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My Family

This Key Strategy Can Empower Your Child’s Bilingual Ability Throughout the Childhood Years—and Even for a Whole Lifetime

In the recent post Make the Most of the “Golden Years” of Your Minority Language Influence, I introduced the challenging new stage of my family’s bilingual journey. Now that my kids—Lulu, nearly 15, and Roy, 12—are both in junior high school and are leading busy, increasingly independent lives in Japanese, I’m afraid my presence in their days, and the English exposure that goes along with it, is far more limited than it was when they were younger. In fact, the

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Make the Most of the “Golden Years” of Your Minority Language Influence

The other day my son graduated from elementary school. In Japan, elementary school lasts until sixth grade, then students move on to three years of junior high, then three years of high school. Since the school year ends in March and starts up again just a few weeks later, in April, this means that Roy will soon be entering his first year at our local junior high school while Lulu will be in her third and final year there, gearing

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My Bilingual Kids Are Formally Tested in Their Minority Language Ability for the First Time (And the Results Are Revealing)

My son turns 12 in March and my daughter will be 15 in June. But until last month, they hadn’t been tested in any formal way to assess their ability in English, our minority language. So I signed them up to take the EIKEN test, which is a widely-used English test in Japan and is given several times a year in locations across the country. The EIKEN test consists of seven “grades,” or levels: the lowest test level is Grade

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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

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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.

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

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,

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

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

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Look! I Shook Hands with a Kangaroo! (And Much More from Our Trip with Grandparents)

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

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Something Strange Happened 2 Days After We Moved into Our New House (And Its Significance to Change and Transformation on the Bilingual Journey)

In my last post, 5 Key Ways to Fortify Your Home Environment for Bilingual Success, I revealed the happy news that we were moving to a new house—though just one kilometer from the old one—that’s far more suitable for the next phase of our life as a family. (In fact, it’s not really a “new” house—it’s over 40 years old—but it’s a spacious Japanese-style house with a large Japanese-style garden and an excellent location.) Well, we made the move last

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5 Key Ways to Fortify Your Home Environment for Bilingual Success

We’re moving next week! Honestly, I feel like I finally have some happy news to share after delivering so much sad news this year. (See My Mother Has Passed Away and My Father Has Passed Away, Too.) We live in Hiroshima, Japan and we continue to rent instead of trying to buy. (Not only are the homes here generally too expensive for what you get, their value actually declines so buying a home isn’t the same sort of investment that

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

Last weekend we visited my wife’s parents. They don’t live so far from us—about 90 minutes by car—but I hadn’t seen them in over six months because I’ve been preoccupied with large life changes this year: my parents both passed away in the spring—my mother in March and my father in May—and I was making dazed journeys from Japan to the U.S. My wife and my kids had paid two or three visits to see her parents during this time,

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