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Writing

Use Coloring Books to Promote Language Exposure for Your Bilingual Kids

While it’s vital to provide ample language exposure to our children through continuous efforts like talking to them a lot and reading to them a lot, another productive option for language input involves short-term projects. Over the years I’ve shared a variety of ideas for creative projects—projects pursued by myself or other parents—that can give a significant boost to your bilingual journey by engaging your kids in fun, effective activities that make use of the target language. These projects with

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How Translation Tasks Can Be Doubly Productive for Your Bilingual Kids

As my children get older (my daughter is now 15 and my son is 12), I’m trying to increase the amount of opportunities they have to engage in translation activities: in effect, stretching their ability in two languages simultaneously and deepening their grasp of the more subtle differences between them. I wish we had more time for writing because this is now the area where more practice is needed, and I’ve found that translation tasks are very effective toward this

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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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Fantastic Bilingual Book Project for Children and Parents

Two years ago, I shared a creative project that was carried out by Nellie Robertson and her two children. They live in the U.S. and Nellie is originally from Hungary, which means that English is their majority language and Hungarian is their minority language. The project took place over the course of a full year and involved a stuffed alligator named Alfonzo, who they sent on a worldwide trip to enjoy “homestays” with a number of families (including mine!) who

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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

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Look How Far We’ve Come On Our Bilingual Journey (And How Far You Can Go, Too)

Now that my daughter is in junior high school, and nearly a teen, I’d like to offer you a special peek at the progress my kids have made to date in their minority language. (For those who need a bit more context, we live in Hiroshima, Japan and my kids attend local Japanese schools, which means that Japanese is our majority language and English is our minority language.) The idea for this post arose the other day when we bought

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How I Got My Bilingual Daughter to Eagerly Do Her Homework in the Minority Language (Contest Update)

This post is my promised update on the contest I held last month, and I’ll now reveal the tactic I used to address my 12-year-old daughter’s reluctance to using our minority language dictionary when doing her daily homework. (The contest yielded two winning guesses, from Lauren in the U.S. and Heidi in Germany, who will each receive a surprise package of little prizes from Hiroshima, Japan.) In case you missed my post about the contest, here again is the background

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Story Exchange, a Great Way to Get Bilingual Kids Writing

I recently tried a new activity that worked so well, I want to share the full details with you. In fact, below you’ll even find scans of the actual stories produced by my kids and their grandmother. I hit upon this idea while reflecting on the serial stories I’ve written, as a form of captive reading, that feature my children in starring roles in order to strengthen their engagement in the minority language (for us, that’s English). Let’s call this

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A Powerful Perspective on Raising Bilingual Children: The Great “Iceberg” of Bilingualism

My son is 9 and the other day I gave him a simple writing task, as part of our daily homework routine, to help stretch his ability in English, our minority language. But as it turns out, I found the results quite revealing in terms of our entire bilingual journey together. The simple task involved making a list of things of a certain color; in this case, a list of 10 things that are black. That was all. I offered

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7 Things My Kids Like About Me

Last Wednesday was my birthday. In hamster years, I’m now 1080. In human time, though, I turned 54. As the years continue to hurtle past, my birthdays, I admit, are starting to get me a bit down. When I look back, it feels like I’ve done quite a lot in my lifetime…but I also wonder how much of this activity has really been of significance. I guess I was seeking some confirmation of my worth in the world when I

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The “Home Run Book”: A Key Idea for Promoting a Child’s Language Development

One of the recurrent themes of this blog has been my ongoing quest to inspire my bilingual daughter, now 11, to read more frequently in English, her minority language. Although it’s true that her free time is limited, due to long days at our local Japanese elementary school and heavy loads of homework, the deeper challenge is that she simply isn’t, by nature, as hungry a bookworm as her 8-year-old brother. Still, because I adamantly believe that children who read

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