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 a new desk for Lulu (to encourage her to study hard in junior high!) and had to overhaul the room that, until now, had always been our “play room.” After revamping it, and removing old toys and books—Roy inherited Lulu’s old desk and will get to choose his own new desk when he enters junior high, too—we rechristened this space the “study room.”
In fact, among the things I relocated from this room was a huge stack of workbooks and journals that have been part of our long-running homework routine to nurture literacy—and overall proficiency—in the minority language.
The full details on our daily homework routine can be found in Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 1 and Secrets of a Successful Homework Routine, Part 2 so I won’t go over that ground again here. Instead, I’d simply like to share samples of my children’s work—scanned right from these workbooks and journals—so you can see, very concretely, how far their language ability has progressed over the years as a result of the ranging efforts I describe at this blog and in my book.
I hope these images will help convey the crucial point that success on the bilingual journey is a function of daily diligence and long-term perseverance—and that this outcome can be realized by any determined family that makes the bilingual aim a top priority.
Growth is guaranteed
As I stress in The Dark Secret to Success at Raising Bilingual Kids…
Good bilingual ability is the result of persistent efforts that add up gradually over time.
In other words, as long as we mindfully persist in our efforts, day after day after day, these efforts will ultimately produce significant progress over the years of childhood. It’s only natural, I think, for parents of small children to wonder if their efforts will truly pay off, but this is almost like wondering if a toddler will eventually grow taller and look older. The fact is, our children’s physical appearance develops almost imperceptibly from day to day, and it’s only when we compare their appearance from the perspective of years—like their appearance at age 6 and their appearance at age 12—that we really see the profound difference this slow-motion physical development has made.
Well, the same is true of language development, and as long as we persevere in our efforts, the progress that will take place over the course of the childhood years—even if we’re unable to clearly perceive this progress from day to day—will be equally profound.
Both physical development and language development need input—nutritious food for one, rich language exposure for the other—and when this input is given, growth is guaranteed.
Friends, I know our days as parents can sometimes seem very long indeed, but the years—yes, the years—abruptly pass by in a blur. Before you know it, you’ll blink your astonished eyes and your child will be in junior high, just like Lulu. But if you make the most of each day—now, while you have the chance—you’ll go a long, long way together on your bilingual journey.
Want a mind-blowing look at just how quickly your children will grow up? See the remarkable short films by Dutch filmmaker Frans Hofmeester at this post…
It is amazing to see your kids progress, thanks for sharing it. I have two boys, 5 and 4, and whilst their spoken Spanish (minority language) is great (says me!), I haven’t encouraged them to learn to read in Spanish yet, I suppose because I don’t want to make it too difficult or confusing for them as they learn to read English (majority language).
So yes, your post does encourage me to start teaching them to read by themselves in Spanish.
Marcela, I’m glad you found this post encouraging. I think your children’s reading ability in English will actually help them learn to read in Spanish, since the two languages share a lot of similarity. (Unlike English and Japanese, for example!) So just keep up your playful support, day by day, and I expect their literacy in both languages will grow well over the months and years ahead.