Are you a parent seeking to raise a bilingual child in a non-native language?
A teacher who teaches a language that isn’t your mother tongue, or a subject where you must use a second language in your instruction?
A translator or interpreter who wants to continue sharpening your language skills?
Or maybe a student or language lover who would like to improve your ability more quickly and more enjoyably?
If you fit one (or more) of these profiles, I urge you to read the book Maintaining Your Second Language by Eve Lindemuth Bodeux. Eve, a professional translator and parent to two bilingual children, has done the language-learning world a tremendous service by compiling a treasure trove of practical tips and tools for sustaining and strengthening one’s second (or additional) language.
While most language learners will be familiar with at least some of the strategies she describes, and many of these techniques might be gleaned from diligently scouring the Internet, the beauty of Maintaining Your Second Language is that Eve has brought all these ideas together in one smart, concise, accessible book. In fact, I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a more useful, more digital-savvy resource for practical and productive ways to fortify your language learning. After reading this book, you’ll no doubt come away with a number of new ideas that can motivate your efforts and help fuel your progress.
A key resource for the bilingual journey of non-native parents, and a valuable reference for language professionals and language learners of all kinds, Maintaining Your Second Language is a book that I’m very glad to make use of personally (in my own quest to learn Japanese and Spanish) and very pleased to recommend professionally.
Eve’s Top 10 Tips for Maintaining Your Second (or Third, or Fourth, or Fifth…) Language
10. Define Your Goals
“Speaking” a language fluently actually entails speaking, listening, reading, and writing. If you don’t live in a country where your second language is the majority language, you have to make an effort to keep all these areas active in the second-language part of your brain. Take the time to define what areas of your second language need the most work and focus on them. Write down your goals. Refer back to them to gauge your progress or update as needed.
9. Read, Read, Read and Read Some More
No matter what your overall goals are for maintaining your second language, reading can get you where you want to go. It will bring you knowledge that will also be applicable to speaking, listening, and writing. Reading imparts new vocabulary and solidifies our understanding of grammar almost unconsciously (so it’s painless!). Read books, read magazines, read recipes, or read online, but do make time to read (to yourself and your children).
8. Listen Up!
In addition to reading, listening to your second language on a regular basis helps keep you up to date on pronunciation, grammatical trends, and new vocabulary, as well as what’s happening in your second language’s world. You can listen to audio books, podcasts, news reports, online radio stations, and more.
7. Make it a Game
Keeping things entertaining makes the language maintenance process enjoyable. Play board games with friends who also love your second language. Play word games, learn puns, jokes, and onomatopoeia. Play card games and pick up new things about the target culture. Learn games that have particular cultural significance. The family that plays together stays bilingual together, so don’t forget to have fun!
6. Pursue Your Creativity
Express creativity in your second language. Are you musical? If so, be sure to listen to—and make music—in your second language by singing or playing an instrument. Love poetry? Explore nationally revered poets and poems to learn new terminology and gain cultural insights. Like to cook? Have a blast digging up new recipes to share while getting exposure to cultural techniques and tastes. Whatever your creative outlet, practice it within the framework of your second language to maintain and increase fluency.
5. Embrace “Bad” Words
As far as second languages are concerned, I believe there are no “bad” words. It’s actually very important to know what words are considered to be curse words in a second language. Knowing them can help you gauge social situations: Is there danger afoot? Is someone being rude or just making a joke? Knowing bad words doesn’t mean you have to use them. But it does mean you will have more information about what is going on in the world around you.
4. Be Guilt-Free About Watching “TV”
Today, of course, it’s not just about watching “TV” since there are so many ways to get visual content, such as streaming, YouTube, DVDs, international cable or satellite packages, and more. However you choose to consume visual content, when you watch it in your second language, feel free to let go of any guilt that you should be doing something “more useful.” Video content is a great way (for you and your kids) to get second-language input and visual cues about culture.
3. Go Back to Virtual School
Learning about something other than language can be the perfect avenue for improving and maintaining your language skills. Want to know more about history, science, sewing, or business theories? Take an online class about any subject that interests you, in your second language. There are many courses online (and many are free), on many different topics. Check out iTunes U, Spotify, Ted Talks, MOOCs, and more. They each offer content in multiple languages.
2. Write it Down
Being able to write coherently in a second language makes us a fully literate member of that language’s community. Keep your writing skills fresh by practicing them in your second language whenever you can. Keep a journal, write letters and emails, make lists, write stories or essays, or even write notes to yourself. The next time you have to communicate in writing with a friend or colleague who speaks that language, or help your child with second-language written expression, you’ll be glad you did.
1. Make it Relevant!
You may have seen this tip coming since it’s a common theme in all the ideas mentioned above. It’s the most important piece of advice given here and it can be applied to any aspect of maintaining a second language. Use your second language every day, in many different ways, and make it relevant to your life. Don’t put it on a shelf or get too busy to revel in its usefulness. Integrate your second language into your life by speaking it, listening to it, reading it, and writing it daily. Knowing a second language is truly a gift for us as parents and for our children, opening us up to more ways of looking at the world. Honor the work you have put into your second language over the years, for yourself and your family, by using it in ways that make you happy, every single day.
Thankfully, I was able to avoid a battle at breakfast over who would get to choose the winner. Because Lulu had to head off to school early today, that left Roy behind to plunge his hand into the big, blue bucket and draw the name…
Joyce in the Netherlands
Congratulations, Joyce! And a big thank you to everyone who entered. Eve and I wish all of you much success on your second language adventures!
Eve is kindly offering a free, signed copy of her book to one lucky winner!
To enter the giveaway, just follow these three simple steps…
1. Share this post with others via social media. Help spread the word on Eve’s very helpful resource. Use the sharing buttons below or simply copy and paste this link…
2. Leave a comment below with the following information. (And please proofread your comment, before submission, to check that the information is complete.)
1. Your first name and where you live (Example: Adam in Japan)
2. Your children and their ages (Example: Girl, 12 and Boy, 9)
3. Your two (or more) languages (Example: Japanese, English, and Spanish)
4. Why does this book interest you? (Example: Since I live in Japan, I want to continue improving my Japanese. At the same time, I’m also trying to add a third language to our family—Spanish—and because I’m still a beginner in this language myself, I need all the help I can get!
3. All entries must be submitted by the morning of Tuesday, October 18 (Japan time). On that day, the comments will be printed out and cut apart to serve as entry slips for the drawing. The slips will be placed in a big, blue bucket then Lulu and Roy will likely fight over the honor of selecting one name at random. When the dust settles, I’ll contact the lucky winner by email and update this post with the results.
Please note that we may not reply to these comments, but Eve and I certainly look forward to seeing them. Thank you for entering the giveaway, and for sharing this information about Eve’s book with others!
1. Leanne in Canada.
2. 11yo and 9yo.
3. English first language, French second.
4. I homeschool my kids French immersion style – 2nd language, non-native. The book sounds like the perfect fit for us. 🙂
1. Richard from England
2. Boy aged 13 months
4. We are raising our son bilingually from birth after my having completed a degree in modern languages and lived in France for 3 years. The trouble we are finding now that my wife, who speaks English with him, has gone back to work part-time and my working full time, is immersing our son in the minority language (French) when we are not around. Apart from speaking with him and playing with him bilingually, we don’t want him to lose out when we are not around. What’s the quota? 70-30%?
1. Filipa from Australia
2. A boy 4 and a girl 2.5
4. So far we have found it easy not to speak English (community language) at home since I am fluent in Spanish and my husband speaks French. However, my son is starting Kindy next February and I expect some hurdles when he will be practising his English nearly every day. My children currently attend daycare only a couple of days a week. I would like to prepare as much as I can so I can handle these hurdles better.
1. Melania in the UK
2. Girl 2.5 yrs old
3. Polish, English and Brazilian Portuguese
4. I want to do all I can to ensure my daughter speaks Polish. I don’t want to neglect her English and Portuguese either. On top of this, I need to learn Brazilian Portuguese as much as I can, improve my own first language, which is Polish, and English too…all this to provide the right environment for our child, but also because I’m keen myself.
1. Tania in Greece
2. Twins boy and girl 11 months
3. Greek, English, German, French
4. I want to raise my twins as bilinguals Greek/English. I have read to them in English since birth and have just started talking to them constantly so I am looking for any relevant resource that can aid me!
1. Radka in Scotland
2. Boy 5 months
3. Czech, English, German
4. I am a keen language learner, native in Czech, graduate in English & German married to a Scottish husband who speaks only English. I’d love for our son to be fluent in Czech & German but worry he may not pick up Czech as much since I read and listen to German radio & TV a lot in order to keep up, & English has become so natural to me that I end up speaking English to my son (esp. when hubby’s around). Currently reading Adam’s book for ideas. I just want to do this right.
In addition, my Spanish language skills have reduced so much that I don’t even mention it; I’d love to get back to it and build up on what I know instead of forgetting it.
1. Maryna in Poland
2. A daughter, 5 yo, and a son, 1 yo.
3. Ukrainian, Polish, English, Russian
4. We are immigrants from Ukraine living in Poland. I’d like my daughter to continue learning Ukrainian, and my son born in Poland to start learning Ukrainian while we live in Poland and speak in Polish mostly. Also, my daughter goes to an English speaking preschool – so she learns speaking two non-native languages (Polish and English), and speaks Russian and a bit of Ukrainian at home and with her grandparents via Skype.
1. Emilia in Italy
2. two girls, 14 yo and 5 yo, and two boys, 12 yo and 2 yo
3. Italian, Spanish and English (and just a little German)
4. Well, I’d love to have this book!!! I read with interest the post and I think suggestions to improve multilingualism in a family are never too many! We need more and more tips to juggle three/four languages in a very monolingual country, and the ten tips I read are precious!
1. Gabriela in Argentina
2. One boy, 28 months old
3. Spanish native, English 2L
4. I’m studying to become an English teacher, plus I’m making a close to be language coach, my dream is to help non-native parents alike. And today’s my birthday so I hope I win (if not, a good wish may do).
1. Joyce in the Netherlands
2. Two girls 11 and 8 years old
3. Dutch, English, and a little Indonesian
4. Having lived in England for more than a year this last year, the girls are fluent in writing and speaking the English language. But now being back in Holland I see and hear especially our youngest one is more and more struggling with the English language. We try to keep it in our daily routine to speak, listen and write English, but it is so much easier to speak Dutch again… So this book will be a great help I think!
1. Raquel in Canada
2. Boy, 3 years old; girl, 1 year old
3. First language Spanish, second English, third Galician, fourth German
4. I was raised bilingual in Spanish and Galician. Over the years I learned English and German, mostly I use English and Spanish in my daily routine and feel terribly sad to notice my Galician and German getting weaker and weaker…need input on how to fix this!
2. Girl, 6 years old
3. English & Japanese
4. I need all the help I can get and this book looks great.
1. Caitlin Torres in the USA
2. I have a 4 month old son!
3. We speak Spanish and English.
4. So there’s quite a few reasons this book looks like it’s right up my alley: 1) My husband speaks Spanish as his native language, and I speak English, and while he is mostly fluent in English by now, my Spanish needs some work! 2) I am in school to become a teacher and hope to one day teach in a dual language classroom with Spanish and English. 3) Most importantly, we are trying to raise our son bilingually. For now, I think we have our bases covered with equal exposure because his childcare is in Spanish, and the majority of his interactions with his relatives are in Spanish, while mommy largely talks to him in English, but I think there will come a day where we will want to make Spanish the ‘home language,’ especially if I cannot find a dual language school for him to attend. I am also just generally trying to research and make sense of this bilingual thing. I actually started a blog recently to try to sort myself out about being a new mom and parenting bilingually, etc. If you have any advice please let me know!!!
1. Talida in USA
2. Twin girls, almost 2
3. English, Chinese, Thai
4. We’ve chosen to use Chinese exclusively at home, but I didn’t start learning until college, and only started consistently speaking when the girls were born! Would love any help to keep me on track with our bilingual goals.
1. Cristian in Germany
2. Kevin, 6
3. Italian, German, Indonesian
4. Both parents living in Germany, not German citizens, raising the child (in Germany since he was 3) with 2 languages (German, Italian), sometimes some Indonesian. Hope I get some hints with our situation… 🙂
1. Alena from Czech Republic
2. Girls, 9 and 7
3. Czech, English
4. Always keen to find something new how to improve our learning. This book looks great. Kids are at the age when they need to be motivated to speak the minor language. So I am keen to find new idea. Also it is interesting for my study.
1. Ramóna in Germany
2. Boy, newborn
3. German, Hungarian, English
4. I need help because I am the only family member here speaking the minority language. I find this topic fascinating as well and want to know more about it. Being a language trainer myself (German as a Foreign Language) I want to be able to provide my students some more information and practical tips about bilingualism.
1. Rosa, living in Italy
2. Manuel (boy) 9 years old; Gabriel (boy) 7 years
3. Italian, English
4. I am trying to raise my kids bilingual so any input is greatly appreciated (just like this beautiful site!).
1. Alison, living in UK
2. Baby expected in April
3. English, Norwegian, Sami
4. We’re trying to prepare for the birth of our baby and I’m hoping to use Norwegian so need all the help I can get as it’s not my native language. My husband is supporting me with learning but works a lot so hoping this book will keep me inspired as much as Adam’s blog!
1. Kiara in Italy
2. Viola 6 and Matteo 4
3. Italian, English, and Spanish
4. Since I had my kids and I live in Italy, I want them To speak the 3 languages as good as possible like me. At the same time, I’m teaching French, English, and Italian To some African refugees…so I need help and advice!!!
1. Raffaela in Italy
2. 13 years old
3. Italian first language, English second, and French third
4. Non-native speacker, so it really looks like a good book for us especially now that we are struggling a bit in our project.
1. Leimakana in Hawaii
2. 19 month old
3. Hawaiian and English
4. We live in a land (Hawaii) whose native language has become the minority language and most of the people who speak Hawaiian now are non-native speakers, myself included. Our Hawaiian language community is always looking for ways to keep the majority language at bay as we try to pass on the Hawaiian language we have preserved and maintain and sustain for future generations.
E ola mau kalelo Hawaii – long live the Hawaiian language! Aloha 🙂