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The Essentials

Why I’m Like This Rumbling Volcano (And Why You Should Be, Too)

We spent the past three days in the city of Kagoshima with my wife’s parents, celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. Located on Japan’s southwestern tip, Kagoshima is home to 600,000 people—as well as Japan’s most active volcano, known as Sakurajima. Looming up from the sea just a short ferry ride from the city, Sakurajima is continually brewing with volcanic activity. In fact, even during our visit, it was billowing dark smoke and ash. But that’s the thing about Sakurajima: it’s

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If This Isn’t a Big Part of Your Strategy for Raising Bilingual Kids, It Really Should Be

For much of June, we were in the U.S., visiting family and friends. This series of articles offers observations of that trip in connection with raising bilingual children. The first thing I noticed after arriving in the United States were the billboards. My mother had just picked us up at the airport in Memphis, Tennessee (after a long journey from Hiroshima to Tokyo to Chicago to Memphis) and was now driving us back to her house, in the early evening,

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Do Your Bilingual Children Go to School in the Majority Language?

Last Wednesday I visited Lulu’s third grade classroom for “parents’ day” and a chance to observe a lesson. The truth is, I haven’t really taken advantage of these opportunities in the past. This is partly because of my work (though I work from home, I face deadlines as a freelance writer), but the other reason is that fathers in Japan generally don’t appear at these school functions. They aren’t barred from the school grounds or anything; it’s just that mothers

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How Many Books Do You Have In Your Home?

Note: This isn’t a contest, like my last post. I won’t be awarding stuffed animals to the people with the most books. However, if you have a lot of books—and the research I’ll share in this article makes this point persuasively—you’ll win something far more valuable: better language ability for your children. This past Saturday we went to Hiroshima International School for its big spring festival. It’s been nearly ten years since I taught there, but we haven’t missed a

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The Most Powerful Thing of All in Nurturing Language Development

I read an excellent article on language development in The New York Times the other day: The Power of Talking to Your Baby. I highly recommend a look, but if you’re pressed for time, here’s my tweetable summary: The more that goes in, the more that comes out. “The key to early learning,” contends the author, Tina Rosenberg, “is talking—specifically, a child’s exposure to language spoken by parents and caretakers from birth to age 3, the more the better.” She

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How to Get Your Kids to Do Exactly What You Want

Tired of nagging your children to do the things you want them to do? Like doing their homework and reading more, or cleaning up their stuff and completing other chores? And even when you nag, it still doesn’t get done, or isn’t done well? This is a common problem for parents, and in our house it was a particular challenge on weekends and holidays. Compared to school days, which have a built-in structure and rhythm, I struggled to find a

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What to Do When Your Bilingual Child Won’t Speak Your Language

Let me begin this important post with a little story… Not long ago I bumped into another American father in town, cradling his newborn daughter. His other two children, of elementary school age, were playing nearby. As we talked about our children, and naturally touched on our efforts to support the development of their minority language—English for us—it became apparent that he was feeling some frustration over the fact that his older kids seem to understand his English, for the

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The One Thing You Absolutely, Positively Must Have to Raise a Bilingual Child

No, it’s not a pencil sharpener. (Though that’s important, too, I guess. ) The thing I’m talking about is undoubtedly the most important thing of all. Without it, in fact, your odds of successfully raising a bilingual child will plummet dramatically. And this is true no matter how knowledgeable you are about bilingualism, or how crafty you’ve been in constructing your plans. What is it? Well, first, I should tell you why this thing is on my mind today. There

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Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 1

In How Many Hours Per Week Is Your Child Exposed to the Minority Language?, I mentioned how I began the practice of daily homework with my kids from around the age of 3. Frankly, I would have preferred to wait with written work until they were a bit older—which seems more in line with a child’s natural development. But the hard reality is, I felt it was important to give literacy in the minority language (for us, that’s English) a

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Warning to New Parents Who Dream of Raising a Bilingual Child

I’ve written a lot of articles on the subject of raising bilingual children, but for new parents, this may be my most important post yet. First, though, let me say that this warning won’t necessarily apply to everyone—after all, the makeup, and circumstances, of every family are uniquely different. Those fortunate to have a fair amount of exposure to the minority language in their setting, such as situations where the child has access to schooling in that language, will probably

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How Many Hours Per Week Is Your Child Exposed to the Minority Language?

As I mention in My Best Tips for Raising Bilingual Kids, about 25 hours per week would be a productive target when it comes to the exposure a child receives in the minority language. (That’s roughly 30% of the child’s waking hours. Less than 20 hours may make it difficult for the minority language to keep pace with the development of the majority language.) Now I’m no math whiz, but from time to time, I force myself to sit down

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