tokyo, Japan. My wife is Japanese, I’m American, and our son, Soma (a name we considered, but not his real name) is a dual citizen. As a family we have never lived outside of Japan, and my son has spent a total of 18 days in the U.S. on two separate visits. Exposure to the majority language, Japanese, comes from my wife, her parents, daycare, and the community. Exposure to the minority language, English, comes almost entirely from me.

I speak only English to Soma and to my wife. My wife speaks very little English to him and speaks to me in English about 35% of the time. While not native, both my wife and I speak and understand each other’s first language very comfortably. For Soma, there is almost no English language exposure besides me, apart from some TV programs (which is not a fundamental part of our strategy) and a short weekly exchange with family in the U.S. on Facetime or Skype. Despite this, by adhering to the following five tactics, Soma has an English vocabulary of approximately 1,500 words at age four, which is about normal for a child his age growing up in the U.S.

1. Speak only the minority language.

For me, this is the simplest of the five strategies. I speak the minority language to Soma 100% of the time, with absolutely no exceptions. Period. In four years, I have never encountered the need and have never spoken the minority language to my child.

My wife and I generally spoke Japanese to each other before our son was born, but I made the decision that I would only speak to Soma in English. Knowing that I needed to break the habit of speaking Japanese in the house, I began speaking to our son in English well before he was born so that the habit was already formed before he arrived. So, if my son is present, English is the only thing you will hear from me. Period. (The only exception would be if his life is in danger and I knew a warning in Japanese would be more likely to save him!)

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Read the First 11 Pages of My Fun New Book for Children and Adults

How I Lost My Ear is the new novel from author Adam Beck and illustrator Simon Farrow. A rollicking adventure for all ages (7~107!), this humorous, high-spirited story makes a lively read-aloud book, too.

Read the first 11 pages of the story right now! Just click the link below to download this excerpt in a free PDF file…

Download the first 11 pages from the book.

Learn more about the book.

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Friends, I have some really exciting news! My new novel, How I Lost My Ear, is now available worldwide!

I actually started writing this book 10 years ago, before I began Bilingual Monkeys and wrote the book Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability. So it was a really long project and I’m so happy and relieved that I’ve finally crawled across the finish line! :mrgreen: In fact, the story itself was basically completed a year ago but then the process of illustrating it took all of 2017…because there are 136 illustrations! The illustrator is the British artist Simon Farrow and he did an incredible job. His illustrations are wonderful!

So I’m thrilled with how the book turned out and I’m eager to share it with you! It’s a really fun story: a humorous, high-spirited adventure that can appeal to all ages (7~107)!

For all the details (and a peek at the illustrations, too), please see this page…

http://bilingualmonkeys.com/how-i-lost-my-ear-book/

Of course, this book is fiction and different from my non-fiction book about raising bilingual kids, but both books will now serve the same purpose in helping me sustain and strengthen my work at Bilingual Monkeys and The Bilingual Zoo and keep these popular resources free for everyone.

So, as with Maximize Your Child’s Bilingual Ability, when you lend your support to the success of How I Lost My Ear, this can benefit us both as well as many others out in the world.

Friends, please read it, please review it, and please share it through social media and word-of-mouth. Your help is so important and so appreciated. (I’d love your personal feedback, too.)

Many, many thanks! And happy reading! :mrgreen:

Adam

12 Inspiring Real-Life Stories of Bilingual and Multilingual Families

In the post Do This One Simple Thing and I Guarantee You Greater Success On Your Bilingual Journey, I talked at length about how establishing and sustaining a habit of writing about your experience on a regular basis can be an especially powerful way of fortifying your efforts and your progress on this bilingual or multilingual quest. (While also producing a valuable written record of your family’s experience for the future.)

In that post, I wrote…

When it comes to my personal efforts to raise bilingual children, this writing routine is the single most powerful part of the whole equation, the very foundation of my experience which gives greater fuel to all the other actions I take, day after day after day. In fact, this central aspect of my bilingual journey has been the bedrock for these profound benefits:

I’m able to reflect deeply and continuously on the subject of raising bilingual children in general, and on my own children (and students) in particular.

I’m able to remain conscious and proactive in my daily efforts, despite the many other elements of my life competing for my time and attention.

I’m able to effectively address my challenges as they arise, overcoming the inevitable struggles and frustrations with persistence and playfulness.

These, you see, are the very qualities needed to maximize success at raising bilingual children and they’re available to us all, in abundance, by pursuing this one simple action. But even when the payoff for just a little time and energy is so great, I suspect there are many parents who don’t really seize this opportunity.

Then I go on to say…

You simply sit down with your notebook or mobile phone or computer and quietly pour out your thoughts and feelings about raising bilingual children (in any language you prefer): your hopes and dreams, your ideas and plans, your challenges and struggles, your frustrations and disappointments, your successes and joys.

You write about your bilingual journey, on an ongoing basis (let’s say at least once a week), throughout the childhood years. And if you do—in whatever form you choose—I guarantee that you will strengthen those key qualities I’ve described, which, in turn, will strengthen your children’s language development.

Please don’t misunderstand—I’m not suggesting that you have to write about your bilingual journey in order to experience success and achieve the bilingual aim you hold for your children. But I think it’s fair to say that making a regular habit of writing about your experience has the potential to empower your daily efforts and enable your children to reach even greater heights of bilingual ability during childhood.

So today I’d like to point you to some specific examples of parents who are pursuing this very idea right now, and their commitment to regularly writing about their experience is clearly benefiting their bilingual or multilingual aim. In fact, their willingness to share their experience with the world, in real time, is also benefiting other parents as well, who can gain ideas and encouragement from their stories.

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My Bilingual Daughter Is 13. My Bilingual Son is 10. So Why Is Their Level in the Minority Language Basically the Same?

My daughter is 13, in her first year of junior high school.

My son is 10 and in 5th grade.

Both attend local Japanese schools and have grown up under virtually identical circumstances when it comes to sources of input in English, our minority language.

And yet, in my personal observations of their language skills, as well as their performance when practicing for a standardized English test widely used in Japan (the Eiken test, where their level is now at the second highest on a seven-level scale), their ability is basically the same.

How can that be if their upbringing has been so similar and a substantial gap of three years exists between the two? Shouldn’t Lulu’s level now be demonstrably higher than Roy’s?

In fact (and here’s a big hint as to the reason), Roy’s sense of spelling is actually stronger than Lulu’s at this point. Lulu continues to make spelling errors that are typically seen in children who are several years younger. In other words, the gap of three years in age no longer exists in terms of language ability because Roy’s level is higher than a typical monolingual child of his age while Lulu’s level (at least her literacy level) is a bit lower than a typical 13-year-old.

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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.

See?

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.

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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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