Last year I wrote a post titled Want to Supercharge Your Success at Raising Bilingual Children? and mentioned a special project that I called “a game changer for parents who are serious about raising bilingual kids, but want to get even more serious—and more successful—at this challenge.”
Although I didn’t reveal full details of the project then, and I finally set it aside—at least for the time being—when I ran into some technical issues and other considerations, I wanted to now follow up and share the basic nature of that idea. While the project was intended to be a group endeavor—because I think it would have a unique impact within a group of committed parents—the idea can still be pursued by individuals on their own and will provide many of the same powerful benefits.
So you needn’t wait any longer for the group version—here’s the individual version, and it remains a game changer for greater success.
One simple action
The idea is surprisingly simple, even obvious, and, at first glance, it may not seem to hold the sort of power I’m suggesting. But believe me, and this is the honest truth: When it comes to my personal efforts to raise bilingual children, this 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, as I mentioned in that earlier post, 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 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.
A regular habit
So what am I talking about?
I’m talking about writing. I’m talking about sitting down with your notebook or mobile phone or computer and quietly pouring out your thoughts and feelings about raising bilingual children: 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 bilingual 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.
Benefits of journaling
Of course, the idea that journaling can provide positive benefits to our lives is nothing new. There has been ample research on the subject to confirm this truth. When we write about our experience of the world, we heighten our awareness and become more mindful of pursuing productive actions and behaviors. We pay greater attention to the things that are truly important to us, and won’t be as easily distracted by matters that may seem “urgent” in the moment but aren’t really of much consequence for realizing our larger aims. And when we’re faced with a challenge, journaling not only gives us more courage, more confidence that we can address the problem effectively, the very act of writing about it can spark promising ideas and potential solutions.
You may recall that I blogged about journaling before—but in Why Keeping a Journal on Your Kids is So Valuable, my emphasis was on your children, not on you. In that post, I stressed the value of recording their childhood for posterity. And I’ve shared with you excerpts of my own journal, from time to time.
Today, though, I’m talking about something quite different: rather than a general focus on childhood milestones, traits, and incidents, this is a regular reflection on your thoughts and feelings specifically in regard to raising bilingual children.
Options for writing
In my case, this sort of writing is a large part of my life—blog posts at Bilingual Monkeys, more posts at The Bilingual Zoo, a regular newsletter, email exchanges with parents and teachers, books I’m writing on the subject, and more—but you certainly needn’t go to this (crazy-making) extent to gain similar benefits from this practice.
Here, then, are several options for building a habit of writing about your bilingual journey…
Keep a blog
Your blog could be large or small, public or private, in your native language or in English—the important thing, for this particular aim, is that you write regularly. Believe me, the technical side can sometimes become a distraction to the actual writing, so keep it simple in the beginning.
I use the blogging platform WordPress, which is free, but I use the self-hosted version which means I need a separate hosting company for my site. The hosted version of WordPress is also free, and recommended, but has certain technical constraints compared to the other version. For a basic blog, though, it’s ideal.
Other free blogging platforms you might consider (among many more) include Blogger, LiveJournal, and Tumblr.
Use an app
I don’t have personal experience with journaling apps, but they could be a promising option for maintaining a regular writing routine. A couple of the more popular apps of this kind seem to be Day One and Penzu.
Open a notebook or file
In my younger years (before all this newfangled digital stuff!), I kept a personal journal the old-fashioned way, with the use of a pen and a notebook. Because writing by hand can be more heartfelt, this will always be a good option.
For the journal I keep about my kids, I simply use a WORD file on my desktop. If you’d prefer to write in the cloud, you could access Google Docs or another online application.
As with apps, my experience of Facebook is limited, but a personal page or group page could serve as a venue for writing regularly about your experience. This might not be the best option, though, if privacy is important to you or you want to maintain your writing in a diary form for the future.
Join a forum
If you don’t wish to sustain an ongoing account of your experience—as in a blog or journal—participating in a forum could still get you writing regularly and reaping the benefits. This is actually one of the deeper motivations I had for opening The Bilingual Zoo. Beyond the fact that I knew this forum could offer helpful ideas and support to both participants and readers, I also felt that active members would gain something more, something special: by having the chance to write about their experience, they can empower their own spirit, their own efforts.
The Bilingual Zoo is free for all. Though an annual contribution to support the site is encouraged and appreciated, it isn’t required. To become a member of our warm, lively community, just register for an account and get writing.
Comment at blogs
Making comments at blogs is another way of writing about your experience, but unless you comment frequently, this would be only a sporadic form of reflection. This blog receives a steady stream of comments, and hopefully the exchanges I have with the writers are useful to them (they’re useful to me!), but other forms of more regular writing will naturally bring more benefit, I think.
Just start writing
No matter who you are, or what your circumstances are like, if you make writing about your bilingual journey a priority in your life—a firm and regular routine—you will inevitably strengthen your awareness and your actions, and accordingly, your children’s bilingual development. It’s a simple step, but if carried through week after week, year after year, the impact is powerful, even profound.
To supercharge your success at raising bilingual children, just start writing…
Love this post! 🙂 I just started a blog and although I haven’t written about our bilingual efforts with our eight month old yet I feel inspired to start!
Rebekah, I’m happy to hear this post has given you a little inspiration! I wish you the best with your blog, and your entire bilingual journey!
Great point. I totally agree. I blog about homeschooling trilingual children and it keeps me sharp in my intentions and approach. I learn about what I just did. Writing clarifies the facts and the subtleties of what just happened with my children. It’s like going to an educational counselor minus the expensive bill at the end. 🙂
Adriana, thank you for your comment. This is well said, and your personal experience is another good example of the value of writing regularly about our lives as parents of bilingual or multilingual children.
Thank you so very much for being out there and sharing your journey! Best discovery online of the year!! So helpful! Wonderful!
Sera, thank you for your kind feedback! You made my day!
I regularly post on Spanglish Baby and regularly get comments that I respond to. This really inspires me and I come up with so many ideas. I have also joined a bilingual story time. I get to talk to the other moms and it is so encouraging. I also get to encourage them and in the process get more ideas. It is so fulfilling to type and talk about the success as well as the failure with people who are going through the same thing. It feels so good to help other people. It is fulfilling to help and in turn, I am able to get help and support for my bilingual journey. Talking about and commenting on our journey and talking with others about theirs has really improved our journey. I just got my kids and myself notebooks. We are supposed to express ourselves. I thought it would give everyone a way to work through any difficulties in our journey. I am so excited about where we are going right now. I love it! I love them! We are in this together!
Elena, this is a lovely comment and a clear example of how actively writing about our experiences produces continuous waves of positive, motivating energy for the journey. Thank you for sharing your happy perspective!
So grateful for your blog and book, Adam! I have read and shared many of your posts over the last few years and only now noticed this post about the importance of journaling. Last year, I started blogging (CHALK Academy) about teaching my kids Chinese as a non-fluent parent. Although writing has created extra work for me, it’s been such a wonderful experience connecting with like-minded parents. I’ve met so many great people that I would have not otherwise met, and we encourage each other to keep trying! Thank you again for all of your generous and practical advice! https://chalkacademy.com/
Betty, thank you for your warm words. They mean a lot to me. I visited your blog and I think it’s great. In fact, your post How To Get Your Child to Speak the Minority Language is outstanding and I just shared it on Facebook and Twitter.
As for writing about our experience, I’ve also emphasized the enormous value of this practice at The Bilingual Zoo, with Challenge #7: Write About Your Bilingual Journey and the board Track Your Progress, which offers parents the chance to maintain a running record of their experiences and receive feedback and encouragement from others.
It’s true that writing regularly about our adventures can be challenging to sustain, but I truly think this empowers stronger efforts each day and greater success over the years of childhood.
Full speed ahead with your blog and with your happy progress at home!
Thank you so much for the kind feedback and for sharing my article! Just joined your forum! The other main challenge with blogging is that I’m thinking and writing in the dominant language instead of devoting that time to studying and improving the minority language (Chinese in our case). Curious if you ever feel that way about blogging in English instead of Japanese?
I want to say a big thank you to your blog, you are doing a great job!
Since my wife is from another country, we wanted our child to become bilingual. And it was only thanks to your blog that we were able to choose the right strategy for raising our child. Thank you very much.
Brian, I appreciate your feedback and I’m very glad to know that my work has been a source of support to your bilingual aim. I wish you and your family all the best on your bilingual journey together.