Last July, to complement this blog, I opened the gates to The Bilingual Zoo, a forum for “keepers” of bilingual (and multilingual) children. Over the past nine months, this forum has grown into a thriving community of parents and teachers from around the world.
As of this blog post…
The Bilingual Zoo has 310 registered members.
There are 11 boards with a total of 346 threads and 1,917 posts.
The site welcomes about 200 members and guests each day.
Meanwhile, I’ve been busy behind the scenes, managing and moderating the site while actively posting to the forum boards.
Today I’d like to offer a guided tour of the bigger and better Bilingual Zoo…
The other day I added a brand-new header at the top of the site. I developed it over the past couple of weeks with a Russian illustrator, the same person who created all the monkey illustrations for me. This new project was made possible, though, thanks to the support of The Bilingual Zoo community. The generous contributions I received in January, our first annual “month for giving,” enabled me to pay the artist a fair fee for his good work.
At the same time, I’m afraid I may have inadvertently caused some misunderstanding by including that new baby monkey, along with the two familiar monkey characters which represent my daughter and son. After seeing the new header, a number of people were naturally under the impression that we were expecting a third child!
The truth is, no, there won’t be a third child. (I can barely handle two!) I simply wanted to include a baby because I like babies and I thought they should be fairly represented at the forum alongside older children.
Speaking of babies, because a number of members will soon be parents—and there are bound to be more new parents in the future—I recently added a board to celebrate these happy arrivals with announcements and photos.
And the other day we welcomed the first bilingual-to-be newborn at The Bilingual Zoo! (Congratulations, Joanna!)
Also, if you’re curious to see an old baby from ancient times (me), you’ll find a photo in my example thread.
Talk to the Monkeys!
Another recent addition is a board where the community can ask questions directly to my kids. To date, parents and their children from many parts of the world have posed 15 questions to Lulu and Roy on a wide variety of topics, from “What is the best way to learn other languages?” to “Is your Dad crazy”? These interactions are fun for both sides, and you and your kids would be welcome to ask questions of your own.
From time to time I make a fun “bilingual meme” and share it on my Facebook page. The response there has always been positive (sometimes they reach over 100,000 people!), so I thought I’d gather these images together and make them available for easy viewing at a bilingual meme gallery. Which ones are your favorites?
Take a Challenge
This board now offers seven challenges for parents that can help empower your efforts and boost your children’s bilingual development. The two most popular challenges have been Challenge # 1: Read to Your Children Every Day and Challenge #3: Maintain an Effective Homework Routine, but I think you’ll find that every challenge addresses a vital aspect of a successful bilingual journey.
Among the 11 boards at The Bilingual Zoo, the busiest are these:
Introduce Yourself, where you’ll gain interesting peeks into the lives of bilingual families from around the world
Questions & Concerns, which now covers a very wide range of issues related to bringing up bilingual children
Strategies, Ideas, & Resources, where you can benefit from a wealth of helpful tips on tactics and materials
Within the forum boards, some of the liveliest threads include:
Before the baby is born
Advice for expecting parents to prepare for effectively raising a bilingual child.
(Note: The person who started this thread welcomed his baby to the world just the other day! Congratulations, Sam!)
Speech delay and bilingualism and Speech delays or speech problems and teaching languages?
This is a common concern among parents with small children and these two threads consider the issue.
Do I need to make a change in what we read and how?
This thread examines the challenge of toddlers wanting to read the same books over and over again.
OPOL – communicating with grandparents/relatives
The important issue raised in this thread involves the use of the majority language by the minority language parent.
Dinner time at a bilingual home
A fascinating glimpse into how bilingual families navigate the use of their two (or more) languages.
How to get siblings to speak minority language to each other
This thread looks at the tricky task of encouraging the use of the minority language among siblings.
“I hate writing”
A variety of ideas to help get children writing more, and more willingly, in the minority language.
At the same time, remember that there are 346 threads (and counting), so these links are only a small sample of what you’ll find by browsing the forum boards.
You don’t have to become a member to access The Bilingual Zoo and read the content on the forum boards. The intent of the site is to be helpful to all, whether members or guests.
However, registering for an account, and becoming an active member, offers a number of important benefits. (Membership is free, though a modest annual contribution, to help me maintain and enhance the site, is strongly encouraged and greatly appreciated. This contribution is voluntary, but should be considered your yearly “dues” for membership in this “club.”)
You will no longer be alone on your journey. You can be part of a helpful worldwide community of parents and teachers of bilingual (and multilingual) children.
As a member, you will be able to make posts to the forum. (Guests can read posts, but cannot make posts.)
- You can ask questions and receive support from others.
- You can exchange useful strategies, ideas, and resources.
- You can find friends, near or far, who share your same circumstances or difficulties.
- You can respond to others with advice and encouragement.
- You can feel more accountability by reporting your aims and your actions to the group.
- You can join regular “challenges” that will strengthen your knowledge, your skills, and your efforts.
- You can grow more mindful and proactive by writing regularly about your bilingual journey (as I explained recently in Do This One Simple Thing and I Guarantee You Greater Success On Your Bilingual Journey).
In addition to making posts on the forum boards, members of the Bilingual Zoo community are able to send “private messages” to each other, a powerful feature for networking and support.
To join our community, simply register for an account, read the community guidelines (under “Announcements”), and complete your “Profile” by following the instructions in the welcome message you’ll receive at the forum. Once your “Profile” is ready, you can begin posting to the forum boards.
Note: Zookeeper uniforms are optional. Monkey outfits for your children are also optional.
For more useful news and information, see Spring Cleaning at Bilingual Monkeys (with Timely Info for Spring 2015).