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The Essentials

The Magical Ingredient for Motivating Your Bilingual Child

From time to time (as I first mentioned in How Rats in the Bathroom Can Boost a Child’s Bilingual Ability), I ask my kids to memorize a poem in our minority language and recite it back to me. When they do, they earn a little treat. I can’t say they’re highly motivated to do this, but the treat usually provides them with enough incentive to complete the task and benefit from the effort. The other day, though, it wasn’t working.

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Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 2

Eighteen months ago, when my kids were 8 and 5, I offered a detailed look at our daily homework routine in the minority language, which began (gently) when they were around the age of 3. In that post—Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 1—I discuss the value of a homework routine for nurturing literacy and overall language development, and I provide a range of strategies and resources that I’ve found useful to my own efforts. (Many of these resources,

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Why Raising a Bilingual Child Is Very, Very Simple—and Very, Very Difficult

Note: This post originally appeared at Multilingual Living, a recommended resource for parents raising bilingual children. Also see the Inspiring Interview with Corey Heller of Multilingual Living, here at Bilingual Monkeys. It’s a personal and in-depth look at Corey’s own bilingual journey. On one hand, raising a bilingual child is very, very simple: given sufficient exposure to two languages, and a genuine need to use both, the growing child will become bilingual quite naturally. In my work as a longtime

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Your Child Wants to Be Bilingual!

Note: This post originally appeared at SpanglishBaby. Though the site is no longer being maintained, friendly founders Ana and Roxana now look after a large and lively community at the SpanglishBaby Facebook page. Their work is a highly recommended resource, particularly if Spanish is your minority language. Imagine we could survey every bilingual adult in the world and ask them two questions. Question #1: Do you regret becoming bilingual? What do you think the response would be? Of course, it

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Watch Out for the Tough “Second Stage” of Bilingual Development

This week was the start of the new school year in Japan. (The Japanese school year runs from April to March.) Lulu is now in fourth grade and Roy is in second grade at our local elementary school. In Japan, as children advance to higher grade levels, they spend longer days in school, and come home with heavier loads of homework. For example, in third grade, Lulu arrived home at 3:30 p.m. on Mondays and 2 p.m. on Thursdays, while

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Help! My Bilingual Children Are Losing Their Ability in the Minority Language!

In Do Your Bilingual Children Go to School in the Majority Language?, I discuss how important it is to remain proactive in supporting a child’s minority language when the child attends a majority language school. The truth is, even when parents have had significant success fostering active ability in the minority language through the child’s first few years—the crucial “first stage” of bilingual development—when the “second stage” begins and the child goes off to school, that earlier progress can stall,

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When You Feel a Lack of Support for Your Bilingual Journey from the People Around You

Even with the solid support of family members and friends, the bilingual journey can be a tremendous challenge for the minority language parent, both physically and emotionally. Not only does supporting the minority language require daily doses of physical energy, there are often ongoing concerns about language development—and quiet feelings of loneliness—that test the parent’s emotional strength. And it all becomes tougher still—sometimes much, much tougher—when you feel a lack of support from the people around you. Now and again,

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Is It Too Late For My Child to Become Bilingual?

Recently, I’ve gotten several messages related to this question, so I thought I would try sharing my thoughts on the subject and open up the discussion to all of you, through your comments. (If you missed the lively discussion in connection with What Language Should I Speak in Public with My Bilingual Child?, I highly recommend a good look at that page.) For me, there’s a short answer and a long answer here. The short answer is… No, it’s certainly

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What Language Should I Speak in Public with My Bilingual Child?

Note: Be sure to read the many comments below this post, too. Recently, I was posed the same tricky question by several readers… Of course, like many of the issues that arise on the bilingual journey, there’s no “right” answer to this question. A suitable response to a challenge like this is one that fits the family’s particular circumstances and goals most effectively. That being said, it might be helpful if I share how I’ve handled this dilemma with my

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What Frustrates Me About Raising Bilingual Children

There isn’t much that’s universal about our experiences of raising bilingual children. After all, our circumstances are invariably different: different countries, different languages, different lifestyles. And even when they might look similar on the surface, they can’t help but be different because our children are different: each child is unique, with a unique temperament, unique preferences, and a unique learning curve. There is, though, one thing that’s clearly universal: frustration In fact, I suspect that every parent raising a bilingual

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The Dark Secret to Success at Raising Bilingual Kids

If reincarnation is true, and I’m fated to be reborn in another life, I think I’ll choose to be a bat. I don’t particularly like bats or anything—in fact, I once spent a frightening few minutes chasing after a fluttering bat in our house, trapping it in a wastebasket, then setting it free out the window. So it isn’t because I like bats; it’s because I like caves. I like everything about caves: the darkness, the chilly air, the deep

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